Sept. 27, 2022

Department of Biomedical Engineering signs memorandum of understanding with W21C

New UCalgary department hopes partnership will serve as a guide for future opportunities
Biomedical Engineering PhD student Tiffany Dang peers through a microscope while working on her latest research project. Joe McFarland, Schulich School of Engineering

It hasn’t taken long for the Schulich School of Engineering’s brand-new Department of Biomedical Engineering to make its mark in the community.

The department, which was officially unveiled last January, continues to build on relationships it had in place since starting out as a program 25 years ago.

Its recent promotion has allowed the department to establish a more formal relationship with one of its long-standing and successful partners, with a memorandum of understanding being signed with W21C, focusing on shared activities and how to support each other as life sciences ecosystem players.

“This provides a framework for carrying out collaborative activities and the terms to ensure success,” says department head Dr. Michael Kallos, BSc (Eng)’95, PhD’99. “This memorandum will also serve as a guide for future partnerships with other stakeholders.”

A long time coming

W21C, a health-care systems research and innovation initiative dating back to 2004, has worked with individual biomedical engineering (BME) researchers almost since the inception of the program, says Jill de Grood, BA’08, MA’09, director of development and partnerships at W21C

What started as one-off projects grew into a series of collaborations, including projects related to aging in place, summer placements and internships, and jointly applying for funding to tackle some of the biggest challenges in health care.

“We have clinicians and health-care stakeholders that have clinical challenges that need solutions,” de Grood says. “BME researchers have the skills to actually create those solutions.”

A project called Biomedical Innovations for Home Health Care for an Aging Population — funded through UCalgary’s Office of the Vice-President (Research) — is the perfect example of the potential for such respective multidisciplinary networks, de Grood says.

“Those funds supported eight interdisciplinary project teams, with an emphasis on addressing technological solutions that support home-health strategies for older adults,” she says.

“It supported a total of 16 faculty members from across campus, many of them BME researchers, leading to six peer-reviewed grant applications, and provided research opportunities for 13 students.”

A focus on students

It’s the focus on students that has Kallos excited about what the Schulich-W21C partnership will bring to the table in the future.

“We have worked together on summer studentships and major grant proposals, but we’ve also had W21C members come in to speak with our students and hosted them on tours as part of our undergraduate programs,” he says.

All of these opportunities are integral for our students as they look for real-world experiences.

Kallos also sees a domino effect developing from the relationships being built with industry partners.

“For example, we will be exploring opportunities for internships, capstone projects, and industry-day activities,” he says. “We also hope to continue expanding our collaborations with the clinical faculty through W21C to ensure we are solving the right problems and coming up with the right solutions.”

The University of Calgary’s multidisciplinary Engineering Solutions for Health: Biomedical Engineering research strategy drives innovations that are saving lives and revolutionizing health care for Canadians.  With collaborative teams focused on human mobility, health monitoring, advanced biomedical imaging, precision biodiagnostics, regenerative medicine and novel medical technologies, our researchers are transforming quality of life and continuously improving the health system.