New School of Biomedical Engineering holds launch symposium

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Last Thursday, over 300 people gathered at the University of British Columbia’s Life Sciences Centre to celebrate the opening of the university’s new School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME), a partnership between the UBC faculties of applied science and medicine. Packed with engaging talks, lively panel discussions and informative poster presentations featuring BME student research, the event provided a glimpse into the exciting world of biomedical engineering and outlined the SBME’s vision for its role within it.

Among the speakers were leading figures from academia, industry, finance and healthcare, who shared their unique perspectives on some of today’s most urgent biomedical engineering challenges. Separating media hype from clinical reality, improving patient care in low-resource settings, translating insights from animal model studies into human benefits, and engineering solutions to problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disease were just a few of the topics covered.

The final panel of the day addressed a more local question: How can Vancouver be transformed into a BME hub? Panelists agreed that continuing to nurture a supportive ecosystem for BME education, entrepreneurship and innovation in BC would be critical to any provincial growth strategy, in which the SBME would inevitably play an integral part.

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During the day-long event, attendees were also treated to over 50 exceptional posters from BME students, whose research covered a broad spectrum of subjects — from a soft, affordable sensor for the prevention of bed sores to noninvasive, ultrasound-based technologies to evaluate liver, prostate and breast health. The prize for best poster ultimately went to Ricky Hu, Pardiss Danaei, Houssam El-Hariri, Prateek Mathur and Justin Wyss for their work on a low-cost, 3D-printed vibration device that enables people without a larynx to speak with near-perfect accuracy.

In addition to a revamped graduate program, led by electrical and computer engineering professor Karen Cheung, UBC will offer a new undergraduate program headed by UBC mechanical engineering professor Peter Cripton, which welcomes its first cohort this fall. The founding director of the SBME is renowned stem cell researcher Peter Zandstra, who joined UBC from the University of Toronto last year.