New Program: Department of Biomedical Engineering

By Vincent Turitto
Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Director, Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering

When I first met with President Lew Collens about starting a Biomedical Engineering department, there was not much broad interdisciplinary activity in that field at IIT.

The department, which we started from scratch in 2002, now has 10 faculty members, about 150 undergraduates, and a graduate population of nearly 30 people. It’s grown into a substantive undergraduate major and a doctoral program that is going to create very strong areas of research. Already, the research expenditures are the most per faculty member of any department in the engineering school.

In addition to supporting this new venture, Lew developed the resources for the renovation of Wishnick Hall, which was an important part of the restoration of the Mies van der Rohe buildings. Today, we have four renovated teaching labs in Wishnick, 15 faculty offices, and an office suite for a new chair of the department. Also, the newly hired faculty have been installed in state-of-the-art research labs in the Engineering Research Building, part of University Technology Park At IIT (UTP). We’ve grown rapidly into this new space, which supports our academic and research efforts; this required a great deal of funds for the renovation, and Lew made the investment.

Thanks to his commitment of financial resources, we now have a home for Biomedical Engineering.

In addition, plans are currently underway to build significant facilities for the Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering in UTP. The centers established under the Pritzker Institute will help enhance the partnership with the University of Chicago and other medical centers in Chicago.

The path of the future is through interdisciplinary efforts. Lew has led the way through the Interprofessional Projects program and by encouraging disciplines such as biomedical engineering, which is inherently interactive across fields in biology and engineering. The Pritzker Institute has areas of medical imaging, diabetes, and neural imaging. These involve Biomedical Engineering faculty as well as numerous faculty members in science and engineering across campus.

Our research is thriving due to collaborations, quality facilities, and a strongly supported interdisciplinary approach; Biomedical Engineering and the Pritzker Institute at IIT are well positioned to make highly significant contributions to the field thanks to the vision and foresight of Lew Collens.