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UC San Diego's Biomedical Engineering Society earns top honor

BMES students
Officers of the UC San Diego chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society at the BMES annual meeting in Phoenix.

San Diego, CA, Nov. 8, 2017 -- UC San Diego’s chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) was recognized with the Chapter Outstanding Achievement Award at the 2017 BMES annual meeting in Phoenix. This was the first time the undergraduate BMES chapter received this prestigious award. The UC San Diego bioengineering department is regarded as the No. 1 bioengineering doctoral program in the nation according to the National Research Council, and U.S. News & World Report ranks it the No. 3 graduate program and No. 6 undergraduate program in the country.

The Outstanding Achievement award is given to the student chapter that demonstrates outstanding performance in enhancing the professional awareness and education of its chapter members. The UC San Diego students accomplished these goals through a series of industry and professional development activities, including professional development workshops, informational and recruiting sessions, a Lab Expo and their keystone Bioengineering Day, a wholly student-run celebration of the bioengineering department which attracted 460 attendees this year and $15,000 in corporate and academic sponsorships.

Bryan Yeh, a senior bioengineering major and co-president of UC San Diego’s BMES chapter during the 2016-2017 school year which the award recognized, said the Lab Expo and Bioengineering day have consistently been large events, but have blossomed in recent years thanks to the work of BMES leaders and general members.

“All these events are planned by committees, and the committees are staffed by general members,” Yeh said. “It’s important to get general members involved, this way not only do we have larger turnout to our events because they feel ownership to the event, but also it helps to raise the next generation of officers.”

Lab Expo, an annual research exposition that drew a crowd of about 500 undergraduates in 2017, featured 30 researchers from fields spanning math, computer science and various bioengineering disciplines to highlight the breadth of bioengineering research being conducted on campus. The group’s Translational Medicine Day, a conference meant to connect the research and healthcare communities, was also a success.  

“I think the success was due to students recognizing the importance of bringing bench research to clinical application,” said Alexandra Muise, co-president with Yeh and a senior bioengineering major. “This year a key highlight was that a number of speakers from different professions and backgrounds came to contribute to the conversation on translational medicine, showing students that bringing research to the clinic can be approached in a variety of ways.”

In addition to academic and career-focused offerings, the BMES group hosts social activities for members, community outreach opportunities to inspire a love of science, technology, engineering and math in the next generation of bioengineers, and inter-chapter events with schools like San Diego State University and UC Davis.

Alexandra Kasper, a senior bioengineer major and president of BMES this academic year, said mentorship is one of the group’s focus areas for 2018.

“One of the things we’re really working on this year is improving our mentorship system,” she said. “Our program has always been really strong with a lot of members, and it helps to create a community within the bioengineering department. But this year we want to incorporate more of a professional aspect to it, and have quarterly events focused on having mentors give their mentees advice about resumes and applying to research positions and internships.”

In the mentor program, upperclassman are paired with first and second-year students. These pairs are placed in different “family trees” similar to the Hogwarts system in Harry Potter, leading to friendly competition between families as well as stronger ties within BMES, which boasted 147 members in the 2016-2017 school year.

The students also plan to host an inaugural Bioengineering Gala this year. This will be an end-of-year celebration of the department, honoring graduates and department organizations for particularly significant accomplishments, and also recognizing faculty.

“We’re hoping this will bring together faculty and students in a kind of casual setting where everyone feels really comfortable connecting,” Kasper said. “We’re calling it the Bioengineering Gala and it’s going to be an awards dinner focused on creating a community within the bioengineering department. Since it’s for the whole department, our hope is to have awards for students and faculty and staff.”

As part of their BMES award winnings, the UC San Diego students were asked to present a panel on best practices at the BMES annual meeting. This was so well received that they were requested to present the slides during a recent webinar, as well. Their presentation focused on the leadership structure of the organization, and how to divide efforts among leadership and general members to ensure maximum participation.

“It is difficult to estimate exactly how many middle, high school, university students, faculty, staff and industry representatives were touched by the BMES activities, however, it is probably between 2,500 to 3,000,” said John Watson, professor in the UC San Diego bioengineering department and BMES chapter adviser. “I am extremely proud of the students.”

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Media Contacts

Katherine Connor
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-534-8374
khconnor@eng.ucsd.edu

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