Biomedical engineering is the application of the principles and problem-solving techniques of engineering to biology and medicine. This is evident throughout healthcare, from diagnosis and analysis to treatment and recovery, and has entered the public conscience though the proliferation of implantable medical devices, such as pacemakers and artificial hips, to more futuristic technologies such as stem cell engineering and the 3-D printing of biological organs.
Engineering itself is an innovative field, the origin of ideas leading to everything from automobiles to aerospace, skyscrapers to sonar. Biomedical engineering focuses on the advances that improve human health and health care at all levels.
Biomedical engineers differ from other engineering disciplines that have an influence on human health in that biomedical engineers use and apply an intimate knowledge of modern biological principles in their engineering design process. Aspects of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, materials science, chemistry, mathematics, and computer science and engineering are all integrated with human biology in biomedical engineering to improve human health, whether it be an advanced prosthetic limb or a breakthrough in identifying proteins within cells.
There are many subdisciplines within biomedical engineering, including the design and development of active and passive medical devices, orthopedic implants, medical imaging, biomedical signal processing, tissue and stem cell engineering, and clinical engineering, just to name a few.
What do Biomedical Engineers do?
Biomedical engineers work in a wide variety of settings and disciplines. There are opportunities in industry for innovating, designing, and developing new technologies; in academia furthering research and pushing the frontiers of what is medically possible as well as testing, implementing, and developing new diagnostic tools and medical equipment; and in government for establishing safety standards for medical devices. Many biomedical engineers find employment in cutting-edge start-up companies or as entrepreneurs themselves.
Tissue and stem cell engineers are working towards artificial recreation of human organs, aiding in transplants and helping millions around the world live better lives. Experts in medical devices develop new implantable and external devices such as pacemakers, coronary stents, orthopaedic implants, prosthetics, dental products, and ambulatory devices. Clinical engineers work to ensure that medical equipment is safe and reliable for use in clinical settings. Biomedical engineering is an extremely broad field with many opportunities for specialization.
What Careers are there in Biomedical Engineering?
In the last few years, both Forbes and CNN Money have dubbed biomedical engineering as the best health care career out there. And the possibilities within biomedical engineering are nearly endless. New innovations in technology, materials, and knowledge mean that tomorrow’s breakthroughs can barely be conceived of today. After all, a generation ago, biomedical engineering, as a field, did not exist.
Career paths in biomedical engineering tend to be driven by the interests of the individual: the huge breadth of the field allows biomedical engineers to develop specialties in an area that interests them, be it biomaterials, neuromodulation devices, orthopaedic repair, or even stem cell engineering. Biomedical engineers often combine an aptitude for problem solving and technical know-how with focused study in medicine, healthcare, and helping others. It is this hybridization that has led to so much innovation—and so much opportunity—in biomedical engineering.
The Future of Biomedical Engineering
Economically speaking, medical diagnostics triple in market value each year. Revolutionary advances in medical imaging and medical diagnostics are changing the way medicine is practiced. New medical devices, arising in the research laboratories of biomedical engineers around the world, have completely altered the manner by which disease and trauma is dealt with by physicians, extending the quality and length of human life.
Ultimately, the future of biomedical engineering is tied to both the issues and obstacles we discover and advances and achievements in fields like chemistry, materials science, and biology. Just as in most other fields, interdisciplinarity means that innovation originates from many directions at the same time.