Facilities for Graduate Work
The Biomedical Engineering Program has offices and the following specially equipped laboratories in the Engineering-Science Building and nearby buildings. The Animal Resources Center is used extensively for research with experimental animals. Research is also conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Biochemical Engineering Laboratory. This laboratory has facilities for research in tissue culture, fermentation development, molecular biology, protein purification, isolation of primary cells from tissue, and cell biology. Equipment includes a variety of incubators for cell growth; several fully instrumented fermenters; a flow cytometer; facilities for DNA manipulation and sequencing, high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), fluorescence microscopy, and video microscopy image analysis; and several high-resolution light microscopes.
Bioheat Transfer and Image Analysis Laboratory. This facility has unique equipment for the study of thermal phenomena in tissue. Specialized cryogenic apparatus permits direct observation of the freezing and thawing properties of tissue. Several advanced microscopes are used to study dynamic processes in individual cells under cryogenic conditions and to quantify three-dimensional shapes and shape changes in cells and multicellular tissues. Studies are also conducted on burn injury processes and on the expression of heat shock proteins.
Biomechanics Laboratory. This laboratory contains state-of-the-art data collection equipment and computers for studying three-dimensional human body motion. Kinematic data, ground reaction force data, and electromyographic time histories are collected, and the laboratory has two computer workstations and access to the University computer facilities. Principal research involves the determination of dynamic musculotendonoskeletal quantities, including individual muscle force and energy storage during motion, through the use of dynamic optimization techniques in computer simulation.
Biomedical Image Processing Laboratory. This laboratory researches methods of improving interpretation of biomedical images by computer processing. Images used in the research include CT scans, thermal images, and histologic images. Processing is also performed on other two-dimensional data.
Biomedical Instrumentation Laboratory. This laboratory conducts research and development on two kinds of computer-based biomedical instruments. The first type uses an embedded microcomputer and is intended for battery-operated portable clinical instruments. Software is written in a combination of assembly language and C with software components developed especially for embedded real-time control.
The second type of instrument, the more powerful and flexible, uses IBM-PC technology; the real-time software is written in C++. Application-specific analog and digital PC boards are designed and manufactured. Temperature-based transducers are integrated with hardware and software to create biomedical instruments that can be used for basic or clinical research.
Biomedical Optics Research Laboratory. This laboratory investigates the interaction of light with biological materials in order to develop and improve diagnostic and surgical procedures. Projects include infrared tomography for imaging blood flow in tissue and laser-assisted thermoplasty of cartilage. Research to develop novel diagnostic imaging procedures incorporates substantial work in digital signal processing and signal estimation algorithms.
Biosignal Analysis and Computer Graphics Research Laboratory. Acquisition and analysis of biomedical signals such as EEG, EKG, and EMG are explored in this laboratory. Data acquisition systems with analog-to-digital conversion boards and GKS graphics display software support ongoing research. Special analog and digital filters have been developed to process biomedical signals in the presence of extraneous noise. A high-speed Silicon Graphics workstation is available for neuromuscular modeling and simulation. The workstation includes advanced Z-buffer architecture for rapid processing of three-dimensional computer graphics displays of biomechanical data. Work in this laboratory includes the acquisition and analysis of kinematic data related to biomechanical studies of human musculoskeletal dynamics and control.
Cardiovascular Laboratory. A pulsatile flow pump for cardiac surgery has been developed in this laboratory, and pulsatile flow hemodialysis is also being developed and tested. Other areas of study include fluid mechanics characteristics of pulsatile and nonpulsatile flow in an in vitro cardiopulmonary bypass setup; the effect of pulsatile flow on brain oxygenation and metabolism; and tubing spallation in cardiopulmonary bypass and hemodialysis. Laboratory equipment includes instrumentation for measuring instantaneous blood pressure and flow. The laboratory collaborates with the College of Pharmacy in development of blood substitutes and donor organ preservation solutions.
Electromagnetics Laboratory. This laboratory investigates the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and biological materials and systems. Studies include radio frequency cutting and coagulation processes (electrosurgery) and magnetic field effects on tissue. Some work is done in conjunction with laboratories at the J. J. Pickle Research Campus.
Laboratory of Neural and Cellular Repair (UTMB). This laboratory studies the ways in which nerve fibers and injured cells in general are able to repair themselves. It is actively engaged in determining the various sources of mobilized vesicular membrane, the process by which vesicles repair disrupted cell membranes, and the factors that promote and expedite repair.
Laser Laboratories. These laboratories are equipped with state-of-the-art electro-optic instrumentation to investigate light interaction with tissue for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Sources are available to generate laser energy at virtually any wavelength in the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared regions of the spectrum. Various detection systems measure the interaction of high- or low-power laser light with tissue. A fluorescence microscope allows the examination of tissue at the cellular level. The laboratories have equipment to measure the optical, thermal, and mechanical response of tissue to laser radiation; confocal and low-coherence tomographic systems for imaging tissue; and spectrographic systems for fluorescence or Raman spectra of abnormal tissue or cells.
Neurosensory Laboratory. Equipment is available in this laboratory for electrophysiological measurements of the visual system, auditory system, and neuromuscular system. Transducers have been developed for the continuous measurement of intracranial pressure and intraocular pressure. Equipment has been developed for special processing of electroencephalograms for evoked cortical potentials. Work is directed toward the design and development of devices that provide an interface between the nervous system and external controllers. Research includes the modification of stimulation schemes to produce physiological responses in neural and muscular systems, design and packaging of electrodes, and improved diagnostic capabilities exploiting different kinds of evoked potentials.
Noninvasive Laboratory. This laboratory investigates the acquisition of physiological data by noninvasive means. The present emphasis is on electrical impedance and ultrasonic techniques.
Physiology Research Laboratory (UTMB). This laboratory develops novel resuscitation fluids for the treatment of traumatic hypovolemia and circulatory shock. Recent research has focused on hypertonic fluid therapy and blood substitutes and on development of systems for drug and fluid delivery for treatment of medical emergencies.
Sealy Center for Structural Biology/NMR Center (UTMB). The NMR Center is involved in the development of new instrumentation and computer software. The center includes Varian Unity Plus 750, 600, and wide-bore 400-mHz triple-resonance NMR spectrometers. Researchers use NMR and molecular dynamics calculations to define the structure and dynamics of various proteins and biomolecular complexes. A Varian wide-bore 400-mHz Unity Plus NMR spectrometer is also used for solid-state NMR, CP/MAS, microimaging, in vivo perfusion experiments, and measurement of diffusion coefficients of larger macromolecules.
Spine Biomechanics Research Laboratory (UTMB). The focus of this laboratory is on the three-dimensional kinematics of the in vivo lumbar spine. Measurement processes include the integration of motion analyses, reconstructed CT images, application of instantaneous kinematic analysis programs developed on site, and the recreation of intersegmental motion in three-dimensional cyberspace. Biomechanical testing is done to support the clinical orthopedic spine service, including testing of cervical and lumbar fixator devices coupled with clinical trials, evaluation of spinal implants for strength and stability, and the use of animal models for evaluation of the biomechanical efficacy of various interbody fusion methodologies.
Tissue Coagulation Laboratory. Research on tissue temperature distributions resulting from externally applied energy is underway at this facility. Calibrated and digitally processed thermographic imagery is used in conjunction with conventional thermal sensors to study localized coagulation and tissue fusion by lasers and electrosurgical techniques. Research into quantifying tissue damage from histologic sections seeks to improve the damage estimates computed from measured temperature distributions.
Areas of Study
The biomedical engineering program is interdisciplinary, with a faculty that includes members of the School of Biological Sciences, the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Department of Psychology, and several departments in the College of Engineering, as well as practicing physicians. Several faculty members from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio serve on the Graduate Studies Committee and supervise biomedical engineering students. Adjuct faculty members at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston also serve as co-supervisors.
The current research of this faculty is focused in the following areas: optical bioengineering, thermal bioengineering, tissue engineering, molecular synthesis, and biomechanics. Research activities embrace such topics as bioinstrumentation, modeling and control of biological systems, nerve fiber regeneration, biomedical computer and information technology, biomechanics, thermal processes, musculoskeletal modeling, acquisition and analysis of in vivo and ex vivo spatial human biomechanics data, acquisition of physiological data by noninvasive means, engineering in the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, biomaterials and artificial organs, cell and tissue engineering, design and testing of novel fluid and drug delivery systems, effects of laser radiation on biological material, laser applications in medicine, coherence imaging of biological materials, pulsed photothermal tomography, biorheology, visual system instrumentation, computer vision, production and purification of genetically engineered proteins, acquisition and processing of neurological signals, neuroprostheses, applications of finite element modeling in medicine, acoustics and ultrasound, blood-protein coated surface interactions, image processing, thermography, and hyperthermia.
Graduate Studies Committee
The following faculty members served on the Graduate Studies Committee in the spring semester 1998-1999. The names of faculty members at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston are marked with an asterisk; those of faculty members at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio are marked with two asterisks.
All admission decisions are made by the graduate adviser and the Graduate Studies Committee. Standards for entrance into the program exceed the minimum standards established by the University. The applicant must have a bachelor's degree in engineering or physics from an accredited institution. An applicant with a degree in a field other than engineering or physics must take supplementary coursework before applying for admission; the applicant may take these courses either at the University as a nondegree student or at another accredited institution.
Students accepted into the master's degree program typically have a combined verbal and quantitative score of 1300 on the Graduate Record Examinations General Test; a score of 1400 is typical for students admitted to the doctoral program. A grade point average of at least 3.30 is expected of applicants to the master's degree program; a grade point average of at least 3.50 is expected of doctoral applicants. Other factors considered are the applicant's statement of purpose, reference letters, and transcripts and the availability of faculty members to supervise the student and provide research facilities and possible support.
All applicants whose native language is not English must submit a score of at least 550 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
Master of Science in Engineering
The master's degree requires at least thirty semester hours of coursework, including six hours in the thesis course and fifteen hours of biomedical engineering courses. The remaining nine semester hours should be selected from courses outside the field of biomedical engineering. These additional courses must be logically related to the student's entire program and must be approved by the graduate adviser and the graduate dean. The master's degree program includes a core curriculum of biomedical engineering courses that are taken by all students pursuing this degree.
A thesis is normally expected; however, with the consent of the Graduate Studies Committee the student may follow a degree plan that includes a report or one with neither thesis nor report. The report option requires thirty-three semester hours of coursework, including three hours in the report course. The plan without thesis or report requires thirty-six semester hours of coursework.
Doctor of Philosophy
The doctoral program does not have a formal course structure; however, most students complete forty-eight to sixty semester hours of multidisciplinary coursework beyond the baccalaureate degree before finishing their research. Students pursuing the doctoral degree are expected to take the core courses required for the master's degree in biomedical engineering.
The student who plans to seek the doctoral degree must take a written examination over basic engineering material the first January after receiving the MSE. No more than two years after passing the written examination, the student must take a comprehensive oral qualifying examination. The oral examination is given after the student has become knowledgeable in a chosen area of biomedical engineering and can define a problem suitable to the application of advanced engineering skills; it is designed to assess the student's aptitude for independent thinking and research. Before taking the oral examination, the student is expected to formulate a hypothesis and propose an experimental design for a selected research problem. The student is examined specifically on the proposed research. After the oral examination, the committee determines if the student should complete additional coursework. At least one faculty member from another University program or from a collaborating institution participates in examining and supervising the student.
For More Information
Campus address: Engineering-Science Building (ENS) 610, phone (512) 471-4679, fax (512) 471-0616
Mailing address: Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712-1084
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