The Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of South Florida is experiencing an expansion in enrollment, as well as more female students than in years prior.
According to the Bureau for Labor and Statistics, biomedical engineers have an expected growth of 72 percent over the next decade, while other engineering fields will only grow by about 10 percent. Robert Frisina, the director of biomedical engineering, believes the healthcare crisis may be partly responsible for this dramatic increase.
“People want better health coverage for less money. That means there is a greater demand for more advanced medical devices and biomedical engineers,” Frisina said.
The ChBME department was awarded a $200,000 expansion grant for the 2011 school year. Enrollment of ChBME students has increased by 53 percent over the last two years and women make up nearly 42 percent of this department. In Piyush Koria’s nano-medicine class, 11 of his 20 students are female. Both the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) chapters at USF have female presidents.
Traditionally, ChBME is the program of choice for women, but women are still underrepresented in engineering. USF wants to see equality in a field of study generally dominated by men. “Women bring a different set of skills and will aid in the progress of the ChBME department,” Koria said.
Under graduate advisor Scott Campbell thinks the increase in enrollment might have something to do with changing the name of the department from Chemical Engineering to Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. USF does not offer an undergraduate biomedical engineering degree because, to be competitive in this field, you need at least a graduate degree.
The expansion of the program means improving the department on multiple fronts. According to the biomedical director, each new faculty member sets up his or her lab, teaches a course and develops new course work with a biomedical application. This means ChBME students will have more opportunities to volunteer on research projects and to gain valuable experience. The department’s expansion makes ChBME students more likely to succeed in future endeavors within this rapidly growing field of study.