Biomedical Engineering at Purdue: A Rich History

Check out our historical timeline

Over the past 25 years, the Indiana University Schools of Dentistry and Medicine and the Purdue University Schools of Engineering, Science, and Veterinary Medicine have had active research programs in BME that have led to pioneering contributions in the field. Such contributions include the development of implantable cardiac defibrillators that have met with significant commercial success; the discovery of a xenogeneic biomaterial scaffold for the repair and regeneration of blood vessels and other tissues; the invention of acoustic guidance systems for clinical tubes and catheters; the design and synthesis of novel controlled release devices for the delivery of drugs, peptides, and proteins, especially in response to changing physiological conditions; and the development of the first fully integrated modeling and experimental techniques to design, test, and improve artificial knee joints. These contributions reflect the major BME research strengths of the two institutions in intelligent biomaterials, orthopaedic biomechanics, medical imaging, implantable devices, and tissue engineering.

Potter Building, Purdue University

Purdue's West Lafayette campus, the Hillenbrand Biomedical Engineering Center (HBMEC) was established in 1974 by L. A. Geddes and thrived as a laboratory for cardiovascular and other research and discoveries. In 1998 the HBMEC was integrated into the new Department of Biomedical Engineering to provide a strong departmental research base. In addition, a vital component of BME research at Purdue has been the School of Veterinary Medicine, where collaborative BME activities began shortly after the School's inception in 1959. Research emphasis continues to be in neurosciences (electrophysiology), bone and articulation research, the effect of electrical devices on wound healing as studied in the Center for Paralysis Research, and cardiovascular dynamics.

IU Medical Center BuildingOn the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus, the Indiana University Schools of Dentistry and Medicine have fostered many successful BME research collaborations with Purdue University faculty. In 1990, the Biomechanics and Biomaterials Research Center (BBRC) was founded to promote multidisciplinary, inter-institutional research that crosses the traditional division between biomechanics and dentistry/medicine. The BBRC, with its over 40 primary investigators representing four Schools, has been successful since its inception in establishing BME as a central research theme of the institutions. In addition, the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology and the Krannert Institute of Cardiology have recently formed a partnership in the specific area of cardiac electrophysiology. This partnership is promoting research and training along interdisciplinary and practical lines that form an important component of the BME Graduate Program.

This strong history of collaborative research and development laid the foundation for our BME Program that is a joint effort of Purdue and Indiana Universities. Thus, in 1995 we embarked upon a period of unification and expansion of BME training and research activities in order to provide an enhanced educational program that leverages the complementary strengths of the two institutions. In August of that year, an Inter-institutional Joint BME Faculty Committee was formed with representatives from the Schools of Chemical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Science, and Veterinary Medicine on the Purdue University West Lafayette Campus, and the Indiana University Schools of Dentistry and Medicine, and the Purdue Schools of Science, and Engineering and Technology, in Indianapolis, with the charge to develop a new interdisciplinary graduate program. A key goal of the BME program is to facilitate truly interdisciplinary training and research of the highest quality through collaborative instruction that crosses both school and institutional lines.

In response to surging student and faculty interest and a growing industrial need for biomedical engineers, the Purdue Department of Biomedical Engineering was established July 1, 1998. With continued growth, including the addition of an undergraduate degree program and the start of a new state-of-the art facility, and the generous support of the Weldon family, the biomedical engineering department became the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering in November 2004.