Fairfield — The number of biomedical engineering jobs is expected to grow 6 percent this decade according to the U.S. Department of Labor, but a Fairfield University professor sees even more demand in the area.
It’s one of the reasons the university announced this week that it is launching a new master’s program, expanding the existing undergraduate program. Applications are currently being accepted for the program, which will start this fall under the university’s engineering school.
“Despite the high demand for graduates with master’s level training in Connecticut, Fairfield is one of only five programs to offer a master’s degree in biomedical engineering,” said Susan Freudzon, a biomedical engineering professor at Fairfield and the program’s director.
She said Fairfield is situated along the “Connecticut Bioscience corridor,” which connects the neighboring Massachusetts and New York bioscience ecosystems. It’s also close to the Yale New Haven and Hartford HealthCare systems, and many industries in the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors.
Work on the master’s program began two years ago and was approved by university officials this year, Freudzon said.
“We are thrilled to launch the new MS program, which offers exciting courses such as medical device design, orthopedic biomechanics, molecular modeling, biomaterials, and more,” she said. “These experiential and project-based courses prepare our students to be innovators in a rapidly changing field.”
She said master’s students are encouraged to do hands-on research with faculty using “state-of-the-art equipment” in the new orthopedic biomechanics research lab.
Biomedical engineer graduates tend to go into jobs in a variety of areas, especially medical device, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries.
“About 1,400 openings for bioengineers and biomedical engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade,” the U.S. Department of Labor reports. “Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.”
Freudzon said the pandemic has also added more need for people to enter the field.
“I would say that there has always been a demand for biomedical engineers due to the broad range of interdisciplinary skills that biomedical engineers have,” she said. “The healthcare and healthcare technology industry has been rising steadily over the past decade or more due to the increased healthcare needs of the global population. The pandemic brought medical technology needs to the forefront of everyone’s minds.”
She said the number of jobs available to recent graduates of bachelor’s programs fluctuates. Last year, 100 percent of Fairfield’s biomedical engineering graduates had a full-time job within three months of graduating, illustrating the high demand for biomedical engineers.
“However, many of the jobs in the industry require a master’s level degree for an entry level position, so we are thrilled to launch the MS in biomedical engineering program to meet this need and prepare our students to enter the workforce,” Freudzon said.
The program will accept about 10 students the first year and then 20 the second year. It includes 30 credits and is designed to be completed in a year. Applications will be considered from students with bachelor’s degrees in biomedical engineering or bioengineering from an accredited four-year college or university and have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
There is also an option for Fairfield students to do a bachelor-to-master’s program, which will allow them to get a master’s degree in an accelerated format.
Fairfield started its undergraduate biomedical engineering program in the fall of 2014 and has about 35 to 45 students each year.
“It is a small program and students get individualized attention in the classroom, and have an opportunity to work with faculty on research and design projects,” Freudzon said.
She said the university is excited offer them even more opportunities with this new program.
“We anticipate the accelerated fifth year master’s program to be a popular choice amongst our undergraduate students,” Freudzon said.
Katrina Koerting covers the environment, Redding, New Milford and surrounding towns for The News-Times. She joined The News-Times in 2015 after spending a few years as a reporter in Virginia.