Day in the Life
biology and medicine with engineering, biomedical engineers develop devices
and procedures that solve medical and health-related problems. Many do
research, along with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists, to
develop and evaluate systems and products for use in the fields of biology
and health, such as artificial organs, prostheses (artificial devices that
replace missing body parts), instrumentation, medical information systems,
and health management and care delivery systems.
Bioengineers engineers design devices used in various
medical procedures, such as the computers used to analyze blood or the
laser systems used in corrective eye surgery. They develop artificial
organs, imaging systems such as magnetic resonance, ultrasound, and x-ray,
and devices for automating insulin injections or controlling body functions. Most engineers in this specialty
require a sound background in one of the basic engineering specialties,
such as mechanical or electronics engineering, in addition to specialized
biomedical training. Some specialties within bioengineering or biomedical
engineering include biomaterials, biomechanics, medical imaging,
rehabilitation engineering, and orthopedic engineering.
Teams and Coworkers
Almost all jobs in engineering require some sort of interaction with
coworkers. Bioengineers will be working closely with medical doctors and
medical assistants -- in teams to solve a wide range of challenges. Whether
they are working in a team situation, or just asking for advice, most
engineers have to have the ability to communicate and work with other
people. Engineers should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and
detail-oriented. They should be able to work as part of a team and to
communicate well, both orally and in writing. Communication abilities are
important because engineers often interact with specialists in a wide range
of fields outside engineering.
Examples of work done by biomedical engineers include:
- designing and constructing cardiac pacemakers,
defibrillators, artificial kidneys, blood oxygenators, hearts, blood
vessels, joints, arms, and legs.
- designing computer systems to monitor patients
during surgery or in intensive care, or to monitor healthy persons in
unusual environments, such as astronauts in space or underwater divers
at great depth.
- designing and building sensors to measure
blood chemistry, such as potassium, sodium, 02, CO2, and pH.
- designing instruments and devices for
therapeutic uses, such as a laser system for eye surgery or a device
for automated delivery of insulin.
- developing strategies for clinical decision
making based on expert systems and artificial intelligence, such as a
computer-based system for selecting seat cushions for paralyzed
patients or for, managing the care of patients with severe burns or
for diagnosing diseases.
- designing clinical laboratories and other
units within the hospital and health care delivery system that utilize
advanced technology. Examples would be a computerized analyzer for
blood samples, ambulances for use in rural areas, or a cardiac
- designing, building and investigating medical
imaging systems based on X-rays (computer assisted tomography),
isotopes (position emission tomography), magnetic fields (magnetic
resonance imaging), ultrasound, or newer modalities.
- constructing and implementing
mathematical/computer models of physiological systems.
- designing and constructing biomaterials and
determining the mechanical, transport, and biocompatibility properties
of implantable artificial materials.
- implementing new diagnostic procedures,
especially those requiring engineering analyses to determine
parameters that are not directly accessible to measurements, such as
in the lungs or heart.
- investigating the biomechanics of injury and wound
Bioengineers hold about 9,700 jobs in the U.S. Manufacturing industries
employed 38 percent of all biomedical engineers, primarily in the
pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing and medical instruments and
supplies industries. Many others worked for hospitals. Some also worked for
government agencies or as independent consultants.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US
Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor
Statistics and the Whitaker