Engineering class


Complete history of biomedical engineering at Marquette University

The first 30 years

In 1958 Dr. Ben Drought (a graduate of Harvard), dean of the College of Engineering and former chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering, met Dr. Ross Kory, director of research at the Zablocki VA Hospital in Milwaukee. Together they taught the first course in biomedical engineering at Marquette.

In 1960, Dr. Raymond Lang, chief of cardiology at the Marquette School of Medicine, teamed up with Dr. James Horgan, professor of electrical engineering at Marquette, on a project to simulate periodic breathing of Cheyne-Stokes respiration. During about the same period, Dr. Sol Larks, professor of electrical engineering at Marquette, collaborated with Dr. Richard Mattingley, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Marquette, on fetal EKG monitoring.

In 1964, Dr. Anthony Sances, Jr., was hired by the College of Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and the Marquette School of Medicine to provide linkages between the two institutions in biomedical engineering. Sances was one of the first graduates in biomedical engineering from the National Institute of Health-funded Biomedical Engineering Center at Northwestern University, from which he graduated in 1964. He began his research in clinical neurophysiology, electrical physiology and biomechanics with Dr. Sanford J. Larson, chairman of neurosurgery at the Marquette School of Medicine.

Sances served as director and chairman of biomedical engineering from 1967–89. He was succeeded by Dr. John H. Linehan, Bagozzi Professor and chairman of biomedical engineering (now vice president of the Whitaker Foundation). The Biomedical Engineering/Bioinstrumentation Program at Marquette was established with the help of Dr. Dean Jeutter, who joined the College of Engineering in 1967 and is a professor. The training program for life scientists was established with the help of Dr. Joseph Llaurado, who joined the College of Engineering in 1968. He left in 1983 to become chief of nuclear medicine at the Loma Linda University VA Hospital. Dr. Joseph Battocetti joined the program in 1970 to develop the area of nuclear magnetic resonance research at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He later became an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering. The undergraduate curriculum in biomedical engineering was established in 1978. The program included a pre-doctor of medicine option. A biomechanics option was soon available. The first enrollment attracted 67 students. Since the late 1980s, the undergraduate program has been one of the largest in the country, ranging in size from 250-400 students.

The first doctoral trainees in biomedical engineering included Dr. Eric Grassman, (1970) who later obtained his doctor of medicine in the Air Force. He worked with Dr. Robert Mead, chief of nuclear medicine at the VA, and Horgan on the analysis of liver scans. Phillip Weinfurt (1970) was also a trainee of Horgan. Another trainee (whose thesis was in kidney control modelling) was Ronald Jodat. He collaborated with Dr. Edward Lennon, professor of internal medicine at Marquette, who became dean and president of the Medical College of Wisconsin, formerly the Marquette School of Medicine. Five doctoral student trainees of Sances graduated in 1970. These students conducted their doctoral research in the area of the nervous system. They were Lawrence Hause (associate professor of biomedical engineering in the Department of Pathology at MCW), Dr. Ronald Hosek, Dr. Serge Zilber and Dr. Edward Zuperku (professor of biomedical engineering in the Department of Anesthesiology at MCW). Drs. George Smith, Jane Madden and Vince Canino (professor and chairman of biomedical engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering) were early trainees of Llaurado. They conducted their research in the area of compartmental analysis and instrumentation. Henry Thompson worked with Dr. Eleanor Delfs, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, on his master's. His dissertation was in the area of reproductive modeling. William Taylor collaborated with Dr. Hudson of the Department of Biology on a fish respiratory model for his doctorate.

Later graduates included Dr. Narayan Yoganandan, (professor of neurosurgery at MCW, with an adjunct appointment in biomedical engineering). The first doctoral/doctor of medicine trainee was Dr. Dennis Maiman, who graduated in 1986 (professor of neurosurgery and director of the Spinal Cord Injury Center at MCW). Dr. Frank Pintar graduated in 1986 (professor and director of the neuroscience laboratories at the VA Medical Center, with an adjunct appointment in biomedical engineering). Other faculty trained by Sances at Marquette include Dr. Joel Myklebust (formerly associate professor in biomedical engineering) and Dr. Gerald Harris (professor in biomedical engineering).

(Thank you to Anthony Sances and Larry Hause for providing this history.)

Formative growth

Growth during the 1980s was largely responsible for the administrative formation of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in 1989. Linehan served as chair from the inception of this new department through 1998, when he took a position with the Whitaker Foundation. This was a time of considerable maturation of the educational programs, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels. It was also a time when our relations with the medical device industry in the Midwest were dramatically enhanced, driven by strong ties to alumni working in industry and by a strong co-op program that — helped by support from the Whitaker Foundation's industrial internship program — has established national leadership in student-centered BME-industry relations. Seventy-five percent of our students select co-op (50 percent) or intern (25 percent) experiences, and we have an active Industrial Advisory Board. A third undergraduate major — biocomputing — was added, motivated largely by discussions with industry and accelerated by a Special Opportunity Award from the Whitaker Foundation.


The 1990s also included a revitalization of the ties between Marquette and the Medical College under the leadership of Linehan and Dr. William Hendee. During the late 90s, two new joint graduate programs were established, accelerated by Special Opportunity Awards from the Whitaker Foundation: a joint Marquette-MCW doctorate in functional imaging and a joint Marquette-MCW master of science in health care technologies management. The following quote was extracted from the summary of the first of these:

This launched what we now call Phase I of our plans to bridge the educational and research activities in biomedical engineering on our campuses. These remain the only joint degrees offered at Marquette. Added to this is the formal establishment by Marquette and MCW of the Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Engineering Center, directed by Harris, which includes the investment of more than$1 million in internal funds, a number of external grants and close ties to Shriners Children's Hospital in Chicago. Roughly 10 additional graduate students are involved in OREC research. And an additional 10 (mostly master's) students work at the VAMC on research projects that involve primary or co-supervision by MCW faculty who are adjuncts within our department.

Bridge-building: planned phase II

The 1990's saw the Medical College emerge as one of the fastest-growing medical research centers in the United State, with MCW now the recipient of roughly $75 million in externally funded research and development, and growing at an annual rate during the 90s of more than 10 percent. Key areas of strength are functional imaging and bioinformatics/functional genomics, which collectively account for about $40 million in external funding. Several new buildings have been constructed, and more are planned. We have established a plan for Phase II of joint Marquette-MCW development. We intend to strengthen the educational foundation for this bridge and further intertwine the educational and training activities between our institutions. We also plan to continue to enhance our bridge to biomedical industry.


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College of Engineering
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Milwaukee, WI 53233

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