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NSF awards bioengineering program $1.38 million

The Lehigh proposal was one of only four the NSF funded.

The National Science Foundation has awarded Lehigh $1.38 million to help give the university’s year-old bioengineering program a technical entrepreneurship focus. The Lehigh proposal was one of only four the NSF funded.

During a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., NSF's Bruce Kramer referred to Lehigh's program as its "flagship program" due to its non-traditional approach to engineering education and its potential impact on other disciplinary engineering curricula.

"Some of the most important areas for the future of engineering represent creative fusions of traditional disciplines. Bioengineering is a great example," said Gregory C. Farrington, president of Lehigh.

Built on Lehigh’s outstanding tradition in undergraduate engineering education, the bioengineering program is basing its strength on leading-edge biotechnologies and on a close relationship with existing departments, as well as expanding its partnership with regional hospitals, medical schools, and the biotechnology industry.

"What makes this program distinctive is the balance of science, humanities, technology and business," says Mohamed El-Aasser, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. "This core is then integrated with an experiential learning curriculum that includes traditional classroom lectures, research, industry, clinical and business internships, co-ops and projects."

Lehigh students began enrolling in bioengineering in fall ’02; more than 40 students now major in bioengineering. The NSF grant will help accelerate and enhance the implementation of this innovative program.

"In addition to new courses, we will be creating three bioengineering laboratories – biopharmaceutical engineering, cell and tissue engineering, and bioelectronics and biophotonics," El-Aasser said. "In addition, the funding will help create biotech and clinical internship programs through partnership with regional hospitals, medical schools, and biotechnology firms."

Lehigh will also implement product-driven student project teams in collaboration with local industrial firms and Lehigh’s award winning Integrated Product Development (IPD) program. Lehigh will partner with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and PA Life Science Greenhouse to develop a regional biotechnology research infrastructure and workforce.

"We are delighted that the National Science Foundation shares our enthusiasm for this program," Farrington says. "It's a real vote of confidence in the vision and creativity Lehigh faculty have brought to this initiative. Of course, the real beneficiaries will be our students—today and for many generations."

"The success of implementing this bioengineering program at Lehigh will serve as a national model for universities and colleges that are strong in science, engineering, design, and business, but are without a medical school," adds El-Aasser.

The project is under the direction of El-Aasser. Daniel Ou-Yang, professor of physics will serve as the project manager. Svetlana Tatic-Lucic, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, will serve as associate project manager. John Ochs, professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics and director of Lehigh’s nationally acclaimed Integrated Product Development program, will serve as the entrepreneurship project leader. Anand Jagota of DuPont will join Lehigh in January as professor of chemical engineering and he will direct the bioengineering program and its sister program in the College of Arts and Sciences, the applied life science program.

--Andrew Stanten
amsr@Lehigh.edu

Posted on Friday, October 03, 2003

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