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UNB’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering turns 50

Brad Parker / The Brunswickan

Brad Parker / The Brunswickan

UNB’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering has been changing lives for 50 years.

Founded by Dr. Robert “Bob” Scott in 1965, the Institute is a research facility and operational clinic that designs, builds and fits prosthetics for amputees. The Institute has offered this fitting service across Atlantic Canada since 1982.

“[The institute] has grown from a small team of researchers and clinicians advancing the field of upper limb prosthetics to a diverse group with expertise in nerve and muscle modeling, biomechanics and human mobility,” said the institute’s director, Kevin Englehart.

Anne Smith, a Fredericton realtor, has personally been involved with the Institute since 1983. One of her twin daughters, Suzanne, was born without her left hand.

“We knew about the institute a little bit. In fact, I met Dr. Bob Scott on a plane one time when I was flying home with the twins,” said Smith. “He spoke to us and we were able to come [to Fredericton] because there was nothing available in B.C., oddly enough.”

Smith and her family packed up their children and their lives and moved all the way from B.C. to Fredericton to be able to better access the institute’s services.

“[The Institute] were extraordinary. It’s changed our daughter’s life. It’s changed all our lives,” Smith said.

The UNB Biomedical Institute of Engineering is one of the first of its kind, and has had many firsts in the field of engineering throughout its history.

“We developed one of the first commercially available control systems in the 1970s which … allowed amputees to control their artificial limbs with the electricity emanating from their own residual muscles,” Englehart said.

“The researchers and clinicians work closely to ensure that the research addresses important and practical issues that will improve the quality of life for amputees,” Englehart said.

The Institute offers both undergraduate courses and graduate courses to students in the field of bio-engineering. A total of 202 students have graduated from this field.

“Our students learn a variety of engineering skills such as signal processing, simulation and modeling techniques, data analysis and management, instrumentation and experimental design,” Englehart said.

The Institute’s celebratory activities will commence in May, during the Canada-Wide Science Fair 2015.

“We will have students participate in hands-on demonstrations of biomedical technologies and will host a public booth at the Currie Center,” the director said.

More events will also take place this fall.

“We will have activities incorporated into Homecoming 2015,” said Englehart. “We will have scientific demonstrations, a ‘mini-symposium’ that will include biomedical alumni, and a number of social events.”

A tree planting ceremony will take place on Oct. 15 this year, the official date that the institute was founded on in 1965. It will be in dedication to Dr. Robert Scott, the Institute’s founder, who passed away on Dec 21, 2014.

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