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Introducing the New Department for Biomedical Engineering at UNN

By

Dr. Paul Sunday Nnamchi, Head of Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria.

Brief Biography of Author

Paul Sunday Nnamchi joined the Faculty of Engineering in 2008 from the Max Planck’s Institute for Iron and Steel Research, Dusseldorf, Germany. He obtained both his BEng in Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu Nigeria, MEng at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands (TUDelft) and PhD at Sheffield University, in the United Kingdom and has held appointments research Engineer at Sheffield, Max Planck’s Institute for Iron and Steel Research, Dusseldorf, Germany, The Netherlands Institute for Metals Research (NIMR) at TU-Delft.

Introduction

The University of Nigeria was established  in 1955 with a mission to  attract, educate, train and transform qualified persons to high level manpower that are thoroughly equipped with adequate and update knowledge and specialized skills in research and innovation and deployable for first-rate development and improvement in all fields of human endeavor [1]. Already, the university has an impressive number of important disciplines in the areas of Engineering, science and technology.  In pursuit of this mission, one very important programme that has not yet been emplaced, however, is Biomedical Engineering. Aside from the fact that it has become the trend for universities with disciplines in science, engineering and technology, to have in place a strong Biomedical Engineering department. The Biomedical Engineering industry is considered as a strategic activity given that it is a high technology sector with an important economic impact. COVID-19 has dealt the world a terrible blow and has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and countless economic costs, but it has given us the opportunity to come together as a community to combat the pandemic, improve health system, and our economies and to save life all around the world. The Biomedical sector is and will continue to be an important contributor to health system, economic growth and wellbeing of people. And their high valued expertise is generally considered very important and specially needed in Nigeria and around the world now. The subject of Biomedical engineering is ubiquitous, impacts directly on the society and the modern health system is heavily reliant on them to develop the innovative technologies and provide solutions to the society’s health care needs.

What is biomedical engineering?

Biomedical engineering involves applying engineering principles to biology, medicine and healthcare to solve problems. Suffice it to say that health and related sectors are a central aspect of human existence and thus attract particular attention of citizens. It’s where engineering meets medicine and biology preventing invasive surgery, and using ground-breaking technological innovation and the precision of carefully-applied engineering concepts, hi-tech health devices, and enhancing artificial organs. Biomedical engineers work with doctors, therapists and researchers to develop systems, equipment and devices in order to solve clinical problems, spanning from wearable devices to tissue engineering and biomechanics, with career paths to healthcare, pharmaceuticals and scientific research. Under biomedical engineering we understand and use the bridging between methods of engineering and medicine and biology for diagnostic and therapeutic measures in healthcare – including, among others, biologics and biopharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical drugs, various types of devices for chemical or biological analysis or processing as well as the development of medical equipment and technology for cure, treatment and prevention of disease.

Biomedical engineering is a fast-growing area of engineering and individuals would typically find themselves working in health services, the medical devices industry or research. Biomedical engineers could also find themselves working at the leading edge of areas such as robotics, sensor and imaging technology, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, big data and mobile [2]. The students as a future biomedical engineers, are highly valued and in great demand. Professor Adam Gibson of University of London medical physics and biomedical engineering explored the growing area of ‘personal medicine’ or ‘ubiquitous healthcare’. This may involve the use of a person’s cell phone to help track breathing or heart rate, their diabetes or even recovery after surgery.  “It’s giving people more responsibility for their own healthcare, which for many people is a good thing but you still need to have the clinical support there,” he says. “Getting those healthcare devices is an engineering problem but figuring out how best to get them working in a real-life setting with real people is more of social science/psychology problem. So it’s a really interesting area.”

What’s really going on in the world of a biomedical engineer?

Biomedical engineering provides an opportunity for engineers and technologists to use their skills to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing human life. You could be the person instrumental in coming up with a solution to address a global health challenge or create a piece of apparatus that could change the world for an individual. The sector spans everything from mobile devices to hospital scanners.

Professor Panicos Kyriacou, associate dean Research and Enterprise at City University of London, explains that the sector has grown “exponentially” over the past two decades. “It has all to do with the expanding appetite to create more and more solutions for healthcare to cure disease and help society and people,” he says. “Some of my graduates have found themselves working in research organisations and institutions looking at cardiovascular disease, diabetes or neurodegenerative diseases.”

The sectors of biomedical engineering– including research and development – are among the fastest growing industrial areas, in terms of turnover as well as employment. While its fragmented nature makes it difficult to quantify the overall biomedical engineering sector in terms of number of people employed and its worth, the global medical devices market alone is estimated to be worth US$381bn, according to medical market research company Kalorama [3].

The US government’s Accountability Office says that America accounts for around 45% of the global market, with Global Medical Device Regulatory Consultancy Emergo stating that the UK market – valued at $9.5bn in 2015 – is the third largest in Europe, behind Germany and France, and the sixth largest in the world. It is also important to factor in the rising digital healthcare market in the survey of the sector. This is expected to be worth $233.3bn by 2020 (up from $60.8bn in 2013), with Asia-Pacific predicted as a key region.

The challenges associated with studying biomedical engineering in Nigeria

Prospective biomedical engineering students face a host of challenges on a daily basis, while making their choice, including:

  • Lack of awareness about course of study as a degree program or as a course of study at all.
  • Lack of awareness about profession by Nigerians even among other health care providers.
  • Many universities in Nigeria do not offer biomedical Engineering.
  • In universities, where they are offered, some of the academics lack the needed breadth and depth of expertise across the entire range of biomedical engineering courses.

After graduation, they are responsible for coordinating with equipment manufacturers when problems arise with equipment, such as,

  • Most times obtaining manufacturer support when problems arise can sometimes be very difficult in most developing countries
  • Locating parts to repair failing equipment is sometime difficult
  • Convincing clinical staff and stakeholders that equipment should be replaced is not the easiest task at all.
  • Coordinating service schedules for equipment is not that easy too.

Biomedical Engineering Department at UNN!

The University in its wisdom has assembled experienced world class personnel to run the department from inception. Alongside dedicated support staff saddled with the responsibility of making the programme a fulfilling career prospects for the students, the academics have breadth and depth of expertise across the entire range of biomedical engineering courses. The department’s research led approach is fundamental to learning the very latest knowledge in the engineering sector. This involves understanding the roles that biomedical engineering technologies play in transforming medicine and healthcare delivery. The curriculum has been designed to provide its graduates with the skills for a rewarding careers in clinical engineering, medical device development and biomedical engineering research. As well as studying core topics around medical devices, biomaterials and the modelling of biological systems. The students will carry out an in-depth research project at the end of the five year programme that will lead them into their chosen career. The courses are delivered by experts in biomedical technologies, and biomaterials from the faculty of Engineering, and Medicine, Medical Sciences, Dental technology and Nutrition. This programme offers an intending student a true interdisciplinary education in Biomedical Engineering, were every student will be a participant and not a spectator. With the expected help already coming from TETFUND and foreign grant bodies, and  benevolent donations from faculty of engineering alumni members/  association, the state of the art biomedical equipment are been provided. Thus, provide prospective undergraduates the perfect opportunity to discover everything they need to know about any area of interest.

The major objective of the programme is to equip graduates with sufficient background and training to enable them go into biomedical and allied industries, research institutes etc. with sufficient knowledge of local conditions and modern trends. The specific objectives of the programme are:

  • To provide the necessary high level manpower for the nations biomedical industries that are rapidly developing and expanding.
  • To produce biomedical engineers who are capable of effecting changes in foreign technology to meet local needs through research and development.
  • To provide manpower for the development and sustenance of biomedical engineering programmes in the nation’s institutions of higher learning.
  • To provide a solid academic base for the pursuit of higher degrees (M.Sc., M.Phil. and Ph.D.)
  • To identify the limitations of the students and to make a real effort to provide compensating corrective measures and
  • Make continuing reappraisal of our curriculum to ensure its consistency with the goal of training for national development that the given parameters of time and financial outlay will permit.

As a corollary, UNN Biomedical Engineering education is designed to produce engineers capable of the following:

  • Conceive: conceptualize technical problems and solutions.
  • Design: study and comprehend processes that lead to solutions to a particular problem including verbal, written, and visual communications.
  • Development: extend the outputs of research.
  • Testing: determine performance of the output of research, development, or design.
  • Research: solve new problems and gain new knowledge.
  • Manufacturing: produce a safe, effective, economic final product.
  • Operation and maintenance: keep the products working effectively.
  • Marketing and sales: look for good ideas for new products or improving current products.
  •  Administration (management): coordinate all the above.

What qualifications should I be looking at?

In addition to the University of Nigeria minimum entry requirements, the minimum admission requirements for Biomedical Engineering are: passes at credit level in the Senior Secondary School Certificate or GCE ‘O’ Level in five subjects including Mathematics, English Language, Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

Author Contacts:

 Email:paul.nnamchi@unn.edu.ng

 References

  1. https://www.unn.edu.ng/vision-and-mission-statement/ 
  2. Sue Weekes, in Engineering and Technology; Industry focus – biomedical engineering,  https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2017/02/industry-focus-biomedical-engineering/
  3. https://kaloramainformation.com/advancesearch/?report_categories%5B%5D=instrumentation-equipment