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Oregon's Only Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program Attracts High-Quality Students

   Portland, Ore.

Fall enrollment in the Oregon Health & Science University program is up 43 percent with high student GRE scores

Fall enrollment in Oregon's only biomedical engineering program is up and students' quantitative GRE scores — the benchmark for engineering success — are among the top 10 in the country, according to Oregon Health & Science University officials.

OHSU launched the biomedical engineering program in fall 2003, and formal accreditation followed in March of this year. The program is based at OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering ( in Hillsboro, Ore., and expansion plans call for a department presence in Building One of OHSU's South Waterfront campus, now under construction.

"I think being affiliated with a medical school, being located in Portland with its reputation for outdoor opportunities, and our highly regarded faculty with well-known research projects all have helped to boost enrollment and ensure we attract the highest-quality graduate students," said Bill Roberts, Ph.D., associate director of OHSU's biomedical engineering department who developed the biomedical curriculum.

In fall 2004 OHSU's biomedical engineering program has enrolled eight new doctoral and two new master's students — up 43 percent from last fall's inaugural enrollment. Fifty percent of incoming graduate students in the biomedical program are female, noted Roberts.

According to U.S. News and World Report (spring 2004) the quantitative graduate record exam scores, or GREs, for biomedical engineering graduate students in fall 2003 placed OHSU students 10th in the country behind Cal Tech, Princeton, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"We are a nontraditional biomedical engineering department," said Stephen Hanson, Ph.D., the head of OHSU's biomedical engineering department. "Our focus is on such research as biomedical optics, point-of-care engineering, spoken language processing, neuroengineering, and cardiovascular engineering, as opposed to the more traditional areas of biomedical engineering, such as joint prosthetics.

"I think the uniqueness of our research and the small classes make it exciting for students who may know exactly what field they want to pursue and want the chance to make a difference in a growing field."

Kathryn Lagerquist, 30, who has a master's in biomedical engineering from the University of California, Davis, is fairly typical of an OHSU biomedical engineering student. Lagerquist was working in Portland in a hospital laser lab when one of her colleagues told her about the biomedical program.

"I didn't hesitate to apply for an instant," said Lagerquist, who was admitted to OHSU in fall 2003. "I liked the size of the department and the strong focus on cardiovascular tissue engineering. There are a diverse group of researchers that love their research and their excitement is contagious. I enjoy doing research and I feel that other prospective students would have the same experience."

Keri Vartanian, 23, is one of the new fall 2004 doctoral students. Vartanian majored in biochemistry at the University of Arizona and was working at the National Institutes of Health in the Washington, D.C. area when she heard from an Oregon friend about OHSU's biomedical engineering program. Having grown up in Portland, Vartanian said she was thrilled to find a doctoral program close to friends and family.

"I like that the program — though very new — is recruiting a lot of great faculty and I think that this, in conjunction with OHSU, will provide excellent research opportunities and student success."

Noted Roberts, "Right now, employment opportunities for biomedical engineers are expanding more rapidly than for other engineering disciplines. As technology continues to advance and as biomedical research continues to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care, there are only going to be even more opportunities in the biomedical field."

For more information about the biomedical engineering program at Oregon Health & Science University, call 503 748-1435 or go to

The OGI School of Science & Engineering became one of four specialty schools of Oregon Health & Science University in July 2001. OGI's 55 faculty and 500 graduate students focus on interdisciplinary research in human and ecosystem health.

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