Department History

Marking 50 Years of Biomedical Engineering at UT Austin

In the late 1960s, a group of biomedical engineering researchers at The University of Texas at Austin began a program to offer graduate degrees in that field. In 2001, the Department of Biomedical Engineering was founded and began offering students undergraduate degrees as well.

Here are highlights of the history of biomedical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. 

group of photos showing BME History


 Historical Timeline 

  • March 31, 1966: Dean John McKetta sends a memorandum asking a faculty committee consisting of E.A. “Rip” Ripperger (Department of Aerospace Engineering), Ernest Gloyna (Dean Emeritus, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering), Kenneth Bischoff (Department of Chemical Engineering), and a few others to start the program.

  • June 7, 1966: Rip Ripperger becomes the first chair of the BME Program Committee.

  • August 1966: A set of graduate courses is selected and the first students are enrolled in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a “Biomedical Engineering emphasis.”

  • August 1968: UT Austin receives its first National Institute of Health grant, awarded to Rip Ripperger.

  • July 1968: Thomas Runge requests that the St. David Hospital administration establish collaboration between the hospital and the “Bio-mechanical Department.”

  • August 1968: Fred Vogt becomes the second Chair of the BME Program Committee.

  • September 1968: AJ Welch, who arrived in UT Austin in 1964, becomes associated with the program.

  • August 1970: An official application is submitted by the BME Program Committee to the Graduate School, Faculty and Board of Regents for the establishment of the MS and PhD degrees in BME.

  • August 1971: Bob Popovich is hired from the University of Washington at Seattle as the first professor of Biomedical Engineering with appointment in Chemical Engineering.

  • August 1972: Ken Diller is hired from MIT as the second professor of Biomedical Engineering with appointment in Mechanical Engineering.

  • May 1973: The request for independent MS and PhD degrees in BME is approved.

  • August 1976: Lee Baker is hired from Baylor College of Medicine as the first permanent director of the BME Program.

  • 2001: The University of Texas at Austin establishes the Department of Biomedical Engineering, so that it can offer undergraduate degrees.

  • August 2002: The department admits its first undergraduate class.

  • May 2006: The BIomedical Engineering Department graduates its first baccalaureate class.

  • 2008: Construction is completed on the Biomedical Engineering Building.

  • 2016: 50th anniversary of the formation of the Biomedical Engineering graduate program and 10th anniversary of the first graduating class of undergraduates. 

This video, made by UT Austin students in 1978, captures the early days of biomedical engineering.


Oral History Interviews

The following conversations with people connected to the founding of the Department of Biomedical Engineering.