The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 8th

UNC, NCSU Discuss Joint Degree Program

The biomedical engineering degree would join NCSU's engineering resources with UNC's medical school.

The combined department, modeled after a similar venture between Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, would allow students to receive joint biomedical engineering degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Administrators said they hope to issue the formal proposal of the program by fall 2003.

Officials say researchers in the program would benefit from a free exchange of resources and materials between the campuses.

UNC-CH Provost Robert Shelton said the University's accomplishments in the biomedical arena will complement N.C. State's strong engineering department.

While N.C. State now offers a bachelor's of science degree specifically in biomedical engineering, UNC-CH only offers a biomedical engineering track to undergraduate students in applied science. But UNC-CH offers a biomedical program at the graduate level.

By taking classes at both universities, students could benefit from the best each university has to offer, Shelton said.

The potential joint venture marks yet another collaboration between UNC-CH and other area universities. Last year, Duke University and UNC-CH initiated the Robertson Scholars Program, which allows selected students to obtain a joint undergraduate degree from both universities.

"This idea is similar to the Robertson Scholars in the sense that it would allow students to take advantage of the wonderful proximity of these campuses," Shelton said.

He said a joint biomedical engineering program would be a large service to the state, especially to the numerous firms found in Research Triangle Park.

N.C. State Provost Stuart Cooper stressed that the program also would extend benefits to researchers in related fields such as chemistry, physics and microbiology.

"In cases where schools do not have medical schools, I think finding a partner is going to be the way of the future," he said. "The full expression of a biomedical engineering program should include a connection with a medical school for joint experiences in instruction, as well as in research."

Cooper emphasized that recent state budget cuts will present new difficulties in getting the program off the ground.

"I understand that it's not a very great time to be proposing things, so we will have to be extra careful in our priorities," he said. "We have to make sure existing programs run properly and budget carefully so we can devote resources to something new."

But Shelton said that looking into the program is a vital step in linking North Carolina's academic communities and a precursor to future collaborations.

"Even if we decide we can't or shouldn't do this, the exploration process is critical," he said.

"Just thinking about this is going to pay big dividends."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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