Five years after the biomedical engineering program launched at the University of North Texas, the department has a new home.

Officials on Thursday hosted a grand opening event, three days after the first classes and labs started Monday in the building at the Discovery Park campus in north Denton.

Vijay Vaidyanathan, the founding chair of biomedical engineering, said the new 26,250-square-foot building will enable students, faculty and staff to continue to build the fast-growing program.

“Now with apologies to Stan Lee, with a great building comes great responsibility,” he said to the crowd’s laughter. “Thanks to the state-of-the-art teaching and research labs in this new building, we now have the resources to give our students the best education that they deserve, also while contributing to UNT’s research goals.”

Features in the $12.6 million building include two research labs, three teaching labs, classrooms and advanced equipment such as the Anatomage, a virtual dissecting table worth $70,000. The machine projects a 3D image of a cadaver, and the user can look at different organs, layers of muscle and tissue of several different “people.”

This is the first Anatomage at a university for undergrad and graduate level students, said Stephen Black, a doctoral student and teaching fellow who works with the machine.

“You can take real human beings and be able to dissect them and get into details, evaluating why they died, the cancers they had,” he said.

Students can design medical devices in programs and import them to the machine, to see the placement and how the machines could fit and work within the body, Black said.

Currently, there are more than 200 undergraduate students enrolled in the program at the undergraduate level, up from 45 in its inaugural year in 2014. There also are 10 graduate students and two doctoral candidates in the program, Vaidyanathan said.

The discipline is the fastest-growing in the engineering department and one of the top growing programs at the university, said Neal Smatresk, president of UNT.

“We’re on the cusp of a revolution so great that it will change our lives in the most serious of terms,” he said. “It will change our lives by adding years to the lives of ordinary citizens, adding quality of life to those who have suffered catastrophic injury. These are the types of things that go on in biomedical engineering programs.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @jennafduncan.

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