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Bioengineering Overview - Preparation - Day In The Life - Specialty Areas - Earnings - Employment - Career Path Forecast - Major Advances -
Professional Organizations

Day in the Life
By combining 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 catheterization laboratory.
  • 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 healing.

The Workplace
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 Foundation.

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