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UM Biomedical Engineering Program Soaring

UM students Catherine Klaire (center) and Lauren Hale work together on a chemical engineering lab project. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

With the addition of three faculty members and growing student enrollment, the new biomedical engineering program at the University of Mississippi continues its impressive rise.

In its second year, the program has 105 students and three new full-time faculty positions. David Puleo, who became dean of the School of Engineering in August, is also a biomedical engineer.

“The rapid growth of our biomedical engineering program demonstrates the desire for this discipline in Mississippi,” Puleo said. “With a greying population and increasing life expectancy in the U.S., the application of engineering principles to drive discovery of new knowledge in the life sciences and development of advanced biomedical technologies is increasingly important.”

The Bachelor of Science program offers students a choice of three tracks: bioinformatics, biomedical systems and biomolecular.

The program capitalizes on the school’s existing strengths to prepare engineering students to meet the expected demand in biomedical industries in Mississippi and across the nation. It also provides additional human resources for the practice of medicine and to address public health issues.

The goal is to enhance the state’s biomedical workforce with top-notch students, Puleo said. Graduates will be able to pursue employment in biomedical or related industries, graduate studies in biomedical engineering or related disciplines, and professional careers in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy or patent law.

“The collaborative nature of the disciple will also promote interaction between departments within the school, across the Oxford campus and with the Medical Center in Jackson,” he said. “We have great expectations for the new Ole Miss biomedical engineering program.”

Dana Nicole “Nikki” Reinemann-Goss, Thomas Werfel and Glenn Walker joined the university’s faculty this fall to bolster the program. Reinemann-Goss is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and chemical engineering. Werfel is an assistant professor of chemical engineering and biomolecular sciences in the School of Pharmacy. Walker is an associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical engineering.

All three bring years of research experience and teaching to their positions.

Werfel earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Murray State University, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering, both from Vanderbilt University. Werfel, who teaches Biomaterials, Immunoengineering and Drug and Gene Delivery, said he hopes to develop more electives for upperclassmen and graduate students over the next few years.

Before joining the Ole Miss faculty in July 2018, Walker helped establish the biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State University, when he began his academic tenure in 2004.

Reinemann-Goss earned bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry from UM in 2013 and her doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Vanderbilt University in May.

Other administrators in the School of Engineering applauded the hires.

“Dr. Werfel brings some exciting research, which dovetails nicely with that done by Dr. Adam Smith,” said John O’Haver, chair and professor of chemical engineering. “Their collaborations should prove very productive and raise their national visibility.”

The university is particularly fortunate to have a senior-level researcher such as Walker for the biomedical engineering program, said Dwight Waddell, program director.

“Dr. Walker brings years of experience as both a veteran researcher and a highly skilled educator. A new program like biomedical engineering strongly benefits from the addition of such a senior-level faculty member.”

Hiring Reinemann-Goss was also a “rare opportunity,” Waddell said.

“Not only is she incredibly qualified, having graduated with her Ph.D. from a prestigious biomedical engineering program at Vanderbilt, she comes to us already attuned to life at Ole Miss and Oxford,” he said.

“Dr. Reinemann-Goss has expertise in biomolecular engineering, which will be immediately put to use through a shared research agenda with multiple departments on campus, including biochemistry, biomolecular sciences in the School of Pharmacy, as well as chemical engineering. We are thrilled to have her back, and we hope it still feels like home.”

For more information about the UM biomedical engineering program, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/biomedical/.

By Edwin B. Smith

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