What Do Bioengineers Do? Could you imagine being part of a team inventing machines that produce artificial organs or designing molecules with structures that target cancer cells?
Do you dream about developing cutting-edge medical devices or prosthetics that will enable people to live fuller, healthier, and longer lives?
Would you like to be of service to people, work with living systems, and apply advanced technology to the complex problems of medical care?
The field of bioengineering offers unique opportunities to make a real difference by combining engineering principles with medical and biological sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare.
- Develop devices and procedures that solve medical and health-related problems by combining their knowledge of biology and medicine with engineering principles and practice.
- Do research, along with medical scientists, to develop and evaluate systems and products such as:
- Artificial organs
- Prostheses instrumentation
- Medical information systems
- Health management and care delivery systems
- Also may design:
- Devices used in various medical procedures
- Imaging systems such as magnetic resonance imaging
- Devices for automating insulin injections or controlling body functions
- Mechanical or electrical engineering (in addition to specialized medical training) used in areas like instrumentation design, such as arthroscopy and angioplasty
- Biomaterials, such as bioengineered skin
- Biomechanics used in areas such the pacemaker for the heart or the heart-lung machine
- Medical imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging
- Rehabilitation engineering for areas such as kidney dialysis
- Orthopedic engineering, such as used for artificial joints
- Treena Livingston Arinzeh – the first to demonstrate that scientists can implant donor stem cells taken from the bone marrow of adults in order to form functional bone tissue that is not rejected by the body
- Dorothea Koh – Senior Manager at Medtronic and former Henkens Biodesign fellow, currently working at the forefront of the biomedical industry by designing user-centered medical devices that will impact lives worldwide
- Leslie A. Geddes – best known for developing the method of obtaining the electrocardiogram and respiration from chest electrodes for NASA, which is used in patient monitoring today
- Peter Altman – President and CEO of BioCardia, Inc., a developer of cardiovascular biotherapeutic delivery systems which enable clinical studies of cell and gene transplantation therapies to treat myocardial infarction and heart failure
Areas of Employment
- Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing
- Hospitals: state, local, and private
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences for facilities of companies and educational and medical institutions
- Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing
- Government institutions including:
- Regulatory agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration
- National laboratories, such as the National Institutes of Health
- Military service, including Army, Navy, and Air Force and Veterans Administration hospitals and rehabilitation facilities
Career Guidance Suggestions for Pre-University Students
- Advanced algebra
- Engineering fundamentals
- Data analysis
- Genetic circuits
- Mass transfer
- Signals and systems
- Thermodynamics and kinetics
- Biomedical technologies
- Summer programs
- Afterschool programs
- Online puzzles and games
- Online courses
- Maker Faires
- Design projects
- Science centers and museums
- Professional societies like IEEE
- Analytical skills: analyze the needs of patients and customers to design appropriate solutions.
- Communication skills: be able to express oneself clearly and seek others’ ideas and incorporate those ideas into the problem-solving process.
- Math skills: use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in mathematics, as well as statistics, for analysis, design, and troubleshooting.
- Problem-solving skills: typically deal with and solve problems in complex biological systems.
- Creativity: must be creative to come up with innovative and integrative advances in healthcare equipment and devices.
Links and Resources
- American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering: non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., representing 50,000 individuals and the top 2% of medical and biological engineers.
- American Society of Biomechanics: biomechanics working in different disciplines and fields of application such as biological sciences, exercise and sports science, ergonomics and human factors, health sciences, and engineering and applied science.
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Bioengineering Division: focused on the application of mechanical engineering knowledge, skills, and principles from conception to the design, development, analysis, and operation of biomechanical systems.
- Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation: a non-profit organization focusing on the development, management, and use of safe and effective healthcare technology.
- Biomedical Engineering Society: a professional society for biomedical engineering and bioengineering.
- Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine: a professional organization focused on making sure patients are correctly diagnosed and safely treated.
- International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering: federation of national and transnational societies and non-governmental organizations for the United Nations and the World Health Organization focused on delivery of healthcare to the world.
- International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics: a global multidisciplinary non-governmental organization aiming to improve the quality of life for persons who may benefit from prosthetic, orthotic, mobility, and assistive devices.
- Society for Biomaterials: interdisciplinary specialties including tissue engineering, nanotechnology, orthopedic polymers, dental implants, and drug delivery mechanisms.
- IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society: the world’s largest international society for biomedical engineers, providing its 11,000 members with access to information, ideas, and opinions that are shaping one of the fastest growing fields in science.