What is a Biomedical Engineer?

A Biomedical Engineer is a specialized type of Engineer. Also known as: BioMed Technician, BioMed Engineer, Biomedical Engineering Technician, Biomedical Equipment Technician, Biomedical Technician.

A biomedical engineer is someone who analyzes and designs solutions to problems in biology and medicine, with the goal of improving the quality and effectiveness of patient care. They work in manufacturing, universities, hospitals, research facilities of companies and educational and medical institutions, teaching, and government regulatory agencies.

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What does a Biomedical Engineer do?

A biomedical engineer will typically do the following:

  • Design systems and products, such as artificial organs, artificial devices that replace body parts, and machines for diagnosing medical problems
  • Install, adjust, maintain, repair, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment
  • Evaluate the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of biomedical equipment
  • Train clinicians and other personnel on the proper use of equipment
  • Work with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists to research the engineering aspects of biological systems of humans and animals

A biomedical engineer may design instruments, devices, and software, bringing together knowledge from many technical sources to develop new procedures, or conducting research needed to solve clinical problems. They often serve a coordinating function, using their background in both engineering and medicine. In industry, they may create products where an in-depth understanding of living systems and technology is essential. They frequently work in research and development or in quality assurance.

Some biomedical engineers design electrical circuits, software to run medical equipment, or computer simulations to test new drug therapies. Some also design and build artificial body parts to replace injured limbs. In some cases, they develop the materials needed to make the replacement body parts. They also design rehabilitative exercise equipment.

The work of these engineers spans many professional fields. For example, although their expertise is based in engineering and biology, they often design computer software to run complicated instruments, such as three-dimensional x-ray machines. Alternatively, many of these engineers use their knowledge of chemistry and biology to develop new drug therapies. Others draw heavily on mathematics and statistics to build models, in order to understand the signals transmitted by the brain or heart. Some specialty areas within biomedical engineering include bioinstrumentation, biomaterials, biomechanics, cellular, tissue, and genetic engineering, clinical engineering, medical imaging, orthopedic surgery, rehabilitation engineering, and systems physiology. Some people with training in biomedical engineering become professors.

How to become a Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from an accredited program to enter the occupation. Alternatively, they can get a bachelor’s degree in a different field of engineering and then either get a graduate degree in biomedical engineering or get on-the-job training in biomedical engineering.

Prospective biomedical engineering students should take high school science courses, such as chemistry, physics, and biology. They should also take mathematics, including calculus. Courses in drafting or mechanical drawing and computer programming are also useful. Bachelor’s degree programs in biomedical engineering focus on engineering and biological sciences. Programs include laboratory-based courses in addition to classes in subjects such as fluid and solid mechanics, computer programming, circuit design, and biomaterials. Other required courses include in-depth training in biological sciences, including physiology.

Biomedical engineers must be able to analyze the needs of patients and customers to design appropriate solutions. Because biomedical engineers sometimes work with patients and frequently work with other professionals, such as medical scientists or other engineers, they must be able to express themselves clearly. Biomedical engineers often work in teams and gather input from patients, therapists, physicians, and business professionals. They must seek others’ ideas and incorporate them into the problem-solving process. Biomedical engineers use the principles of calculus and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Some biomedical engineers attend dental or medical school to specialize in applications at the front lines of patient care, such as using electric impulses in new ways to get muscles moving again. Some earn law degrees and work as patent attorneys.

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Further Reading

  • Bioengineer Job Description

    Bioengineers interact with a variety of medical professionals — biologists, physicians, biochemists, therapists and physiologists — to design, develop and manufacture instruments and devices, or to develop procedures to remedy clinical problems.

  • Biomedical Engineering

    BME: Best Major Ever?! First things first, what in the world does a biomedical engineer actually do and why would anyone in their right mind commit to what appears on the surface to be such a grueling endeavor?

  • Biomedical Engineering And Heart Health

    For Katie Hilpisch, a senior biomedical engineer at Medtronic, helping devise therapies for heart patients is all in a day's work!

  • What It Takes To Be A Bioengineer

    Biomedical engineering is expected to be the fastest-growing job market in the United States during the next seven years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of biomedical engineers is projected to rise by about 62 percent.

  • Lori Laird (Biomedical Engineer)

    My name is Lori Laird. I'm a biomedical engineer for Guidant Corporation. I work in the vascular-intervention division of Guidant.

  • Biomedical Engineering

    Biomedical engineers study, design, develop and evaluate biological and medical systems and products such as artifical organs, prostheses, medical instruments and information systems

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