I joined the Bioengineering faculty in 1974. Led by Professor Robert Rushmer, Bioengineering was still in a developmental stage and was structured as a Center jointly administered by the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine. As a Center, we had limited spport for education and began with a graduate program, I chaired the curriculum committee. In 1982, following my promotion to tenured Associate Professor, Director Lee Huntsman appointed me as Assistant Director of Bioengineering in charge of developing our first pilot Bioengineering Undergraduate Program. We designed a demanding curricular sequence, very similar to the MIT Undergraduate Bioengineering Program. It’s goal was to graduate a small cadre of exceptional individuals who could become leaders in shaping the emergence of Bioengineering, a field that was regarded at the time as a minor player by other Engineering and Medical School departments. As coordinator of this effort, I developed—and started teaching—a new class (Introduction to Bioengineering BE 299) with the aim of informing and recruiting future undergraduates. The class was well received by students and succeeded in attracting very strong students eager to undertake a demanding multi-discipine training.
Operated under the umbrella of the Inter-engineering Program of the College and funded in part by a generous grant from Hughes Foundation, the program was able to offer scholarships and support summer undergraduate research rotations. Working in laboratories of selected faculty from our Medical School and Engineering College most of our undergraduates ended their senior years well trained and with publications in refereed journals.
In 2000 this small, highly customized program was succeeded by a more usual BS Bioengineering degree program able to meet the University’s ambitions for larger numbers.
Nevertheless, by the time it was terminated our program shared the top position with the MIT Undergraduate Bioengineering in the ranking from the National Research Council. Over the period of it’s existence we graduated thirty-two students, all of whom were admitted to elite graduate MD, PhD, or MD/PhD programs, including Harvard, MIT, Yale, Hopkins, University of Washington, Michigan, Princeton, Berkeley, and UCLA among others. Almost all our former undergraduates from this program now occupy faculty positions in Medical or Engineering Colleges. Although it was limited in duration, I regard this experience as my most significant and rewarding academic contribution to Bioengineering, Medicine, and Engineering education at the University of Washington.
Over the following seventeen years after I moved my research to the UW Friday Harbor Laboratories, more than eighty undergraduates from different departments of our university and other universities applied and joined our laboratory. Funded by my NSF grant, which paid a modest salary, room, and board at FHL, they went through a demanding summer boot-camp learning polymer physics theory, methods including dynamic laser scattering, confocal microscopy, flow cytometry, etc., and rigorous laboratory training; they often ended with excellent publications. My residence at FHL set a shift to explore new horizons, it marked the most productive years of my academic career and were a welcome uplifting experience after my forced departure from my laboratory in Bioengineering.