New program preps for medical device industry

The master’s program will begin in June.

New program preps for medical device industry

Kristoffer Tigue

With the medical device industry expected to grow more than 30 percent from its 2010 rate by 2015, the University of Minnesota wants to make sure its students are ready.

The Technological Leadership Institute, part of the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering, is recruiting students for its new medical devices master’s program, which aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the industry.

Minnesota has more than 250,000 people in the medical devices industry, according to the trade group LifeScience Alley. Daniel Mooradian, the new director of the master’s program and a former University biomedical engineering professor, said the sector is only going to grow.

The master’s program, which starts in June, will give students operational and practical knowledge that previous programs at the University didn’t provide, Mooradian said.

“As academics, we learn a lot, and one of the things we do is we come up with bright ideas,” he said. “But when we get into industry, we realize quickly that that’s a very small part of the process.”

The new program aims to fill the “knowledge gap” between a university degree and work in the industry by teaching students about public policy, regulation, business and project management and the economics and market of the industry, Mooradian said.

This is how the program differs from the Medical Devices Center Innovation Fellows Program already available at the University, said Massoud Amin, TLI director and electrical and computer engineering professor.

“In the fellowship, you develop a new device or you develop a new business,” he said. “[The master’s program] gives you a much broader capability for you career-wise, not just one thing.”

While the two programs are different in what they teach, they aren’t mutually exclusive, Amin said, and he encourages students to do both.

Biomedical engineering senior Nick Schaefer said he’s heard about engineers taking on business and management roles within medical device companies and believes the new program would be a good fit for someone who wants to walk that line.

But Schaefer, who is also considering mechanical engineering, said he hasn’t decided if he wants to commit to that route.

Armando Mitchell graduated from the University in 2010 with a biomedical engineering degree and now works as a clinical engineer for Medtronic. He’s also thinking of applying to the program, but he said he fears committing may pigeonhole his career.

“It’s a pro and a con. Because if you stay in the industry, obviously it’ll be a great thing because you’re getting all this focused attention, focused curriculum on kind of what will help you and what will benefit you within the industry,” Mitchell said. “Ten years from now, if you don’t want to be in the industry … would somebody who was in the core technology fields really value the degree that I got at that point?”

The University of St. Thomas has offered a similar program since 2009 with its master’s in regulatory science. Don Weinkauf, chemical engineering professor and dean of the School of Engineering, said the program gears itself toward the manufacturing, design and compliance aspect of the medical device industry.

St. Cloud State University has also offered similar master’s programs since 2007, said Patty Feulner, the program director for the M.S. in applied clinical research.

Feulner said she thinks the University of Minnesota’s new program will cover the same material as the three separate degrees offered at St. Cloud, but from a broader, less in-depth perspective.

“If you’re a biomedical engineer and you’re a student and you wanted to work in engineering for medical devices,” she said, “then the University’s program would be very interesting because it would give you insight into the [whole] industry.”