By Phil Gloudemans, Associate Director of the Office of University Communications, Boston College

Research gets underway at Boston College (photo by Caitlin Cunningham)


Last fall, Boston College (BC) welcomed engineering students among its incoming freshman class for the first time in its 158-year history—the culmination of a strategic initiative to launch an engineering department in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences that will offer a Bachelor of science degree in Human-Centered Engineering (HCE).

The future engineers are an impressive group of 28 students from 19 states who chose to be a part of BC’s inaugural engineering class because of its human-centered engineering focus, which prepares students to solve complex problems that address critical human needs.

The new major will integrate BC’s core liberal arts focus with a rigorous engineering curriculum that will emphasize experiential learning and application-based course offerings, providing students opportunities to work in collaborative teams and across disciplines to address pressing issues in the areas of the environment, health, and energy.

Within the inaugural class, 40 percent of the enrolled engineering students are male and 60 percent are female. Five are recipients of Gabelli Scholarships, an undergraduate academic merit program that annually bestows full-tuition awards to eighteen incoming BC freshmen. The average SAT scores of the engineering cohort is 1505; the average ACT score is 35. A total of 31 percent is of African, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American descent, and/or from other countries.

“Our inaugural class of human-centered engineers are academically impressive, co-curricularly multifaceted, scientifically curious, and eager to use their BC engineering degrees to positively impact the human condition,” said Grant Gosselin, BC’s director of Undergraduate Admission. “We look forward to watching all they will accomplish during the next four years and beyond.”

Glenn Gaudette, a biomedical engineer who pioneered the use of plants as scaffolding for heart regeneration, was named the inaugural chair of BC’s new Engineering Department in November 2020; he assumed the post on January 1, 2021.

Research gets underway at Boston College (photo by Caitlin Cunningham)


“I’m very excited about this program because it truly brings the human being into engineering,” said Gaudette, who had (since 2004) been the William Smith Dean’s Professor of Biomedical Engineering and the executive director of the Value Creation Initiative at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “When we’re envisioning the future of engineering education, we need to think about more than just the technical; we also need to think about the mindset. We want our students to consider humans as they develop new technologies, and to identify what the real problems are, and how can we use engineering to make the world a better place. That’s what we’re focused on.”

Kiana Ramos, a freshman from Springfield, MA, was motivated by problem-solving to apply to BC and its Engineering program.

“I got into engineering in a unique way,” she said. “In 2019, my family and I went to go visit my extended family in Puerto Rico and [over the course of] four or five days, we lost power every day. Climate change and Hurricane Maria [a deadly Category 5 hurricane that devastated the northeastern Caribbean in September 2017] have left the infrastructure in Puerto Rico brutalized, and it was horrific to see how bad it still was two years later. So, when I finally sat there and thought about it, I wanted to help my family and others around the world because I cannot imagine living like that every day. That’s why I want to be an engineer: because I really saw engineers as people who could help fix climate change, and who could help so many people.”

Serial entrepreneur Matthew Fonte, a 1994 graduate of BC’s Carroll School of Management, believes that learning the fundamentals of engineering, whether it’s electrical, mechanical or civil, are valuable, but there isn’t a call to action to use the degree to better society.

“That’s the pillar of BC’s Human-Centered Engineering Program,” said Fonte, founder and president of ColdSnap, a Billerica, MA-based manufacturer of rapid freezing appliances. “I think it has the `bones’ of a world-class program.”

The HCE program is housed within a new, 150,000-square-foot facility that opened in January 2022: a $150-million building that represents the largest single investment in the sciences at Boston College, and serves as the focal point of a $300 million University science initiative. The new structure also hosts the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society, the Computer Science Department, and the Shea Center, as well as classrooms.

“The transparency of the new building is important to the type of education we’re delivering because we want our students to see that there are no boundaries between engineering and liberal arts, business and economics, social work, and nursing,” said Gaudette. “HCE provides endless opportunities for collaboration between our students and students from across campus. We need them to come together because that’s what we’re trying to do with this engineering program. We need to integrate science and technology to address society’s needs.”

David Quigley, BC provost and dean of faculties, captured the University’s rationale for HCE in a single sentence: “The launch of an undergraduate Engineering degree promises to position Boston College and our graduates to help lead the way on ethical, human-centered explorations of the possibilities and perils of technology in the 21st century.”