Mario Romero-Ortega to lead Biomedical Engineering at the University

Mario Romero-Ortega was selected through a nationwide search to head the University of Arizona’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, starting with the fall semester of 2023.

Mario Romero-Ortega was selected through a nationwide search to head the University of Arizona’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, starting with the fall semester of 2023.

“I am intrigued by the culture of collaboration, the quality of students and faculty, and the unified vision of University of Arizona leadership to impact biomedical engineering and health, from local to global,” he says.

Romero-Ortega will join the College of Engineering from the University of Houston, where he served in the College of Engineering as the Cullen Professor of Biomedical Engineering and directs the BME undergraduate program. He is also a professor of biomedical sciences at Tilman Fertitta J. Family College of Medicine.

“I am confident Mario will bring strong leadership to BME at an exciting time for the department, including as we look to expand our collaboration with UA Health Sciences,” said David W. Hahn, Dean of the Craig M. Berge college. “He will be an asset to a team dedicated to improving healthcare, advancing technology and making the program the best it can be for our students and industry partners.”

The first step

Romero-Ortega’s top priority is to grow the department in a way that places its programs among the top in the world for BME. In addition to rankings, indicators of success will include publication of innovative research, new partnerships with health industry stakeholders and high levels of student engagement.

“For me, student success includes getting them excited to create solutions outside the classroom,” he says. “I want to empower students to become the next generation of academic entrepreneurs who will lead the expansion of the healthcare engineering industry in Arizona and the nation.”

Romero-Ortega is excited to lead the department’s upcoming graduate degree expansion to the Phoenix Bioscience Core and BME’s section in UA’s Cancer Engineering Initiative, which brings together cancer engineers and researchers, among others, in state-funded efforts to improve disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. .

Long Term Role

Cancer engineering is just one example of why this is “an exciting time for anyone involved in health care and engineering,” says Romero-Ortega.

“There is no denying: Medicine has been transformed by technique, in such a way that medicine has advanced
program trains physicians in engineering for complete convergence – not only in developing tools, but also in their understanding and application,” he said.

As Romero-Ortega considers the future of healthcare, he sees biomedical engineers working with diverse healthcare professionals and across all engineering disciplines, to provide real-time clinical information and change treatment options for patients.

Working together and combining tools including artificial intelligence, he said, the biomedical engineering community will create effective electronic devices that continuously collect and transmit diagnostic information. Users will be empowered to detect health conditions early or prevent them altogether.

“I think that shift is where biomedical engineering, and the Faculty of Engineering in particular, will play an important and empowering role,” he said.

Continuing the Beneficial Path

Romero-Ortega started his career as a neuroscience researcher, and one phone call led him to biomedical engineering. When a colleague asked him to work on a project that sounded to Romero-Ortega like science fiction, he was blown away and said yes.

He helped develop electronic implants designed to allow amputees to move and feel the sensations of a bionic arm.

Over the years, Romero-Ortega’s biomedical engineering research focused on peripheral neural cleft repair, regenerative peripheral neural interfaces for robotic prosthetic limbs, and bioelectronic medicine applications have been presented in more than 192 publications. Winner of the Engineering Excellence in Research Award and the Tech Titans Award in Technology Innovation, he has been awarded seven patents, with additional pending. He is also the co-founder and chief scientific officer of RBI Medical Inc. and Pioneer Neurotech Inc.

Now, leading the Arizona BME department is “just the right combination of amazing and rewarding opportunities and challenges.” He and his wife, Martha, were looking forward to enjoying the local Arizona cuisine and the hiking trails and mountains. The couple has two adult children.

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