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Engineered to Succeed

Bioengineering alumni include top researchers and industry leaders

illustration of engineers working with complex equipment

Forty years ago UT Arlington teamed with the University of Texas Health Science Center, now UT Southwestern, to offer something unique in Texas—a joint graduate-level bioengineering program.

The ability to study both engineering and life science to develop life-saving procedures and materials attracted students like Mark Strauss.

“A number of our graduates are professors, but we also have alumni who have been successful entering business.”

“I already had two engineering degrees, but I wanted more of the human and life science,” recalls Dr. Strauss, who earned his Ph.D. in 1987. “I really believe I got what I came there for. At the time, it was unique.”

Now an engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Strauss has built a national reputation for forensic accident reconstruction. This year he launched Impact Injury Analysis, a firm that uses biometrics to find the cause of vehicular accidents.

He is among the more than 600 alumni of the bioengineering program, which has grown into a full-fledged department offering courses to graduate and undergraduate students alike.

“A number of our graduates are professors, but we also have alumni who have been successful entering business,” says Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the College of Engineering and bioengineering chair from 2002-13.

One of those is Kevin Nelson, who earned his doctorate in 1995 and went on to become a UT Arlington faculty member. In 1996 he joined a team to develop a fiber-based, biodegradable vascular stent to deliver gene therapy. Eventually patented, the technology is the focus of Dr. Nelson’s work and led him to found TissueGen in 2000.

Alumnus Michael Sacks received his Ph.D. in 1992 and is one of the world’s leading authorities on the mechanical behavior and function of heart valves. A UT Austin biomedical engineering professor, Dr. Sacks directs the Center for Cardiovascular Simulation at the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences.

Last year the National Institutes of Health awarded him a $6.6 million grant to develop detailed computer simulations of normal and diseased heart mitral valves.

Four decades after it began, the Bioengineering Department continues to thrive with its focus on tissue engineering, biomaterials, and optical medical imaging.

“The future of bioengineering is bright,” Dr. Behbehani says. “These new technologies allow a greater success rate with diagnosis and treatment of disease.”

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