Interdisciplinary roots 150 years strong
Supported by four colleges—Engineering, Health and Human Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences—the School of Biomedical Engineering provides a unique interdisciplinary focus on bioengineering research and education with over 60 faculty members representing 14 departments. Twelve years ago, the School may have been brand new, but the strength of the engineering, medical, and science disciplines at Colorado State University were already long recognized.
This year, CSU celebrates its sesquicentennial. Looking back, we are reminded of the University’s strong commitment to science and engineering. The Colorado Agricultural College (now CSU) began offering classes in 1879, providing a single course of study for all students. Ainsworth Blount, one of the two original professors, taught practical agriculture and the mechanical arts and by 1882, the department of mechanics and drawing was created. A year later, a Hall of Mechanical Arts was opened and housed a mechanics shop. The first undergraduate engineering degree was awarded in 1889.
Among the first hires were faculty in the sciences. In fact, President Edwards, the very first president of the University, was a professor of physics and natural history. In 1883, the college hired veterinary surgeon George Faville and the Department of Biology, which included Veterinary Medicine, was formed. However, when Faville departed in 1887, the department languished until the turn of the 20th century, when studies in veterinary medicine were re-established and the Department of Veterinary Sciences was created. By 1907, enough faculty had been hired to start a veterinary school.
Nearly a half century later, bioengineering started to emerge. By the late 1970’s, CSU offered courses in biomedical instrumentation, bioengineering, and biomechanics, to name a few. Wade Troxell (’87 Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering), an SBME associate faculty member and mayor of Fort Collins, was one of the first students to be introduced to this curriculum.
With intense student interest, CSU’s biomedical engineering programs and facilities have flourished since 2000, when the Biomedical Engineering Interdisciplinary Studies Program was established. This program offered certificates to bachelors, masters, and doctoral students enrolled in any degree program. By 2007, the School was formed offering Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in bioengineering. Four years later, the School—housed in the 122,000 square foot Walter Scott, Jr. Bioengineering Building which opened in 2013—launched the first BME bachelor’s program in the state of Colorado with a unique twist—students receive two degrees—one B.S. in biomedical engineering and the other B.S. in one of the three traditional engineering areas: chemical and biological, electrical, or mechanical.
Today, CSU is a leader in translational medicine. As such, we continue to expand the medical content in the School’s challenging multidisciplinary BME curriculum. New this fall, the Master of Engineering resident program is piloting a biomedical clinical practicum pairing three BME graduate students with two biomedical science graduate students to tackle unmet medical needs as posed by a physician advisory board. To further expand on medical education offerings, CSU is partnering with the University of Colorado School of Medicine to open a medical school branch in Fort Collins beginning Fall 2021. The partnership aims to create a training program that builds on the strengths of both universities.
We are proud of our strong roots and our new programs. Our world-class faculty, with the help of students, have made a significant impact on human health through medical technology. As we look to the future, we see increasing avenues for interdisciplinary collaboration in the areas of data analytics, microbiomes, and the environment as new expertise grows in the CSU community. We embrace the every-changing evolution of biomedical engineering and look forward to pioneering the next generation of revolutionary technologies.
Stuart Tobet, Director