UC Davis has historically been a leader in the diverse and multidisciplinary field of Biomedical Engineering. As early as 1965, a formal committee was appointed by the Chancellor of the Davis campus to investigate the propriety of forming a program of graduate study and research in Biomedical Engineering. After several years of administration planning and defining the academic scope, the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Group (BMEGG) was formally established in 1970 and initially offered a Ph.D. degree; a program for the M.S. degree was added in 1980.
In the early years of the BMEGG, the primary research emphasis was in Musculoskeletal Biomechanics. In fact, as of the early 90’s UC Davis had more faculty members in the American Society of Biomechanics than any other institution in North America. To create the Division of Biomedical Engineering and expand the research emphases of the Graduate Group, Dr. Maury Hull, chair of the BMEGG at the time, pursued a Whitaker Foundation Special Opportunity Award. Along with the contribution of matching funds from the College of Engineering, this Special Opportunity Award (awarded in 1999) established the Division of Biomedical Engineering within the College of Engineering, and allowed the BMEGG to add research tracks in Imaging and Molecular & Cellular Engineering.
The creation of the Division of BME was an important stepping stone toward the ultimate goal of creating a Department of Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis. However, another major hurdle for founding a BME department was a lack of laboratory and office space in the College of Engineering. This was addressed by a collaboration with the Genomics and Bioinformatics groups at UC Davis, who were pushing for construction of a new facility to house their research laboratories. These groups embraced the idea of including BME in the new building, and this partnership ultimately led to the construction of the Genome and Biological Sciences Facility (GBSF).
In 2001, the Division of BME received a substantial Leadership Development Award from the Whitaker Foundation, which provided start-up funds for new BME faculty and helped fund the construction of the GBSF, which was to be the largest building on campus with a price tag of approximately $100 million. Soon after, the Division of Biomedical Engineering was converted to the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME); the Department began an undergraduate program in Biomedical Engineering in 2002.
In 2015, the BMEGG eliminated the research track system, and replaced the three research tracks (Musculoskeletal Biomechanics, Imaging, and Molecular & Cellular Engineering) with more diversified engineering research areas. The BMEGG currently has six engineering research areas: 1) Biomechanics & Mechanobiology, 2) Biomedical Imaging & Biophotonics, 3) Computational & Synthetic Biology, 4) Neuroengineering & Bioelectricity, 5) Molecular, Cell, & Tissue Engineering, and 6) Biomaterials and Devices.