The University of Houston Health Initiative has received a major boost from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which recently approved the establishment of a doctoral program in biomedical engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering.
"The approval of this program is extremely important for UH Health," said Joseph W. Tedesco, Elizabeth D. Rockwell Endowed Chair and dean of the UH Cullen College of Engineering. "With ongoing research partnerships at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) and the launch of a new department of biomedical engineering, we now have the infrastructure to support and maintain a well-funded doctoral research program in the biomedical sciences."
The new doctoral program will be launched alongside existing bachelor's and master's degree options in biomedical engineering, giving current and prospective students a greater opportunity to pursue a terminal degree while studying in Houston's prolific medical research community.
"We've had many students pursuing biomedical-related doctoral research within our interdisciplinary programs," said Suresh Khator, associate dean of graduate studies. "Now, we will be able offer a degree focused specifically on biomedical engineering topics and further capitalize on collaborative efforts with partner institutions at the TMC."
Research in the doctoral program will focus on three main thrust areas—neural, cognitive and rehabilitation engineering, biomedical imaging and genomics and proteomics—with the overall goal of understanding what causes diseases so that accurate and affordable medications and therapies can be developed for treatment.
"Our program will discover, develop and deliver technological solutions aimed at reducing health care costs," said Metin Akay, founding chair of the UH Department of Biomedical Engineering. "That's the difference between our program and the more than 90 others in the United States."
Specifically, the program's neural and cognitive research area will explore everything from neural implants and neurochip development to the effect of neurogenesis on brain function. Biomedical imaging will focus on molecular, cellular and clinical imaging as it relates to cardiovascular and neurological therapeutics. Research in the genomics and proteomics thrust area will be geared toward cancer studies and involves the investigation of gene regulatory systems and networks as well as intelligent drug delivery and design.
"These three emerging fields have enjoyed significant growth and provide tremendous opportunities for the development of new technologies that will have a major impact health care," said Akay. "These thrust areas also complement the other existing biomedical engineering Ph.D. programs in Houston and Texas."
In further developing the department, Akay hopes to hire as many as 12 more tenured-track faculty during the next three years, create a distinguished biomedical engineering lecture series and continue stimulating research collaborations at the TMC.