Bioengineering: A Discipline or Mash-Up?

Friday, December 13, 2013 - 2:00pm
Fung Auditorium | Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall
Gregory Kovacs, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Electrical Engineering

Stanford University

Bioengineering: A Discipline or Mash-Up?


Is every holder of a Bioengineering degree an engineer in the traditional sense or a Jack-of-all-trades but master of none? The emerging field of Bioengineering has recently enjoyed growing visibility and is attracting increasing numbers of students. Without a clear definition, it has come to encompass a tremendous dynamic range of material, from basic science through very applied clinical work, and some Bioengineering faculty have no engineering degrees. Adding to the confusion are the long-established disciplines of Biomedical Engineering, with a backbone of medical imaging, medical devices, diagnostics and other end products, and Biophysics, exploring basic science concepts. How can an undergraduate, for example, cover this huge breadth, yet learn core engineering principles in sufficient depth for proficiency? This presentation will explore the continuum between basic science and engineering, offer thoughts on curriculum, and, with examples, describe some interdisciplinary pathways by which scientific discoveries have graduated to engineered products delivering benefits to patients. 


Professor Kovacs' research areas include the development of non-invasive instruments for cardiovascular medicine; sensors for prediction of epileptic seizures; cell-based systems for drug discovery and testing of stem-cell cardiac therapies; titration of medical care via embedded systems; and remote delivery of laboratory electronics education. He teaches hands-on undergraduate courses in analog circuit design and medical instrument design. He is led the initial development of the Bioengineering graduate core curriculum sequence. He has extensive industry experience, including the co-founding of Cepheid, which has shipped more than 25 million DNA diagnostic assays. He has a long history of government service for DARPA, NASA and other agencies. In 2003 he was the Investigation Scientist for the debris team investigating the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and was Director of the Microsystems Technology Office at DARPA from 2008 through 2010.