Historical Perspective
Interdisciplinary teaching has a long established tradition at UCLA.  Students from the Engineering School, Medical and Dental Schools, College of Letters and Sciences and various graduate division programs have long enjoyed collaborative research.   More than 40 years ago, the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering worked collaboratively to develop and analyze artificial implants.  Scientists and engineers in the Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging have collaborated to pioneer the development of PET and nuclear imaging techniques. For more than 30 years, the School of Engineering and Applied Science faculty and their corporate partners have discussed how to meet the growing demand for well-trained biomedical engineers.

Biomedical Engineering Interdepartmental Program (BME IDP)

In 1996, at the request of A.R. Frank Wazzan, Dean of the School of Engineering, Associate Dean John D. Mackenzie developed a proposal to form an Interdepartmental Degree Committee (IDC) in the School of Engineering and Applied Science to establish a Graduate Degree Program in Biomedical Engineering. With the support of A.R. Frank Wazzan and Gerald S. Levey, Provost of the Medical Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine, UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale and UC President Richard Atkinson approved the Biomedical Engineering Program. In 1997 the interdepartmental program (IDP) housed in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, began operations and recruited graduate students for Fall Quarter 1998.  With these efforts, UCLA joined many other U.S. universities that started to offer biomedical engineering (BME) degrees in late 1990s.

Formation of a Department of Bioengineering

Around the same time, undergraduate student demand for biomedical engineering training was increasing at UCLA, as evident by the creation of biomedical engineering degree options in Electrical Engineering and Chemical Engineering.  In 2001, the three core faculty in BME began efforts to draft a proposal to form a Department of Bioengineering, which was a requisite for the subsequent proposal to create an undergraduate major in Bioengineering.  The proposal to create an undergraduate Bioengineering Department at UCLA was approved in 2002, and the undergraduate Bioengineering degree program was approved in 2003. The overall goal of this program was to provide the undergraduate student with the scientific knowledge and engineering training necessary for continued education in the engineering or scientific disciplines. The three main objectives of the program are to (1)  provide the student with a rigorous course of training in engineering and biological sciences; (2) provide exposure to and knowledge of state-of-the-art-research in bioengineering; and (3) provide problem-solving and team-building skills necessary to succeed in a career in bioengineering. The Department admitted its first class of undergraduates in Fall 2004. Between 2002 and 2008, the Chair of the Bioengineering Department also served as the Chair of the BME IDP, and then BME IDP was approved to merge into the Department of Bioengineering.