New Bioengineering and Life Sciences (BELS) Initiative launched at Notre Dame

Collage of bioengineering images

The new Bioengineering and Life Sciences (BELS) Initiative at the University of Notre Dame will advance human health and wellness through interdisciplinary biomedical research and training. This work will range from fundamental discoveries through detection, prevention, and treatment of disease.

This initiative represents an investment in science and engineering — unprecedented in scale at Notre Dame — that will create the capacity for transformative discoveries in human health, especially for vulnerable and underserved populations and those with rare and neglected diseases.

Already, more than 80 Notre Dame faculty and professionals are involved in bioengineering-related research and training in both the College of Engineering, the College of Science and across multiple institutes with thriving research portfolios. BELS will build on that foundation, facilitating collaborative, cutting-edge research that leads to impactful results.

Roughly half of the world’s population has limited access to essential health services, because of distance, poverty or both. BELS will pay particular attention to these marginalized groups, undertaking research that can have a broad impact outside of a traditional hospital or medical facility setting.

“Notre Dame is well-positioned to lead this transformative initiative and to spearhead discoveries that will directly improve human health, particularly for those who are currently forgotten or passed over by current healthcare systems” said Patricia J. Culligan, the Matthew H. McCloskey Dean of the College of Engineering.

“Headquartered in our newest interdisciplinary science and engineering research building, BELS will facilitate research advances at the intersection of science and engineering.”

“This initiative is thrilling because we are strategically developing the tools and technologies essential for better diagnostics and treatments worldwide, moving beyond traditional paradigms to invest in a comprehensive biomedical research enterprise,” said Santiago Schnell, the William K. Warren Foundation Dean of the College of Science.

“Not only that, we are tackling challenges few other institutions are addressing – including rare diseases and global health disparities – which resonates deeply with our university mission,”  Schnell said.

Paul Bohn, the Arthur J. Schmitt Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame, is the inaugural director of BELS. Bohn will work closely with an executive committee that includes Culligan; Schnell; and Vice President of Research Jeffrey F. Rhoads to direct significant new investments in infrastructure and instrumentation over the next decade; work with academic units across campus to recruit faculty scholars to advance research and training in bioengineering and life sciences disciplines; and implement cross-disciplinary graduate and postdoctoral training programs.

“What excites me most about the Bioengineering and Life Sciences Initiative is that it will be a great program in the spirit of Notre Dame’s mission to be a powerful means for doing good in the world,” said Bohn. “This is an opportunity to work at the frontiers of biomedical research, and that’s exactly where Notre Dame should be.”

To learn more about BELS, see