About a dozen University of Central Florida electrical engineering students took an unusual field trip Friday to see a doctor perform prostate surgery.

The students in Professor Zhihua Qu’s class watched as Dr. Vipul Patel performed prostatectomy surgery at Florida Hospital Celebration Health with the aid of the da Vinci robot.

Patel is the medical director of the Global Robotic Institute at Florida Hospital, an internationally known center for training doctors on the use of robotics for laparoscopic surgery. He has performed more than 4,000 such surgeries and is considered an international expert on the use of robotics in surgery. The technology is highly precise and minimally invasive, which allows for quicker and less painful patient recovery.

The UCF students who observed Friday morning and spoke to Dr. Patel about the use of technology in medicine are taking a course in medical robotics and tele-operations within the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The field trip was an opportunity for students to see that what they are learning has practical applications.

Qu is the interim chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering Division at the college. Among his research interests are robotics and automation. He runs the Robotics Lab, and in 2009 he was named a fellow of the IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional association for the advancement of technology.