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New Joint School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences Holds First Classes

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Classes began Thursday at the new School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences operated jointly by Wake Forest University and Virginia Tech.

The first classes originated at Wake Forest and were teleconferenced to Virginia Tech. Classes on the fall schedule include mammalian physiology, introduction to biomedical engineering, medical imaging, digital signal processing and physics and chemistry of surfaces.

The students also will do research projects, much the same as other students in Wake Forest''s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Specialty tracks include biomedical imaging, biomechanics, tissue/material engineering, and medical physics.

It was the advent of distance learning that made the joint school practical, although students also will travel between the Winston-Salem campus and the campus in Blacksburg, Va.

Distance learning equipment has been significantly upgraded, allowing for simultaneous video and computer display. A special pen lets the instructor appear to write directly on the screen, so a critical point can be circled on a power point slide. Or a blank screen can be called up for writing formulas, which will be seen simultaneously on both campuses The fully interactive system has a number of other features.

"We wanted to build distance learning to a real state of the art," said. Elaine P. Scott, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Tech

Peter Santago, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Wake Forest, said the school faculty also "meets" through teleconferencing.

At Wake Forest, the school has core faculty members from radiation oncology and from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and affiliated faculty -- including nine physicians -- from such departments as pediatrics, orthopedics, radiology, internal medicine (cardiology) and plastic surgery and members of the physics and math and computer sciences departments on the Reynolda campus.

At Virginia Tech, the faculty includes virtually all the engineering specialties, as well as a psychology professor from the College of Sciences.

There are also several faculty members from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, a third component of the joint School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences along with Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

"I''m incredibly excited," said Santago "That this is actually taking off is unbelievable."

"It''s hard to believe that after these many months of work that things are actually falling into place," said Scott. The school fills a hole for both universities. Virginia Tech has no human medical school and Wake Forest has long sought to add an engineering school.

Instruction responsibilities for introduction to mechanical engineering and mammalian physiology are shared, with some lectures to be broadcast from Winston-Salem and some from Blacksburg. The joint school will offer four degrees: a master''s and doctoral degree in biomedical engineering and two combined degrees: M.D./Ph.D and D.V.M../Ph.D.

Creation of the joint school was announced on Oct. 16, 2001, but it took until March 19, 2003 for the school to clear regulatory hurdles and win final approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, which has a similar role to SCHEV in North Carolina. ###

Contact: Robert Conn (rconn@wfubmc.edu) or Karen Richardson (krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu) at 336-716-4587

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