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History of the Department

For over four decades, Stanford faculty members in diverse departments have been engaged in bioengineering research and teaching.

Stanford has had long-standing research programs in several areas of bioengineering, most notably medical imaging, biomechanics, biomedical informatics, biochemical engineering and medical devices. Despite the successes of these programs in the second half of the 20th century, Stanford lacked the resources and mandate to create a world-class research and teaching program in bioengineering.

That began to change in January of 2002, when three faculty committees (Undergraduate, Graduate and Administration) were formed to advise the deans of Engineering and Medicine on the formation of a bioengineering department. The work of these committees was reported at a retreat in May of 2002. The Department of Bioengineering was created shortly afterward in June of 2002 with the approval of the provost, the president and the board of trustees of Stanford University. Bioengineering is unique at Stanford in that it is a joint department between the Schools of Engineering and Medicine.

Scott Delp was appointed as the founding chairman, and Paul Yock, M.D., was named department co-chair in 2002. Seven more professors (Russ Altman, Dennis Carter, Greg Kovacs, Norbert Pelc, Matthew Scott, James Swartz, Charles Taylor) from Engineering and Medicine were the founding faculty.

The Bioengineering Department offices were established in the Clark Center for Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, and a search for new faculty was launched in 2003.


Key Events in Our History

  • 2002: The Department of Bioengineering is the first department at Stanford to be jointly managed by two schools.
  • 2003: Scott L. Delp, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, is appointed chair. Paul Yock, a cardiologist who is known for his work in medical devices, is appointed co-chair.
  • 2003: Chairs establish deparmental founding faculty: Russ Altman, Dennis Carter, Greg Kovacs, Norbert Pelc, Matthew Scott, James Swartz and Charles Taylor.
  • 2004: Our first students are accepted into the MS and PhD program for the 2004-05 academic year.
  • 2004: Three new faculty join the department: Karl Deisseroth, Jennifer Cochran and Stephen Quake.
  • 2004: The National Institutes of Health awards $19.9 million over five years to the department to lead the National Center for Physics-Based Simulation of Biological Structures (SimBioS).
  • 2004: Greg Kovacs leads the development of the bioengineering core curriculum.
  • 2006: Kwabena Boahen joins faculty.
  • 2007: Markus Covert, Zev Bryant and Annelise Barron join faculty.
  • 2007: Russ Altman, professor of genetics, medicine and bioengineering, appointed chair. Stephen Quake, professor of bioengineering, appointed co-chair.
  • 2007: President John Hennessy names Carla Shatz, head of Harvard's neurobiology department, to lead the next phase of Stanford's Bio-X program.
  • 2008: Drew Endy, KC Huang, and Christna Smolke join faculty.
  • 2012: Norbert Pelc, Professor of Bioengineering and of Radiology, appointed chair. 
  • 2014: The Shriram Center for Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering opens.
  • 2014-2015: Stanley Qi, Bo Wang, Alison Marsden, Polly Fordyce join faculty.
  • 2015: New Bioengineering major approved.
  • 2016: Faculty appointments totals 30.
  • 2017: Jennifer Cochran, Professor of Bioengineering and, by courtesy, of Chemical Engineering, appointed chair.
  • 2018: The Department of Bioengineering celebrates fifteen years as a department at Stanford University.