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LSU students study on Tuesday Feb. 11, 2020 in Patrick F. Taylor Hall.

The LSU Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering is beginning its second year of offering a Ph.D. in biological engineering. 

Previously, the University only offered a Ph.D. in engineering science with a concentration in biological engineering, according to a press release. The new curriculum integrates biology and engineering and allows the University to compete with other programs across the country.

LSU Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering Chair David Constant said the program is not currently ranked nationally.

“With the addition of [the Ph.D.], our program will be competitively ranked, our visibility will be enhanced and the Ph.D. enrollment will increase,” Constant said.

Graduates of the program can pursue careers in fields such as biomedical, bioprocessing, agriculture or environmental engineering. The press release said the program will prepare students to write research proposals, conduct research, publish peer-reviewed papers and teach undergraduate students.

“Our graduates’ contributions may be in research within biomedical companies or in the biotechnology job market, which is growing in Louisiana,” Constant said. “This program will also generate the future workforce that can address the many issues in healthcare in our state and beyond.”

LSU Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering Alumni Professor Cristina Sabliov is the graduate program coordinator for the department. She said the department’s faculty and students recognized a need for a Ph.D. program within the department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. The program was approved in 2018 and is entering its second year.

“We are trying to cater to a number of students who may have different interests,” Sabliov said. “Biological engineering is a very diverse interdisciplinary type of program.”

Salbiov said many students are interested in various fields including biomedical, environmental and process engineering, among others. Some of the areas Sabliov said are thoroughly covered by faculty include cancer biology, tissue engineering, bioprocessing, bioenergy and synthetic biology. 

Sabliov said many students start their undergraduate career thinking they want to go to medical school, but soon realize that they want to pursue the engineering side of the major. 

“Our students find that they’d rather pursue a Ph.D. in biological engineering than an interdisciplinary engineering science degree as they’ve done in the past,” Sabliov said. “They want this degree, because they believe that it would help them become more competitive in the workforce.”

Sabliov said this program is needed for the state. She said Louisiana needs people who are trained locally to work in the medical field and in biotechnology in companies. Discoveries within the program can extend beyond the state as well.

“The state needs us to train the workforce that is needed in the future within our own Louisiana,” Sabliov said.

For many years, there was only an M.S. offered at the graduate level for this department. Sabliov said students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. would have to go through the University’s engineering program.

“As soon as this program became available we had great interest from the students,” Sabliov said. “Many switched from engineering sciences to our degree, reflecting the need for our program.”

Two students have already graduated from the program. These two graduates were involved in the engineering sciences program and switched into the biomedical engineering Ph.D. program. Currently, the program has 11 students in the program and three will graduate this year.

“Our BAE program was not ranked nationally because we did not have a Ph.D. program,” Sabliov said. “Now that we have our own Ph.D., we will be ranked and become competitive nationally and internationally.” 

She thinks once the program is ranked, it will be ranked very well nationally. Sabliov said the goal is to grow the program and improve rankings every year.

“I want to hire the best and brightest students that are available to us to further the growth and success of our program” Sabliov said.

Sabliov said over the past few years, the department has hired many new professors who have a strong focus in biomedical engineering because the department feels that area is growing. She hopes to continue to hire new professors to better the program. She says without these professors, the program would not be able to attract the best students. 

“BAE faculty perform impactful, cutting-edge research in biomedical engineering and other fields that students find of interest and we want to see that continuing in the future,” Sabliov said. “That’s one important commitment that LSU has made by hiring these professors.”

Students interested in applying for the program can do so through the LSU Graduate School website. Sabliov encouraged students who are interested to contact faculty or get in touch with students enrolled in the program.

“[Students] will find working in our department fulfilling,” Sabliov said. “A Ph.D. is hard and our department is supportive of our students, making sure they are successful professionally, and that they have an enjoyable experience as a PhD student.”

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