Inspiration and innovation by design:New BME Design Spaces take shape

It will reinvent and redesign the space to create future-focused collaborative design spaces to support BME students’ active, project-based, hands-on learning experiences.

The University of Michigan Biomedical Engineering department will receive new state-of-the-art design, innovation and prototyping spaces through a complete renovation of the first floor of the Lurie Biomedical Engineering (LBME) Building.

The 12,000-square-feet, $4.9 million renovation was approved Thursday by the Board of Regents. It will reinvent and redesign the space to create future-focused collaborative design spaces to support BME students’ active, project-based, hands-on learning experiences.

“Over the past decade, based on feedback from our students, employers and other stakeholders, we’ve made many changes to our curriculum to add more experiential learning opportunities for our students,” says Jan Stegemann, a professor of biomedical engineering and faculty lead on the initiative. “It became clear we needed to update our design spaces to further support this new curricular content.”


In addition to a large, flexible and reconfigurable classroom, new features include: a clinical simulation area, including XR (extended reality) capabilities, for surgical simulation training and usability testing; video-conferencing capabilities to enable teamwork locally and remotely, to observe medical procedures or hold international workshops; a dedicated 3D printing laboratory, machine shop, prototyping and fabrication spaces; instrumentation, mechanical testing and cell culture labs for experiential courses and student project teams.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2020, with key areas opening in the fall.

“The discussion of the design and composition of the space begin in a 2016 faculty retreat, which has evolved through extensive input from our students and faculty, the College of Engineering, the Michigan Medicine clinical and instructional faculty, BME alumni, and our industrial advisory board,” said Professor Lonnie Shea, the William and Valerie Hall Chair of Biomedical Engineering. “The collective input from these constituents will enable our students and faculty to connect more effectively with our partners in engineering, medicine and industry for the training of our students, and ultimately the development and translation of new technologies.”

Four themes guided design of the space. These included:

  • Experiential learning opportunities for student teams, including clinical immersion, needs-finding, design, prototyping and fabrication
  • A sense of partnership and community to promote interaction among students, faculty, staff and BME stakeholders
  • Further integrating BME practice into teaching and research to support new collaborations and student opportunities
  • Creating physical spaces for innovative communities of practice and engineering-industry-medicine interactions

The brand new instructional labs, improved spaces for ideation, prototyping simulation and fabrication, in addition to the new cell culture facility for biotechnology-related work, all represent a focus on the future as biomedical engineering continues to evolve.

“As the field and our curriculum change over time, we’re planning for the space to evolve in tandem. Our initial plans fit our current needs well, and we’ve also built in some adaptable space as new student needs arise. That is very much by design,” Stegemann says.

The dynamic space is intended to feel open and inviting, to facilitate the collaboration and engagement necessary for innovation, and to create a strong sense of community for BME students, staff, and faculty as they bring new ideas to life.

“When students want to work together on projects, they’ve told us they haven’t really thought of hanging out in LBME because there haven’t been spaces that are especially conducive to teamwork,” says Stegemann. “The new BME Design Spaces will turn that around, giving students vibrant, energetic spaces where they can work collaboratively on clinical problems. They’ll also have these wonderful new experiential labs and prototyping spaces to design, test and build new technologies,” he adds.

Planning for the new BME Design Spaces has been led by a steering committee that, in addition to Stegemann, includes Brandon Baier (marketing and communications), Barry Belmont (instructors, design, labs), Karen Gates (alumni/industry relations), Dana Jackson (facilities), Rachael Schmedlen (instructors, design, labs), Cathy Seay-Ostrowski (administration), and BME Department Chair Lonnie Shea.

The committee has worked closely with the College of Engineering Resource Planning and Management and Architecture, Engineering and Construction teams, CAEN information technology services, and the architectural firm Integrated Design Solutions of Troy, Mich.

“There’s been a real and palpable sense of shared excitement as the plans have started to become reality,” Stegemann says. “It’s definitely the right time to capitalize on the investments we’ve been making in our experiential curriculum as we carry out our educational mission.”