Biomedical Engineering Concentration Draws SEAS Students

Several administrators within the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences said that they believe the new undergraduate concentration in biomedical engineering will attract a large number of students—some of whom might not have otherwise chosen to major within SEAS—when sophomores declare their concentrations next month.

While no administrator could offer an official projection for the number of concentrators, SEAS Assistant Dean for Academic Programs Marie Dahleh said she believes the new concentration will be a “popular option” because it will meet “many if not all of the premed requirements, and also has an interesting curriculum to supplement the course load for those interested medical school.”

Dahleh also said that she believes the new concentration will draw a broad array of students, including those who might have otherwise chosen one of the six biology concentrations offered by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

“We are working under the hypothesis that by having this concentration as a new freestanding concentration, students who may not have looked at engineering for their concentration will now consider doing bioengineering instead of one of the life sciences concentrations,” Dahleh said.

Professor Robert D. Howe, co-director of Undergraduate Study for Biomedical Engineering echoed Dahleh’s view.

Howe said he had encountered a “pleasing and surprising number of students [with backgrounds in the] life sciences” who are interested in the new concentration and have the “backgrounds and the math necessary to take bioengineering classes.”

If the concentration does indeed draw students to SEAS who might otherwise have chosen a major offered by FAS, the number of SEAS concentrators will continue its recent trend of expansion.

The number of students concentrating within SEAS has expanded rapidly over the past two years, jumping from 299 in spring 2008 to 415 last spring.

The program in biomedical engineering—which was announced last March and became an official offering this past fall—has so far netted three concentrators: two from the class of 2012 and one from the class of 2011.

Before the creation of the new concentration, students were only allowed to choose a biomedical sciences and engineering “track” within a more general engineering sciences concentration.

According to Dahleh, biomedical sciences and engineering has historically been the most popular track within the engineering sciences concentration, drawing in roughly 40 percent of undergraduate engineers.

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at gkumar@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Evan T.R. Rosenman can be reached at erosenm@fas.harvard.edu.

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