Public Release: 

Boston, U-C Davis receive leadership-level awards

Whitaker Foundation

ARLINGTON, Va., July 30, 2001 --- Boston University, with one of the nation's oldest biomedical engineering departments, and the University of California, Davis, with one of the newest, have both received leadership-level awards from The Whitaker Foundation.

Boston received a $14 million Leadership Award to enhance its standing as a national leader in the field; and UC-Davis received a $12 million Leadership-Development Award for its visionary plan to achieve a national leadership position.

"Boston and UC-Davis both presented thoughtful, clearly articulated and well-justified proposals that the reviewers found exciting," said Whitaker President and CEO Peter G. Katona, Sc.D.

Both proposals included visionary plans with well-reasoned details for implementation. The faculty at both institutions demonstrated an intense dedication to education. Both institutions will use their awards to link genomics with organ-level physiology in the pursuit of medical applications.

Boston has a long history of outstanding undergraduate education in biomedical engineering. It established a biomedical engineering department and undergraduate program in 1966. Seniors now present research or design projects at a conference attended by more than 50 industrial representatives. All faculty members teach a course each semester regardless of research funding; and students regard the best researchers in the department as excellent teachers.

Boston will use its award to hire 12 new faculty members, raising the department total to 33, one of the largest in the country. The university will develop new core courses that will integrate knowledge not only between engineering and the life sciences, but also across different biological scales. Three research areas, cellular and subcellular bioengineering, protein and genomic engineering, and physiological systems dynamics will be further enhanced under coordinated, strong leadership. The grant will help renovate teaching and research space in two buildings, one at the engineering school and the other at the medical school, and pay for state-of-the-art equipment for teaching.

U-C Davis, which established its biomedical engineering department last year, is part of a rapidly growing university with a strong record in biological research. Significant growth is planned at the college of engineering, with almost one-third of the new faculty positions being in biomedical engineering. The grant reviewers were impressed by the exceptional progress made in building the new department.

U-C Davis will use its award to develop a new undergraduate biomedical engineering program, buy new laboratory equipment, and hire five new faculty members within the next three years. The planned total is 16 over five years. The university has set out a clear plan for developing new courses that will build on a solid engineering foundation and expose students to modern genetic techniques. The leadership articulated how the growing biomedical engineering department will fit into the university's long-range strategic plan, and how the program will help unite biological advances on a micro-scale with large-scale physiology. Most of the funds will be used to construct a new building at the medical school. The building will be close to the engineering campus, providing teaching and research space for biomedical engineering and strengthening the interaction between engineering and medicine.

Department chairs Kenneth Lutchen, Ph.D., at Boston and Katherine Ferrara, Ph.D., at UC-Davis previously received Whitaker support through its Biomedical Engineering Research Grants program to help establish their research careers: Lutchen in 1985 and Ferrara in 1994.

"It's gratifying to see alumni of our young investigator program rise to prominent leadership positions in biomedical engineering," Katona said.

The grants to Boston and U-C Davis both resulted from the current competition for Leadership-Development Awards. Applications are being evaluated from other institutions. Two years ago, the foundation merged its Leadership Awards and Development Awards programs into the Leadership-Development Awards program. The new program supports major initiatives to enhance the field of biomedical engineering at research universities in the United States. Applicants must propose to create a biomedical engineering educational program, or enhance an existing one, in an environment where outstanding biomedical engineering research already exists.

Grants made under this program carry one of four designations. Leadership Awards go to institutions that have already demonstrated national leadership in biomedical engineering education and have articulated a clear vision for enhancing their leadership position. Leadership-Development Awards go to institutions with especially exciting plans to fully realize their leadership potential in biomedical engineering education. Development Awards are made to excellent institutions to establish or significantly enhance their educational programs. Special Awards are made primarily for building construction.

Boston received the third Leadership Award. The first two went to The Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, San Diego, in 1998. The UC-Davis award is the third Leadership-Development Award after the Georgia Institute of Technology last year and the University of Pennsylvania last month.


All of these major awards were made possible by the foundation's decision to spend all of its resources and close by the end of 2006.

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