A new three-credit course at the University of New Mexico School of Engineering is giving two student teams the chance to shadow a trauma surgeon, identify clinical problems and brainstorm solutions that could lead to research funding of up to $50,000, plus a patent application.

The course, Biodesign, uniquely pairs a practicing physician with engineering faculty members to guide student teams in crystalizing one idea - from lab prototype to clinical product - over the course of 16 weeks.                                                                                                                                                               
“This interdisciplinary class is targeted at students interested in engineering-based medical technologies,” says Christina Salas, PhD, an assistant professor with the UNM Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation who also has a faculty appointment in mechanical engineering.

“It gives students an opportunity to make in-clinic observations of potential areas for improvement and apply what they’ve learned toward a solution,” adds Salas, who serves as the School of Engineering’s faculty lead for the course, along with Sang M. Han, PhD, professor of chemical and biological engineering and director of UNM’s Nanoscience & Microsystems Program.

Biodesign is patterned after a popular biomedical innovation program at Stanford University, which engages students in taking a systematic approach to finding needs for, and later inventing and implementing, new biomedical technologies. “It’s an awesome experience for participating students who gain mentorship from both Health Science Center and School of Engineering professors,” says Salas.

This fall’s Biodesign course focuses on trauma and critical care, and it allows students to shadow UNM trauma surgeon Thomas Howdieshell, MD, from initial emergency room treatments to surgical care in the operating room. After identifying a key clinical practice problem and finalizing an idea to address it, each team will generate a proposal for subsequent research, development and prototyping of their work to present before a panel of judges on the last day of class. The winning team will then be invited to submit a full proposal to Health Sciences Center's Clinical and Translational Science Center for possible pilot funding.

The lead instructor of Biodesign is Scott S. Sibbett, PhD, research professor of chemical and biological engineering. Course mentors include Eric R. Prossnitz, MD, professor of pathology, and Andrew P. Shreve, PhD, professor of chemical and biological engineering and director of the UNM Center for Biomedical Engineering. The program is supported by Joseph L. Checchi, PhD, dean of the UNM School of Engineering, and Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD, executive vice chancellor and vice chancellor for research at the UNM Health Sciences Center.