Biomedical Engineering at 40: The Right People, The Right Time, The Right Place

Monday, August 4, 2014

When Joe Reinhardt talks about the “natural synergies” that characterize the UI College of Engineering’s biomedical engineering program, an aerial map of the UI campus makes it easy to see how those synergies developed and grew. The college is scarcely a mile away from the
UI ’s world-renowned academic medical center, with the Iowa River in between.

As it happens, fluid mechanics plays a role in the growth of the UI ’s biomedical engineering program as well (think heart valves and blood flow).

“When I came to the UI as a post-doc in 1994, I was looking for an environment where biomedical engineering was more closely integrated with the hospital,” says Reinhardt, now professor and Department Executive Officer (DEO ) of the UI Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME).

“At my prior institution, the hospital was 100 miles away from campus. Here at Iowa, our proximity to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics remains one of the defining features of our program — the tight integration with the hospital, the Carver College of Medicine, and the other UI health colleges,” Reinhardt explains. “Having traveled to many other institutions I can tell you that ours is a unique environment.”

Reinhardt joined the UI ’s biomedical engineering program in its 20th year; today, the program is celebrating 40 years of excellence in education and research innovation. The department has evolved from one of the college’s newest to one of its largest, with more than 400 undergraduates and approximately 75 master’s and doctoral students. Based on ACT and SAT scores, the quality of BME undergraduate students exceeds that of any other program on campus.

“Students are drawn to our BME program because of its distinctive combination of strengths,” Reinhardt says. “Many undergraduates come with the intention of pursuing a career in medicine, and it’s interesting to see how their plans change as they get excited about engineering. Biomedical engineering isn’t just a pathway to med school; it’s an incredibly rewarding career on its own.”

For more on the Department of Biomedical Engineering's 40th anniversary and the department itself, go to