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Master of Science in Engineering
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 also used extensively for research with experimental animals.
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, 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.
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 CAT scans, thermal images, and histologic images. Processing is also performed on other two-dimensional data, such as spectroscopic data from the Laser Laboratories. Facilities include a Power Macintosh 8100, a Quadra 840AV, and a Macintosh IIfx with image capture and display cards; a microscope CCD camera; a thermal camera; and appropriate photographic, display, and storage equipment.
Biomedical Instrumentation Laboratory. This laboratory conducts research and development on two kinds of computer-based biomedical instruments. The first type uses the Motorola 6811 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, the more powerful and flexible, uses IBM-PC technology; the real-time software is written in C++ or Forth. Application-specific analog and digital PC boards are designed and manufactured. Temperature-based transducers are integrated with the hardware and software to create biomedical instruments that can be used for basic or clinical research.
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.
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.
Laser Laboratories. These laboratories are equipped to generate laser energy at virtually any wavelength in the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared regions of the spectrum. Various detectors measure the interaction of high- and low-power laser light with tissue, and a fluorescence microscope allows the examination of cellular-level tissues. The laboratories also provide equipment to measure tissue optical properties, fluorescence and Raman spectra of animal and human tissue in vivo, fluorescence spectra of biological fluorophores at near-picomolar concentrations, and Raman spectra of biological chromophores at micromolar concentrations.
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.
Rheology Laboratory. The flow properties of human blood are the central focus of the laboratory. Experimental studies are done on oscillatory and pulsatile flow of blood through tubes, orifices, and complex geometries that model segments of the human circulatory system. Optical methods are used to study the dynamics of red cell deformation. The kinetics of blood coagulation and clot dissolution are being investigated. Facilities are available for the study of prosthetic heart valves, cardiac replacement devices, and models of sections of the human circulatory system. A scanning electron microscope is available for analysis of blood cells. Instrumentation is also available for continuous monitoring of the sedimentation of red blood cells.
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. Facilities include electrosurgery units, a microwave diathermy device, a thermal camera, and other equipment and facilities shared with the Laser Laboratories.
The biomedical engineering program is interdisciplinary, with a faculty that includes members of 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. The current research of this faculty includes such topics as bioinstrumentation, modeling and control of biological systems, biomedical computer and information technology, biomechanics, thermal processes, acquisition of physiological data by noninvasive means, engineering in the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, biomaterials and artificial organs, effects of laser radiation on biological material, laser applications in medicine, 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.
All admission decisions are made by the graduate adviser and the Graduate Studies Committee. Standards for entrance into the program generally exceed the minimum standards established by the University. In general, the applicant must have a bachelor's degree in engineering or physics from an accredited institution. An applicant with a degree in another field may have to 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. 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).
Students who enter the doctoral degree program without a master's degree are expected to earn an MSE en route to the PhD.
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 in lieu of the twenty-four semester hours of coursework and six hours of thesis described in the previous paragraph.
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 qualifying examination. The qualifying examination is given after the student has become knowledgeable in some 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 independent thinking and research. Before taking the qualifying 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 qualifying 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.
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Mailing address: Biomedical Engineering Program, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712-1084