The Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering was established in 2003 with a graduate program, but the first class of undergraduates graduated this May.
Lianne Cartee, joint director of undergraduate studies within the degree program, said students who participate in the program receive a degree in biomedical and health sciences engineering from UNC and NC State.
Students admitted to the program also enjoy extracurricular benefits on both campuses, like housing, meal plans, research facilities and admission to sporting events, she said.
Devin Hubbard, a lecturer in the department at UNC, said the program allows students more opportunities to excel in the field of BME by expanding the resources available to them.
“We have a world-class engineering college over at NC State and we have a world-class college of arts and sciences over here, as well as the medical school, the hospitals, the pharmacy school, the nursing school — sort of all the health care things that a biomedical engineer would probably want access to,” he said.
Budding engineers in the joint program will use teleconferences to communicate between campuses and within the network of hospitals affiliated with the program, he said. A shuttle is also available to transport students between campuses, and students have the option to choose housing at either campus.
Richard Goldberg, associate director of undergraduate studies on the UNC side of the program, currently teaches a junior-level electronics class. He said the undergraduate program recognizes that it might be challenging for students to move between campuses, so the complete curriculum of the program will continue to be offered at both campuses separately.
Most students apply to the program in the second semester of their first year, Hubbard said, and the program accepts 80 students from each school.
Since the program is so new — the first class of students graduated this past May — it is still working out some problems, Cartee said.
Students are having trouble registering for classes not on their home campus due to system glitches, she said, but the biggest issue facing the program is accreditation.
“At the moment, the NC State students are not part of the joint degree,” Cartee said. “While the degree is accredited as a college degree, it’s not accredited as an engineering degree. And you can’t get accredited as an engineering degree until you graduate a class.”
An accreditation unit will visit the school in September, she said, but the program will not hear back about their decision until next fall.
Hubbard teaches a two-semester course in which students shadow clinicians at hospitals and build a product based off of a problem they have identified within the hospital.
Hubbard said he looks forward to teaching new students within the program.
“We recruit some of the best students at both universities, which makes teaching them very easy.”
CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story misstated when students apply to the program. Most students apply the second semester of their first year, but some apply after their first semester or the summer after their first year.