Featured Faculty Profile
Senior Professor - DeVry University Phoenix
Teaching Field: Biomedical Engineering Technology (BMET), Electrical Engineering Technology (EET)
"A lot of our students received job offers from companies they interned with, like GE Healthcare, Toshiba, Siemens and Phillips, before they graduated. These companies are very impressed with the hands-on experience with the equipment, like MRI devices, that our students had already received. That's one of the things that makes us different from other colleges."
Where I come from
I initially educated, trained and prepared myself to be an astronaut at the University of Texas at Austin. Getting close to the dream, I worked at the NASA Johnson Space Center training astronauts on the flight simulator and the landing deployment chute for the Space Shuttle, but alas my eyesight was not within the candidacy prerequisites. I also helped test the grappling fixture on the shuttle arm and analyze propulsion forces for shuttle orientation jets when maneuvering near the space station.
It was loads of fun, but the time came when I asked myself what career besides astronaut I could believe in and be passionate about. There were two things I really cared about: medicine and the environment. At that time, environmental engineers still did not have much scope for action; their jobs were mostly paper pushing. In addition, U. Texas had housed me on the first floor of the dorm, where most of the students with physical handicaps also lived. As I made friends and got to understand the day to day challenges they faced, I realized how much engineering could improve their lives. This was my "aha" moment and the catalyst for choosing the biomedical field. Therefore, I chose to continue my education at Arizona State University, earning my master's and doctorate in biomedical engineering.
DeVry University Phoenix scores a first
The last two years at ASU, I taught courses with an emphasis on bio-device automation, integration and control. Then DeVry University Phoenix asked me to help develop the Biomedical Engineering Technology (BMET) program with a similar focus. We received accreditation for the program in June 2007; in fact, we are the first bachelor's degree program accredited by Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET.
I teach the introduction to bio-engineering, bio-instrumentation design, and bio-imaging physics courses. I also mentor biomedical senior design projects. The BMET program leverages the school's electronics engineering expertise. So for example, in design courses, we do team-based projects where someone's a hardware engineer, a software engineer and an integration engineer. Each project is a virtual medical device prototype where students take signals from the body, such as electrical waves from the heart or brain, and design and build the circuitry, and code software to process the signals and use the signals.
I also supervise the internship program, which is one of our requirements to graduate. We place interns with local businesses currently and we hope to expand geographically. A lot of our students received job offers from companies they interned with, like GE Healthcare, Toshiba, Siemens and Phillips, before they graduated. These companies are very impressed with the hands-on experience with the equipment, like MRI devices, that our students had already received. That's one of the things that makes us different from other colleges.
A model of ingenuity, a man of spirit
I've been fortunate to have many good teachers, but the man who influenced me most was Mr. Klaus Koch, my manager at a rehab hospital where I volunteered. His belief in excellence and his philosophy of service made a great impression on me. Klaus had trained formally as an artist in Germany, back in the day when artists were trained in the chemistry and the science of paints. He had always wanted to become an engineer but he had a scholarship for art and no other way to pay for school. As a German boy in the aftermath of World War II, he was one of many children without parents who had to scavenge to live. Despite such difficult beginnings, Mr. Koch not only had a successful career as an artist, but continued his engineering education where he was the head of rehabilitation engineering at the facility. What amazed me most is his spirit and ingenuity were in balance with the purpose of selflessly helping others.
In class with Dr. K
My teaching style is casual; my students call me "Dr. K." I like to mix it up in class to keep it exciting. Some people tend to over-schedule in order to cover more material. I always leave time for discussion. When the press gets on a topic like stem cell research, for example, we'll talk about the real science behind the news. It is a great way to inject bioethics into the discussion. The students love to ask me questions about work, salary and questions about dealing with a boss, for example. People get involved.
Hands-on experience is essential in the engineering discipline. You have to trouble-shoot problems when they come up - and in engineering it is not if, but when. Students need to experience that before they get into the workforce where problem-solving is expected of them.
BMET students all learn to make presentations as well as to prepare formal and informal reports using industry report structures. Our classes are small (the largest to date had 13 students) so they all have time to practice, for example, making a hands-on trouble-shooting report or a preventative maintenance plan.
I am on the board of the Arizona Biomedical Industry Association, so I have the big picture for employment in our state. I also talk to biomedical industry recruiters in depth about new directions that DeVry University can take to meet their future needs and give our students an advantage.
At traditional universities, you often have graduate students teaching undergraduate students because faculty are supposed to do research; they are judged on their ability to bring grant money into the university. That's up to 70% of their job, so I believe that many undergraduate students are getting short-changed in that system. At DeVry University the focus is on teaching.
When it comes to careers, we meet the demands of industry better than other schools that are not so responsive. As a result, industry becomes eager to hire our graduates. In addition, DeVry University does career advising better than any other university I have seen. I monitor the job postings on industry forums and forward them to the Campus Career Center. Not that we need to go looking for jobs; there is a huge demand for our graduates. But it helps us define demand. We expect BMET job growth in the range of 25% going forward.