The Department was officially established in 2000 by the founding chair of the Department Dr. Van C. Mow. The Department offers educational programs leading to BS, MS, PhD degrees as well as MD - PhD and MS – MD degrees in collaboration with the Columbia University Irving Medical School.

X. Edward Guo

When we first started working on our 20th anniversary magazine, we imagined publishing it in March 2020. We could never have imagined that instead, we’d be grappling with a world upended by the explosive spread of SARS-CoV-2—the greatest threat to human health in more than a century. The world is watching as scientists, physicians, healthcare workers, civic leaders, and everyday citizens work together to limit the spread of the virus while developing vaccines and treatments. Compared to the real-time drama of life in these uncertain times, the achievements of a single university department can seem insignificant. Yet the progress we are witnessing today is the result of decades of cumulative innovation across all areas of science, including biomedical engineering. In that light, it is even more important to celebrate the innovators and changemakers that push science forward. This is where we find hope.

Our faculty and students leapt into action at the start of the pandemic, developing platforms for rapid COVID-19 testing, researching methods for sterilizing masks, devising strategies for maximizing the utility of ventilators, along with many other efforts. This crisis has united the global scientific community as never before, and I couldn’t be more proud to see our department join the fight.

The spirit of collaboration comes naturally to our faculty, as biomedical engineering has always been an interdisciplinary field. Our work is fueled by partnerships between engineers, physicians, and scientists from areas including physics, neuroscience, mathematics, materials science, and computer and data science. This year, we made a commitment to ensure that our faculty and students are as diverse as the work we do. Our newly established Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee is just one element of a broader mission to address discrimination and ensure that every aspect of our department reflects our belief in equality in the sciences, and in the world at large.

Over the past 20 years, we have grown from a small group of dedicated founders into a dynamic department making field-changing breakthroughs in six areas of strength: Neuroengineering, Regenerative Medicine, Orthopedics, Biomaterials, Mechanomedicine, and Biomedical Imaging. Our faculty has doubled in size, and our class and degree offerings now include MD-PhD and MS-MD programs alongside the BS, MS, and PhD degrees. Columbia BME is home to about 85 undergraduate students, 150 master students, and 155 doctoral students.

Since 2019, the Department has ranked among U.S. News and World Report’s top 10 biomedical engineering departments. Much of the credit for this achievement lies with our esteemed faculty. Our professors are editors in chief of leading journals in their fields. They are recipients of the PECASE, NSF CAREER award, the ASME Medal, and other accolades. They are members of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Inventors, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. The Department leads the nation for National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation funding per faculty member, and in the past seven years alone, BME students and faculty have launched 17 startup companies to commercialize therapies and devices developed at Columbia.

Today, we celebrate our present and salute our past. While 2020 has taught us all to accept a sense of unpredictability about the future, I couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead for the Department. Now more than ever, I am inspired by my colleagues—their ingenuity, persistence, and pursuit of techniques that heal, restore, and improve patients’ lives.

Best regards, 

X. Edward Guo, PhD
Chair and Stanley Dicker Professor of Biomedical 
Engineering at Columbia University 
Professor of Medical Sciences (in Medicine) 
Director, Bone Bioengineering Laboratory