University of Rochester

$3 Million Whitaker Grant Kick Starts New Biomedical Education Program

November 20, 2001

The University of Rochester's rapidly evolving program in biomedical engineering-spanning two schools of the University-has been awarded a $3 million Development Award from the Whitaker Foundation.

The award, one of only six awarded to institutions across the country the most recent competition, will be used to enhance student laboratories, hire new faculty, and provide general support for departmental activities.

"Our goal is to be recognized as one of the best biomedical engineering programs in the country, and this is clearly will move us in that direction," said Richard Waugh, department chairman. "With Rochester's distinctive attributes in hands-on research for its students, a strong engineering school, and a well-known medical program, we've already had a good head start," he added.

While the department was established in 2000, the University's work in biomedical engineering-the interaction between engineering and the biological sciences, such as designing artificial blood or sculpting a cornea-can be traced back decades. In the early 1960s, the University was among the first recipients of National Institutes of Health grants to study fields that today are considered central to the field. Starting in 1997, a student could earn a bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree in biomedical engineering as an interdisciplinary major. The department offers and includes faculty from both the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

"Funding from the Whitaker Foundation is not easily won," Waugh said. "But they were impressed with the quality of the effort we've made so far, and impressed that we've recruited some great faculty in a very competitive field."

"Biomedical engineering is emerging as the 'hot' engineering field of this century," said Kevin Parker, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "It's a natural fit with our older engineering departments and with the interests of medical school researchers and clinicians." The engineering school also includes the Institute of Optics, and Departments of Chemical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.

The Whitaker Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to improving human health through the support of biomedical engineering. The foundation was established in 1975 upon the death of U. A. Whitaker, founder and chief executive officer of AMP Incorporated, the world's largest manufacturer of electrical connectors and connecting devices. An inventor, engineer, and philanthropist, Whitaker encouraged and supported collaborative medical research involving engineers, scientists, and physicians.

Since its inception, the foundation's biomedical engineering research programs have awarded more than $575 million to colleges and universities for faculty research, graduate fellowships, and program development.