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Opening opportunities in growing industry

UWO will offer new biomedical engineering degree starting next school year

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April 21, 2023

OSHKOSH – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a near 10% employment growth for biomedical engineers through 2031 – with approximately 1,200 jobs opening up each year, on average, during that time.

According to Ahmed Nasif, an associate electrical engineering technology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (UWO) – a career in biomedical engineering – a field of engineering focused on designing medical devices, technologies, computer systems and software – has been ranked as one of the best jobs in America for the past five to 10 years.

To accommodate this growth and help prepare students for the wide range of opportunities in the growing field, Nasif said the university is adding a biomedical engineering degree program starting this fall.

Getting the go-head from the UW System Board of Regents late last month, Nasif said UWO’s first-ever engineering degree program aims to prepare students for careers in a variety of biomedical areas, including working with medical implants and prosthetics, devices and signal processing and organ and tissue engineering, among others.

“We are responding to an industry need and look forward to preparing and graduating biomedical engineers who will help strengthen and advance human health for generations to come,” UWO Chancellor Andy Leavitt said.

Launching a new degree program
The process of establishing a new degree program at a UW System school, Leavitt said, “takes time.”

Typically, after a need is identified, Leavitt said, the details are informally vetted through the university’s administration.
He said the university’s dean and provost approve the request, and it then moves on to shared governance – where the proposed program is subject to input from faculty and staff at the university.

“A notice of intent is sent to other institutions in the UW System to get feedback – either concerns or suggestions,” he said. 

Leavitt said information is then submitted to Academic Affairs, which looks at evidence of use and need for the program, and then a formal proposal is sent to the UW System Board of Regents, an 18-member board responsible for establishing policies and rules for governing the UW system.

Finally, he said, after the system president has signed off on the program, it travels to the board’s education committee.
Once adopted, the proposing university receives a letter from the regents, which UWO received last month.

Degree details
Graduates of the interdisciplinary program will receive a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree.

Based on the growing enrollment in many health-related programs at UWO, Nasif said the university anticipates significant demand for biomedical engineering graduates from the numerous biomedical engineering-related businesses in the state and region.

“We are looking forward to a good launch and serving students in this new area in Wisconsin,” he said.

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers – who work in manufacturing, research facilities and for various employers – combine engineering principles with sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems and software.

The median annual wage for bioengineers and biomedical engineers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was $97,410 or $46.83 per hour (May 2021).

In 2013, UWO established three engineering technology degrees – including electrical engineering, environmental engineering and mechanical engineering – which are accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

Greg Kleinheinz, chair of the Department of Engineering and Engineering Technology, said the university already partners with a handful of organizations – including the NEW Manufacturing Alliance, which is a partnership between local manufacturers, chambers of commerce, educators and state organizations to promote manufacturing in Northeast Wisconsin – to support its students’ hands-on learning experiences.

Kleinheinz said the university’s existing partnership with NEW Manufacturing Alliance, as well as others in medical imaging, radiologic technology, neuroscience and electrical engineering technology, will be leveraged in this new program.

“In looking at the landscape of Wisconsin and what’s offered, what is lacking and the potential for biomedical rises to the top,” he said. “This was a great way to combine the engineering programs, faculty experience and the other quality programs at UW-Oshkosh.”

Kleinheinz said offering a biomedical engineering degree program at UWO offers those students who desire a campus environment with smaller class sizes, or something a bit closer to home, the opportunity to still pursue a career in the biomedical field. 

“Outside of Madison and Milwaukee, this region had not offered a program like this, and there’s a significant amount of infrastructure in the area as well, so it made sense to pursue this,” he said. “In engineering, to find a comprehensive campus like Oshkosh that offers a full suite of offerings and engineering is rare.” 

Leavitt said this is an exciting and historic time for UWO.

“We are simply responding to regional needs and demands,” Leavitt said. “We saw there was a need for biomedical engineering in the region, and we believe we have the faculty on staff and the expertise to offer this. From our community to the industries we serve, we’ve had a positive response, and there is a lot of excitement from students.”

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