Master of Engineering Science in Biomedical Engineering – Research

Summary

This Master of Engineering Science in Biomedical Engineering research programme is aimed at developing engineering science research specialists in biomedical engineering. They will be able to develop complex biomedical engineering systems by integrating the medical and the engineering domains. The graduates will be able to develop new systems and improve existing systems. The graduates will be able to apply these systems to human patients, addressing healthcare needs of South Africa and of global communities.

The programme prepares the candidate for a research, academic or consulting career. It requires a candidate to undertake independent research, with limited supervision, at advanced academic levels culminating in the submission, assessment and acceptance of a thesis, as well as a paper suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed journal or an international conference. Through the research that leads to the thesis and paper, a graduate would develop the ability to evaluate the research of others in the area of biomedical engineering based on knowledge of the relevant literature and applicable research methodologies.

The defining characteristic of this qualification is that the candidate is required to demonstrate independent research capability and to make a significant contribution to biomedical engineering knowledge. Due to the advanced technical nature of the programme, students will be required to have a technical, engineering or science background, but the interdisciplinary nature of the programme will allow students from a broad spectrum of backgrounds to enrol. This will include students from universities of technology, after they have completed a suitable honours or postgraduate diploma.

Selection Criteria for the Master of Engineering Science in Biomedical Engineering research programme

Students must hold at least a relevant BEng, BScHons, PGDip in Engineering, other four-year bachelor’s degree at NQF-level 8, or master’s degree from a South African university of technology; or hold other academic degree qualifications and appropriate experience (assessed using the regular “recognition of prior learning” procedures) that have been approved by the Faculty Board.
Students will normally be required to have completed their preceding qualifications in the minimum time, with a credit-weighted average of 60%, as well as 60% in the final year of study preceding the masters. Preference will be given to students with higher averages and with preceding studies better aligned with their selected area of specialisation within biomedical engineering. Selection will also be applied to ensure that only students are admitted that have the academic ability to master the content with substantial self-learning. Students that do not meet the normal admission requirements, but have demonstrated through prior learning that they have achieved a similar level of expertise, will be considered for admission through the normal RPL processes. The advanced level of the entrance requirements are expected to limit the number of admissions based on RPL to small number far below the 10% allowed.
Students must find internal supervisors willing to supervise them on a provisionally outlined research topic before they are admitted.

Only a limited number of students are selected annually, in accordance with the capacity to supervise students and the engineering faculty’s postgraduate enrolment plan. Equity targets are also considered in the selection process.
Structure

The Master of Engineering Science in Biomedical Engineering programme comprises a research project, but some postgraduate modules will often be prescribed to students as supplementary study to give them a sound biomedical engineering base for their research.

The research project will be a major individual research project aimed at solving a complex biomedical engineering problem. The student will be guided by a supervisor in regular (typically weekly or bi-weekly) meetings of the student with the supervisor. Detailed feedback by the supervisor on drafts of the thesis will play an important formative role. The project will entail formulating objectives in the context of biomedical engineering, planning the project, surveying the relevant literature and a substantial part of own research to develop new knowledge or critically assess existing knowledge’s application to new problems. Critical evaluation of the research results will also be required.

The supplementary modules will typically be from the companion structured masters in Biomedical engineering. Substantial independent work is expected of postgraduate students in the modules, hence the relatively low contact time, to develop students’ abilities to master independently new knowledge and skills. Since the supplementary modules and research supervision will be offered by departments already offering similar modules and supervision, the teaching methods that have proved successful in the other teaching will also be applied in the new biomedical engineering programme. The students can also do modules from the PGDip (Engineering Science) or structured master’s programme in biomedical engineering to develop their expertise where necessary.

Since this is a postgraduate programme, requiring a prior NQF level 8 qualification, the academic support will be at postgraduate level, i.e. staff members are available for consultations with students. The student’s supervisor for the research project will regularly meet the student to guide the student. All students will be required to complete a postgraduate writing workshop, which includes avoiding plagiarism, offered by the Language Centre.

The research may be conducted on the Stellenbosch or the Tygerberg campus of Stellenbosch University. The existing assistance and support offered to postgraduate students at the respective campuses (where such degree programmes are already offered) will also be available to students in this programme. The University-wide examination and quality assurance processes will ensure that quality of teaching and learning is maintained. In addition, the Engineering Faculty’s standard quality assurance processes will be applied, unless the Biomedical Engineering Programme Committee formulates alternatives, with the approval of the three faculties involved Students will be allowed to register for this programme for no more than three years of full time study, or five years of part time study. If they do not complete the programme within that period, the student may apply for permission to register for one further year and such permission may only be granted by the Faculty Committee of the Engineering Faculty. A major consideration in granting the permission is whether the student is likely to complete the programme within the extra year.

The programme coordinator, or someone designated by the Director of the Institute for Biomedical Engineering, will meet once per semester (typically near the middle of the semester) with a representative group of students to get feedback from the students.

In research-based programmes, such as the MEng Research, the reports of the examiners for students’ theses also contribute, in the long term, to the feedback to the faculty, since each student’s thesis is examined by at least two unattached examiners, of whom at least one must be independent of the University. A trend of increasing favourable or critical examiners reports will therefore be an indication of corresponding improvement or deterioration of the quality of the programme.

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