Fund created to help engineering grads

Part of a recent gift will help first-semester biomedical engineering students.

by Jeannine Aquino

Starting in the fall, some biomedical engineering graduate students will be able to study at the University with a newly established fund.

Boston Scientific gave the University a $500,000 gift. Part of the contribution will help support two or three biomedical engineering graduate students during their first semester.

“It’s quite critical for the long-term health of the biomedical engineering program,” said the head of the department, Robert Tranquillo, of the new fellowship.

Fellowships help the department attract top prospective graduate students, he said.

With the support of a fellowship, students will have the “flexibility to identify the optimal research project and adviser, rather than have it prearranged or determined by us in advance,” Tranquillo said.

Some medical devices developed and tested at the University in collaboration with outside medical device companies include the first wearable pacemaker, the artificial heart valve and the anesthesia monitor.

Tom Burk, corporate and foundation relations officer for the Institute of Technology, said the contribution from Boston Scientific says a lot about the biomedical engineering program.

“First of all, it’s a strong signal that Boston Scientific views the biomedical engineering program here as a strong program it wants to support and work with in the future,” Burk said. “Secondly, it sends a signal to the medical-device community that one of the major players in that industry thinks the University program is significant.”

One-third of the Boston Scientific gift will be used immediately for graduate fellowships while the remaining amount will be placed in an endowment to earn interest and fund future fellowships, according to a University news release.

Chris LaFontaine is a spokesman for Boston Scientific, a worldwide developer, manufacturer and marketer of medical devices.

He said one reason the company decided to give this gift is that the “University of Minnesota Institute of Technology has an impressive legacy in leading-edge research in biomedical engineering.”

Kirsten Kinneberg, a biomedical engineering senior who plans to continue her studies in graduate school, said any fellowship a university can offer would make it more appealing. However, Kinneberg said, choosing a graduate school won’t depend solely on a fellowship.

“The first thing I look at is the type of research they’re doing and if I like what they’re doing, then I look at financial aid,” she said.