Demonstrating its commitment as a student-centered, public research university, UNT is taking the first steps toward establishing Texas' first program in biological and environmental engineering.
Effective Sept. 1, Miguel Acevedo, Regents Professor of geography at UNT, will become the coordinator of the new interdisciplinary program.
Acevedo says that while a handful of similar programs are offered around the country, UNT is the first university in Texas to offer programs in both biological and environmental engineering, or BEE.
"The College of Engineering has been looking for innovative programs and approaches as it grows, and this is an excellent example," he says.
Acevedo says UNT provides an ideal environment for such a program to flourish in collaboration with existing programs in biology, geography, environmental science and philosophy; biomedical sciences and public health at the UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth; and various other programs in the College of Engineering.
Collaboration with the HSC in particular is exciting because of the potential variety of research projects, joint courses and many opportunities for a vibrant partnership for both faculty and students, he adds.
"The interdisciplinary nature of the BEE program is what makes it both attractive and a challenge," Acevedo says. "We have to ask ourselves, 'How do you educate engineers with training in different disciplines?' We also have to design this program with the future in mind, looking at what is needed five or 10 years down the road."
Acevedo points out that the program will focus on issues such as engineering applications that address climate change and sustainability. Experts on air quality will be among the first faculty to be hired for the new BEE program, he says.
In addition, Acevedo says strong community outreach is vital for the BEE program. He envisions the creation of an indoor and outdoor learning area at UNT's Research Park campus to attract middle and high school students and get them excited about pursuing engineering as a career choice.
"Environmental science has been quite successful with UNT's Elm Fork Education Center program for elementary school students, and I envision something similar for the older students," he says.
UNT's planning for the program started about two years ago, and earlier this year the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved planning for the creation of the program. Acevedo says thanks to the hard work of an interdisciplinary and multi-institutional committee this past spring, the program is now moving forward and has a coordinator in place.
Acevedo says the plan is to offer bachelors and masters degrees beginning with the Fall 2008, after offering a boot camp preparation event in summer 2008. "Within five years, I hope that we will be graduating both bachelors and masters degree candidates and conducting research in this vital area," he says.
Oscar Garcia, Founding Dean of the UNT College of Engineering, says he is excited about the future of the new program.
"Dr. Acevedo, jointly with a small committee, is currently conducting a market study to get inputs from academic, industrial and government agencies in order to practically implement our proposal to the Coordinating Board in a manner in which our future B.S. and M.S.," he says. "BEE graduates may best serve and be rewarded by their employers or in their consulting career. This study will inform our forthcoming proposal to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for the establishment of the program and the kind of professors that we will be hiring."
UNT News Service Press Release
Rafael McDonnell can be reached at RMcDonnell@unt.edu.