Biomedical engineering students help make winter school a success

Jennifer Muller, Office of Communications, jm26@aub.edu.lb​​​​

Over two hundred students from universities across Lebanon flocked to AUB to engage with one of the most exciting interdisciplinary growth fields at the boundary between engineering and science: biomedical engineering.

The fourth annual AUB Biomedical Engineering (BME) Winter School brought together five distinguished professors from top-tier universities to share their research in a broad range of specialties within biomedical engineering. The winter school was held by AUB’s BME Program in conjunction with the Center for Advanced Mathematical Sciences (CAMS) and was organized with help from the student BME Society (AUB-BMES).  



Record turnout

Attendance at this year’s winter school saw a huge increase over previous years and is a testament to the rising popularity of this burgeoning field in the region. The organizers were keen to also engage other Lebanese universities and they succeeded in attracting undergraduate and graduate students from across the country. There was even one high school student whose interest in biomedical engineering prompted her to take a day off school to attend.

“You can see that biomedical engineering is really growing in Lebanon,” said Diane Salman, president of the BME Society at AUB. “I think this is where our society should play a role; in guiding students and informing them about the actual state of the field in Lebanon and how it is not just about sales or being technicians in hospitals; it is about doing research that is applicable in real life.”

Inspirational research 

This year’s program included Dr. Alicia El Haj of Keele University in the UK discussing advances in engineering cells and tissues, and Dr. Nicolas Chbat from Columbia University presenting on how mathematical and engineering methodologies can be used to enhance patient care in intensive care units. Also included was Dr. Sliman Bensmaia from the University of Chicago whose research looks at how prosthetic limbs can have the feeling of touch.

“All the presenters had some breakthroughs at certain points in their presentations that made an impression on the students,” noted Georges Kfoury, program officer of the BME Society. “We were in contact with all the attendees and they were very impressed by the work that was presented and by the enormous breakthroughs that are present in the biomedical engineering field.”

One of the reasons for the BME winter school, as explained by the organizing committee coordinator and professor of neuroscience and biomathematics, Dr. Arij Daou, is to show the great diversification within biomedical engineering and the many directions that BME research can take. 

The other invited lecturers included Dr. Lynne Bilston of the University of New South Wales who talked about recent advances in imaging and image-based computational modeling in biomechanics, as well as Dr. Jesper Tegner of King Abdullah University of Sciences and Technology in Saudi Arabia who did a presentation on how mathematics can be used to understand the workings of living systems. 

​Seeking to improve quality of life 

Inaugurated in 2016, the interdisciplinary graduate BME program at AUB aims to apply engineering principles, methods, and tools to solve biomedical and clinical challenges.  Students in the program come from many backgrounds, including various engineering disciplines, the basic sciences, math, computer science, and the health sciences.  What they share is a desire to contribute to this exciting field and, for many, to make the world a better place.

One of these is Georges Kfoury, who is a first-year PhD student studying tissue engineering. He hopes to one day tackle the global challenge of organ donation, where there is a huge disparity between supply and demand.

“We are hoping with biomedical engineering to reach a place where we can take stem cells from our own bodies and create our own replacement organs,” explains Georges. “So hopefully, in ten years, I will be walking this path and reaching a place where we can save lives and we can have an impact on people’s lives.”

A joint venture of the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA) and the Faculty of Medicine (FM), the BME Program offers a master of science and a PhD in biomedical engineering. The program has four dedicated faculty members at MSFEA—Drs. Rami Mhanna, Jason Amatoury, Massoud Khraiche, and Arij Daou—and several affiliated faculty members from relevant departments in MSFEA and FM. It is co-coordinated by Dr. Zaher Dawy, AUB associate provost and professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Dr. Ayad Jaffa, assistant dean for intramural programs at FM and professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics. ​​