Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal launches Canada's first bachelor's program in biomedical engineering

    MONTREAL, Jan. 29 /CNW Telbec/ - Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal
officially launched Canada's first bachelor's program in biomedical
engineering this morning. Among those in attendance were Michelle Courchesne,
Québec Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports, Zaki Ghavitian, President
of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, along with representatives from the
health network and the 41 first students enrolled in the program.

    A bachelor's degree that scores high with students

    Introduced for the 2008 fall session, this multidisciplinary program
focusing on life sciences is attracting many female students to engineering
careers. The program, with a quota of students, now has 41 young people: 26
women and 15 men, meaning that women represent 63% of the program's enrolment.
By comparison, women currently comprise only 11.8% of members of the Ordre des
ingénieurs du Québec. It is worth emphasizing that the new bachelor's program
is attracting high achievers: average college R-scores is 32.8.

    Here's what the first students have to say:

    "It's very exciting to be part of the first Canadian cohort to take such
a program," says Alexe Boudreau-Pinsonneault, a young woman who hopes to help
improve the quality of people's lives and society's well-being in general in a
few years.
    "It's a very human specialty, and biomedical engineering innovation opens
infinite possibilities," enthuses William Sanger, a passionate young man
aiming for a career in research. He adds: "The bachelor's program is demanding
but the courses are varied and inspiring. The integrative projects are a plus
in our education. From the very first year, we have faced real engineering
problems and we have had to learn to work in teams. We're a bit like pioneers;
we have the opportunity to be part of an emerging discipline that is sparking
original ideas."

    What does a biomedical engineer do?

    The difference between a biomedical engineer and a classically trained
engineer is that the former can analyze problems from the standpoint of both
an engineer and a health professional. Biomedical engineers collaborate with
professionals from other disciplines, including doctors, biologists,
therapists, administrators.
    This new bachelor's degree will give students a solid grounding in
biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, physiology, mathematics,
physics, chemistry, information technologies and engineering. In addition to
the coursework, the program will include each year a project to integrate new
knowledge and an obligatory four-month internship.

    Where will Polytechnique's biomedical engineers work?

    The multidisciplinary bachelor's program will prepare students to tackle
challenges in companies developing biomedical equipment, in the pharmaceutical
and life sciences sectors, in hospitals, engineering consultancies, university
hospital research centres, government agencies and universities. The training
will also prepare them for higher studies in biomedical engineering or related
disciplines, such as medicine.
    "This profession is relatively young and not well known, and Québec's
industrial sector is just starting to emerge," says Professor Pierre Savard,
who is in charge of the new bachelor's program. "Right now Québec has 350
small and medium-sized enterprises specializing in health technologies. It's
still a modest industry, but exports are growing by 22% annually."
    Adds Polytechnique CEO Christophe Guy: "With the planned construction of
two new university hospital centres, the Greater Montréal region is developing
into a remarkable growth centre for the life sciences industry and Ecole
Polytechnique de Montréal graduates will be playing a front-line role."

    Polytechnique, a benchmark in biomedical engineering education

    With some 20 highly reputed professors in this field (including seven
Canada Research Chairs and two NSERC Industrial Chairs), Ecole Polytechnique
is breaking new ground in biomedical engineering studies: jointly with
Université de Montréal, it has been offering master's degrees since 1972 and
doctorates since 1980.
    "Some of our researchers or graduates have helped create new Québec
enterprises devoted to the development of state-of-the-art diagnostic tools
and treatments," notes Prof. Savard. "I'm thinking of, among others, Biorthex
(orthopedic implants), Biosyntech (cartilage regeneration), Orthosoft
(computer-assisted surgery), TomoVision (medical imaging), Y3D (movement
analysis) and CryoCath (cardiac arrhythmia)."
    Since 2000, Polytechnique has received grants totalling more than $63
million for the creation of research infrastructure and laboratories devoted
to developing new biomedical applications.

    A bit of history ...

    Although the practice of biomedical engineering started over a century
ago with the introduction of X-rays and electrocardiography, it really took
off in the 1960s with the development of the transistor and the computer,
making applications like the cardiac pacemaker, computerized axial tomography
(CAT scans) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) possible.
    Today, biomedical engineering brings together many specialties, from
tissue engineering to orthopedic engineering, as well as bio-instrumentation.
With the aging of the population and the constant need to increase the
efficiency and effectiveness of health systems using technological innovation,
the practice of biomedical engineering is evolving rapidly. Whether repairing
cartilage, restoring sight, controlling bone growth to correct malformations,
or targeting drug delivery to the body with nanometric precision, biomedical
researchers and engineers are laying the foundations for a new,
better-performing and less invasive medicine.

    Polytechnique's first bachelors of biomedical engineering will reach the
    job market in 2012.

    About Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal

    Founded in 1873, Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal is one of Canada's
leading engineering institutions in terms of both teaching and research. It is
the largest engineering school in Québec as regards its student body and the
scope of its research activities. Ecole Polytechnique provides instruction in
12 engineering specialties and is responsible for more than one-quarter of
Québec's university research in engineering. The school has 230 professors and
close to 6,000 students. It has an annual operating budget of $85 million, in
addition to a $68-million research and infrastructure fund that includes $38
million worth of grants and contracts.

    A photo of the first cohort of students with Ministry Michelle Courchesne
and a picture of the two students quoted  in the press release are available
on demand.

For further information:

For further information: Annie Touchette, Communications and Recruitment
Office, Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal, (514) 340-4711, extension 4415, Cell:
(514) 231-8133,; Andrée Peltier, Relations
publiques Andrée Peltier inc., (514) 846-0003, Cell: (514) 944-8689,

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