Biomedical engineering faculty members and students, university leadership, and friends and supporters of the College of Engineering gathered on March 3, 2020, to mark the opening of the Peter and Nancy Salter Medical Device Design Lab. The space, unparalleled on the University of Arizona campus and rare in any university setting, gives engineering students access to advanced equipment for developing medical devices.
“The most important part of our strategic plan is our students, and this will be a tremendous asset for our students to be able to get real-world, hands-on experience,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. “This is about as Fourth Industrial Revolution as you can get.”
I’m really confident the students are going to go on, through this course, to be far better prepared to enter the workforce and industry or to go on to graduate education programs."
The laboratory was made possible by a $1.5 million gift from namesakes Peter and Nancy Salter. University alumnus Peter Salter founded Salter Labs, a private company which has developed more than 150 respiratory and anesthesia products, in 1976.
The longtime supporters of the University of Arizona are members of the 1885 Society, President’s Club and Founders Society. Peter Salter has served on the UA Foundation Board of Trustees, the Eller College of Management Board of Advisors and the National Leadership Council.
“I’ve been around labs, and I’ve been around what we call ‘shops’ in the industry,” he said. “This would have to be called a lab, as sophisticated as this place is.”
In tandem with the lab -- which houses a laser cutter, water jet, 3D printer, electrical analysis tools, and biosafety and chemistry hood -- associate professor Urs Utzinger and assistant professor Philipp Gutruf developed a biomedical engineering course for juniors. The course is part of the four-year Craig M. Berge Engineering Design Program, which launched in 2019.
“Anyone who knows Pete and Nancy knows how much they love innovation, education and the opportunity to impact the student experience,” said David W. Hahn, College of Engineering Craig M. Berge dean. “We envision that ultimately this will serve all engineering students in the college -- regardless of major -- who have an interest in biomedical devices.”
Biomedical engineering junior Josh Somerville-Shull personally thanked Nancy Salter for the impact the space has had on his education.
“We can take a circuit of our own design and see it go from our mind to actually printed out,” he said. “That is so cool.”
Jakob Bakall Loewgren, president of the Medical Device Club, took the podium to expand on how the space is benefiting students.
“Being able to walk in for a job interview and provide concrete examples of real engineering projects I’ve completed is invaluable,” he said.
Visitors who toured the lab during the opening marveled over how students could start at one end with an idea and make their way through the space to design, prototype and test a device.
“I’m really confident the students are going to go on, through this course, to be far better prepared to enter the workforce and industry or to go on to graduate education programs,” said Art Gmitro, head of biomedical engineering. “They’re going to learn design thinking and focus on developing functional, cost-effective solutions. They will hone their skills in fabrication, testing and software development, and they will learn to work more effectively in teams.”