The merger of two departments will allow for greater benefits to University of Missouri students and new avenues for collaboration on cutting-edge research at MU.
The departments of Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering will join together to form the Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering Department starting this academic year. This new department will be shared by the College of Engineering and College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and will be headed by former Bioengineering Department Chair Jinglu Tan and former Chemical Engineering Department Interim Chair Patrick Pinhero.
“These two strong departments are coming together to offer an excellent student experience in terms of access to more educational and research resources. Students no longer will have to go between departments to take courses relevant to their areas of study, and they will receive better education and training in this new department,” MU Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa said.
“The merger will further break down the walls that inhibit collaboration, leading to potentially groundbreaking research results. In turn, these world-class projects will benefit our students in terms of undergraduate and graduate research opportunities. This will have tremendous impact on two of the College of Engineering’s four Pillars of Pursuit — Biomedical Innovations and Sustainability in food, energy, water and smart cities.”
Research and educational interests in the bioengineering and chemical engineering fields have dovetailed in recent years, and pairing Engineering’s strong education and research with CAFNR’s will help leverage strengths in both. MU will join other world-class institutions, including Princeton University, the University of Colorado-Boulder, Northwestern University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tufts University and SUNY-Buffalo as universities with joint chemical and biological engineering programs.
“Mizzou has always been a bastion of collaborative effort, and this merger is the latest example of our commitment to progressive thinking. Building on the strengths that exist in both colleges, we have lofty expectations for the future of this program,” said Christopher Daubert, vice chancellor and dean, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
Loboa said the fields of energy, biofuels, biotechnology, biomaterials, pharmaceuticals, biomedical technology, plant sciences, veterinary medicine and countless others rely on engineers and scientists from a variety of backgrounds who possess a wide array of skillsets.
“The bioengineering and chemical engineering departments have common foundational courses in their curricula,” Chemical Engineering Professor Chad Xing said. “The disciplines have evolved in paradigm over the past few decades and become much more interdisciplinary. There is a large component of bio-related knowledge in the modern day chemical engineering discipline, and vice versa. There are research overlaps in the disciplines in both approaches and techniques.”
“The merger could lead to a broader range of technical electives, improve teaching efficiencies, integrate existing relationships between the two colleges and improve the ease with which students find research mentors,” said Bioengineering Associate Professor Heather Hunt.
The ability to work alongside chemical engineers and gain expertise from multidisciplinary courses will have a tremendous impact on the new Biomedical Engineering (BME) degree program, which becomes formal this fall and is the only program of its kind offered by a public institution in the state. And, Loboa said, pairing with not one, but two different ABET-accredited degree programs should help BME more rapidly achieve its own accreditation.