UIC'S BIOENGINEERING 'SUMMER CAMP'
Editors: Camp runs during the week of June 11-16
Instead of stuffing backpacks and lacing hiking boots, 30 Chicago-area high school students will don lab coats and flash rail passes this summer as they head off to take part in a new University of Illinois at Chicago day-camp-type program called "Experience Bioengineering."
Conceived by UIC's department of bioengineering, the camp brings high school sophomores and juniors to campus for six days to hear presentations from top faculty members, visit research laboratories and work on team projects.
Bioengineering is one of today's most exciting new career fields.
"Ten years ago, many of the terms, techniques and technologies we now use didn't even exist," said Richard Magin, department head and professor of bioengineering at UIC.
Bioengineers take new findings from biology and medicine and use their engineering problem-solving skills to rebuild body parts, tissues and organs. For example, naturally derived or synthetic materials are made into scaffold-like temporary structures that can be implanted into a damaged or diseased area of the body. These structures provide a template that allows a body's own cells to grow and form new tissues.
Bioengineers working in the emerging field of regenerative medicine see engineered biological material having the potential to rebuild and replace bones, blood vessels, heart valves, teeth, skin and other organs where artificial materials are used today.
"What's occurring now is that, thanks to better understanding of biology, genetics, the fundamental composition of cells and cell surfaces, for the first time, we have the ability to engineer by actually regenerating replacements for a defective part rather than using replacement parts," said Magin.
Students participating in "Experience Bioengineering" applied for the program and were recommended by teachers or guidance counselors. The program is open to students in the Chicago metropolitan area who are able to commute to the UIC campus. Six area high-school science teachers have also been invited to participate.
Students will hear talks on topics ranging from what is bioengineering and what a bioengineer does to suggestions on how to design experiments and make scientific presentations. Most mornings will be devoted to talks and discussion.
Visits to several UIC engineering and medical laboratories and a biotechnology company are also on the agenda. Most afternoons include laboratory sessions to work on group projects. Time will also be set aside for some recreation activities and to visit places in the culturally diverse neighborhood around UIC on Chicago's near West Side.
"We hope this program gets the message out to interested high school students about the emerging opportunities in bioengineering, and that they'll think about majoring in it as they plan for college," said Magin.
The program is receiving additional funding through a grant from the Washington D.C.-based Whitaker Foundation, which supports biomedical engineering education and research endeavors.
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