Among the 20 projects on display was research that centered on ways to more effectively diagnose cancer in its early stages, particularly the ever-evasive ovarian cancer, and a new way for joint-repair patients to monitor their own recovery using a tablet computer.
"This is the first time I get to see all of the other projects happening here in biomedical engineering and the biomedical field," said UA BME senior Katrina DeCook. "It's good practice, and it gives us good feedback that we can take back to the lab."
Adam Bernstein, a UA senior studying biomedical engineering and physiology, also appreciated the verbal practice the event provided BME students.
"I think it’s a good opportunity to present what I'm working on to other people, as well as practice sharing with the public in an upbeat environment," he said. Bernstein's research is on an improved medical imaging system that would reduce the amount of radiation a cancer patient is exposed to during treatment.
Biomedical engineering graduate student Jacalyn Ouellette, who is working on a Windows-based program that would allow joint-repair patients to monitor their own joint stress loads and healing progress via wireless transmitter and tablet computer, said the visibility the event creates is vital to her work. Advances in her research could mean help for the vast number of patients suffering from damaged joints and osteoarthritis -- the most common form of arthritis that affects millions of people worldwide.
"I think it's important to get this project out there, and to have other people know what's going on, because arthritis isn’t necessarily one of the big issues like cancer and heart disease," Ouellette said. "Sixty percent of the population over 65 has arthritis. If you can help make the quality of life better for these patients, you can increase life expectancy."
Undergraduate enrollment in UA biomedical engineering has grown significantly over the last four years. This year, the department has over 150 students, with a predicted 230 students in the program by 2014.
By the time the BME students are finished at the UA, "they will have completed training in translational engineering, have a solid understanding of measuring signals on living systems, and experienced the workflow of a clinical environment," said Urs Utzinger, associate professor and interim head of the UA biomedical engineering department.
The first graduating class of UA BME students is expected in the spring of 2013.
UA biomedical engineering junior Sumana Veeravelli was recognized with a first-place award for her project, "Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Neurological Effects of Hypertension," which studies an improved method of measuring the effects of hypertension on the brain. BME undergraduate students Michelle Heusser and Logan Graves won second and third place awards, respectively.
Patrick Norris, product development engineer at W.L. Gore and Associates, delivered the keynote address -- an industry perspective on technology development in a regulated landscape. Gore, a global manufacturer of advanced technology products for the electronics and medical markets, was the sponsor of UA BME Design Day 2012, held at the UA Cancer Center's Kiewit Auditorium.
More information on the biomedical engineering program at the University of Arizona can be found atthe UA BME department website.