“The Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBE) at Stellenbosch University (SU) will offer its new postgraduate programmes from 2020,” says Prof Martin Nieuwoudt, Director of the IBE.
“Biomedical engineering is a progressive and exciting field aimed at improving or solving health-related problems through multidisciplinary fields such as physics, mathematics, sciences and engineering at the intersections of biology, medicine and health sciences.”
The IBE was established in 2015 in the Faculty of Engineering. As Biomedical Engineering is inherently multidisciplinary, the IBE has a mandate to work across SU faculties (including Engineering, Medicine and Health Sciences, Science, and Agri-Sciences) and institutes within SU, as well as the new School for Data Science and Computational Thinking.
Prof Nieuwoudt explains: “The medical devices industry has experienced tremendous local and international growth in recent years. The Department of Trade and Industry has also recognised this as a key industry in South Africa.
“Within SU, there have been noticeable increases in the numbers of requests from multi-disciplinary students for new degrees in Biomedical Engineering.
“At Stellenbosch University, Biomedical Engineering has historically not been available as a postgraduate degree direction for Scientists and Medical graduates, only as a research direction within Engineering.
“For this reason, an important mandate of the IBE has been to implement these new degrees.
“We are in the final stages of approval and, at the time of writing, we only await the SAQA-ID-numbers for the degrees.”
The programmes which will be offered from 2020 are:
- A Doctoral degree (PhD) in Biomedical Engineering
- A Master’s degree in Engineering Science in Biomedical Engineering – Research.
Two more programmes are expected to start in 2021:
- A Master’s degree in Engineering Science in Biomedical Engineering – Structured
- A Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering Science.
The doctoral and research master’s programmes are aimed at developing specialist researchers in Biomedical Engineering, with particular abilities to develop new knowledge at the forefront of health technology.
The structured master’s programme is aimed more at people already in Industry, is more modular and includes a smaller research project than the above.
The Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering Science is aimed mostly at bridging graduates from three-year BSc programmes to the masters’ programmes.
“The research scope of the IBE includes, firstly, the development of innovative medical devices that can alleviate the burden of chronic and infectious diseases through early detection, secondly, be used in Fourth Industrial Revolution and/or e-Health scenarios and, thirdly, improved diagnostics for resource-poor areas.
“Some examples of biomedical engineering research topics are biomechanical modelling, bio-signal-processing, electrophysiology, robotics-in-surgery, telemedicine, nanotechnology, machine learning, tissue engineering, technology transfer and commercialisation, to name a few.
“A principal focus of the IBE is to produce publishable research outputs and postgraduate degrees.
“With our research the IBE endeavors to stimulate the local manufacturing sector by producing medical devices as a consequence of the above-mentioned research and development thereby reducing South Africa’s dependence on the importation of medical devices.
“Another goal is to develop South Africa’s human capacity by training engineers, researchers and technicians in the field of biomedical engineering.
“We are keen to create a strong biomedical engineering industry that will provide attractive job opportunities for our graduates and thus prevent the country from losing them to overseas companies.”
Prof Nieuwoudt concludes: “We engage directly with Industry to appropriate research projects and we invite them to propose projects for postgraduate students.
“These projects should have an established market-need and address real-world problems with a focus on Africa. In so doing, we give students industry-experience and to Industry, an appropriately skilled and qualified worker.