Tech Launches New Biomedical Sciences Program

SOCORRO, N.M. January 20, 2015 – New Mexico Tech has started a new bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences, approved by the Board of Regents in November, students have already started enrolling.

President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said Biomedical Sciences is a natural expansion of curriculum at Tech because of the university’s existing expertise and the growing interest and needs.

“This is one of the fastest unfolding disciplines in the country,” Lopez said. “It behooves New Mexico Tech to create these new opportunities for students and faculty.”

Lopez emphasized the importance of establishing a formal manner to create new interfaces between sciences and engineering.

“This will allow us to better develop beneficial medical solutions for human health, improve plant life and livestock as well,” Lopez said. “This also creates new opportunities to build relationships with science groups, like the National Genomic Research Center in Santa Fe – and collectively advance the science and engineering in these areas.”

Several firms, both large established companies and new start-ups, have operations in the state, including the BioScience Center (a bioscience and life science incubator in Albuquerque), the National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe, and the International Biosciences USA in Las Cruces. Both Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs have Bioscience Divisions as well.

The new degree is broadly interdisciplinary. Faculty from nine different departments worked together to design a program where students would get a broad exposure to the biomedical science. Professor and Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Bill Stone spear-headed and championed the development of this BMS Program. Dr. Snezna Rogelj, a Biology Professor and a member of the interdisciplinary team of faculty that conceived and designed the program.said that the new program will require a thorough understanding of both a field of science and of engineering, which makes this program different from other bioscience degrees, and will prepare students for either graduate work or an exciting career.

“Being a small institution, we have a number of science and engineering disciplines that are top-notch,” Rogelj said. “We want to become more interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary. We’ve been doing it for years informally, but now it will be possible for the students to receive a degree which recognizes, in its title, the inter- and transdisciplinary nature of their education.”

The theme of transdisciplinary study is a major part of the new Strategic Plan that Tech is unveiling this year. Rogelj said this program will make it easier for faculty and students to accomplish the melding of different yet related disciplines of study and, most importantly, do so in the context of original research.

Students interested in Biomedical Science can choose from 12 different paths. First, they will select a major degree track from biology, chemistry or cognitive neuroscience; then, they’ll select a minor from one of four engineering programs: biomechanics, chemical engineering, bioinformatics (which also involves computer science), or materials.

Students will then pair up with research advisors and, eventually, complete a year-long research project that mixes the two selected disciplines.

“This program will be more challenging,” Rogelj said. “It is reminiscent of a master’s degree. Students will spend a year in the lab and explore the interface between their favorite science and their favorite engineering. They’ll come out with education that includes meaningful skills and hands-on experience.”

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech