NIU students are learning the inner workings of biomedical engineering, a cutting-edge industry that applies engineering principles to medicine.
Biomedical engineers have played a huge part in stem cell research, tissue engineering and several other monumental discoveries in the field.
Students can experience the hands-on work of a biomedical engineer in the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology’s new electrical engineering lab. The facility, in its second semester of use for classes and open for other projects, allows students to dive right in to the field, using teamwork to develop new methods of measurement and testing.
Students can use a variety of electrical equipment and, by working in teams, they perfect their ability to communicate and gain expertise about the lab equipment. Their collaborations in the lab contribute to the biomedical, geologic and atmospheric industries, as well as to homeland security.
Martin Kocanda, assistant professor of electrical engineering, said the new lab employs a student-centered approach. “The lab allows the students to gain hands on working knowledge of electric components and subsystems,” he said.
The lab, while used for six electrical engineering courses, is also open for all students.
“We are putting a different spin on it so that it is student-friendly; a do-it-yourself, work-at-your-own-pace environment, but they still complete the projects in a timely manner,” Kocanda said. “This allows the students to work more efficiently.”
Students in the lab currently are working on several different projects, including a new method to measure the amount of melanin in the skin. “Essentially, the more exposure to the sun you receive, the more vitamin D you have in your skin. Our students are trying to find ways to qualify and quantify this by working with the electronic aspect in our new lab,” Kocanda said.
Biomedical engineering major Michelle Case is working to develop a system that uses Doppler radar to determine blood flow. Students are able to test whether there are restrictions in veins or arteries and can detect blockages more quickly, said Kocanda, who calls it a great advancement in medical testing.
“The open lab has been great for me because I feel free to walk in and get any work done that I need to,” Case said. “Dr. Kocanda is a great resource, and has a lot of helpful suggestions that help me improve whatever I am working on.”