International Opportunities for Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Students

Map of Ireland
Galway, Ireland will be the site for a new, international undergraduate initiative.
The Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, through interactions with Purdue's Study Abroad Office and key partners in the medical device industry, has created a new international exchange program with the National University of Ireland - Galway for our undergraduate students.

The Program

The Weldon School has been very strategic over the past few years in building partnerships with other research and academic institutions. Our recent research and faculty/graduate student exchange partnerships with the Korean Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez are two ongoing examples of successful and strategic ventures. With this new undertaking, we have now extended such partnerships to directly provide opportunities for undergraduate students.

The National University of Ireland - Galway (NUIG) is a premier academic institution with clear correlations of its curricular offerings and educational philosophies with those of Purdue. We also have  many of the same corporate partners in the medical device and product industries that, e.g., provide internships for our students and hire them upon graduation. Thus, the opportunity to partner with NUIG in order to provide expanded experiential and global learning experiences for our students meets with our School’s strategic goals.

The BME program at NUIG graduated its first class of students in 2000. They admit approximately 35 students each year (25 are admitted directly into BME, 10 more come over from a common first year engineering program). The BME program at Purdue graduated its first undergraduate class in 2007. We currently admit 72 students per class, directly from Purdue’s First Year Engineering program.

The Purdue- NUIG exchange program provides students with an international experience that expands both their cultural and technical capabilities. Faculty members from both institutions have identified course equivalents that will allow exchange students to stay on track towards graduation and continue to explore their specific technical interests. Initially, a small number of undergraduates are participating in the exchange each year. In the future, the number of exchange students as well as those obtaining internships at shared partner companies will undoubtedly grow. Our five year goal is to double the number of participants from each campus while exploring faculty research collaborations with our new partners in Galway.

The Timeline

Four Purdue students will take classes in Galway during the Fall semester of 2011. These students will begin their senior design projects while they are in Galway, with the assistance of NUIG faculty members. In the second semester the students will return to the Purdue campus and complete these projects with their senior design teammates.

In addition, two Galway students will study at Purdue for both Fall and Spring of the same academic year.

Also, there will be a collaborative, three-week short course offered during August of 2012. The first half of the course will occur in the United States, with the second in Ireland. The focus of this course will be on regulatory issues in medical device manufacturing, including a comparison between US and European models. The class will include numerous visits to industry sites in the US and Ireland.

The People

The lead faculty member for the program in Ireland is Dr. Laoise McNamara, a Lecturer in Biomedical Engineering (Biomechanics) who teaches Medical Implant and Device Design (ME421) and Introduction to Biomedical Engineering (ME218). Her research interests are in experimental and computational biomechanics and mechanobiology.

Dr. Ann Rundell, chair of the BME curriculum committee, and Dr. Eric Nauman have taken the lead on the Purdue side. Dr. Rundell is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering. Her research interests include control of cellular processes, systems biology, computational cell biology, and cardiovascular resuscitation. Dr. Nauman is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Basic Medical Sciences. His research is focused on biomechanics, cell biomechanics/biophysics, biomedical electromagnetics, neuroscience, paralysis research, tissue engineering, and breast cancer research. The program is coordinated by Maeve Drummond, the BME Undergraduate Programs Coordinator.

The Participants

  •             Kara Ellspermann, BME Senior from Ferdinand, IN
  •             Charles Wilbur Peak, BME Senior Peak from Elkhart, IN
  •             Ellen Wittenberg, BME Senior from Cleveland, Ohio
  •             Shishir Biswas, BME Senior from West Lafayette, IN

Two Galway students have been selected to study at Purdue in 2011-12:

  • Catherine O'Connor, BME Junior from Athlone, Co. Westmeath, Ireland
  • Faraz Hassan, BME Junior from Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, Ireland

The Impact

The demand for international experiences appears to be at an all-time high for our undergraduate students in the Weldon School and in the College of Engineering. We wish to capitalize on this surge of interest and thereby build an integrated culture of globally aware and experienced engineers.