Charles Taylor is opening a career door for engineering students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette that they might not have thought of entering: the biomedical industry.

Taylor, a bioengineering professor, is at the center of creating an artificial heart lab at UL-Lafayette’s Rougeau Hall. He introduced a pilot class of mechanical engineering students last spring to the theories and principles of artificial organ creation, even taking them to an open-heart surgery at Lafayette General Medical Center.

“The local community really stepped up,” Taylor said. “It’s been very promising out of the gate.”

With a booming Gulf Coast oil industry, most chemical and mechanical engineering students go to UL-Lafayette looking to join those sectors. But there also are opportunities for engineering students in the biomedical field.

“I love biology, and a lot of the jobs in this area are oil-field related,” said Jacob King, a doctoral student under Taylor. “The oil field is a great field to work in, but I wanted to focus on the biological side of engineering.”

King was one of the students in Taylor’s artificial organs class.

“He really gave us the spiel on how biology relates to what we’ve been learning in our mechanical engineering classes,” King said. “Everything is just links and ligaments.”

He and his classmates created a mockup of the cardiovascular system in the lab using hydraulic pumps and tubes, which they use to simulate different types of heart complications and to see the effects on other parts of the body, King said.

The mechanical engineering department has wanted to test the waters with a bioengineering curriculum, Taylor said.

“There’s really been a push to determine the biomedical interest in the mechanical engineering program,” he said. “The biomedical industry is very diverse, and the class has helped to really find out what that interest is.”

Taylor said he believes a bioengineering program could flourish at UL-Lafayette.

“Here, you see student capabilities you just don’t see with traditional biomedical programs around the country,” he said. “Typically, biomedical schools are good at getting their students ready for med school, but the biomedical field could really benefit from having the capabilities these mechanical engineering students have.”

The mechanical engineering department currently offers only a bioengineering minor, but the future could yield an undergraduate program or even more.