Joyce Y. Wong is Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering at Boston University. She is involved in groundbreaking research and development of biomaterials to detect and treat cardiovascular disease. Her work also focuses on designing blood vessels for children with congenital heart conditions that will grow as the child grows and develops.
Wong was inspired by several scientists in her family to choose a career in biomedical engineering. Both of her parents are chemists and her uncle is a molecular biologist. Wong initially set out to pursue a career in materials science with applications in automobile design. But after spending time with her uncle over a break in her graduate training, Wong said, she became fascinated by biology and nature. Wong credits her family support, great role models, and mentors for her success.
Beginning her journey as a biomedical engineer, Wong worked in the highly esteemed lab of Robert Langer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There, she was able to pursue materials science with applications in biology including tissue engineering. “It was a great place to start,” said Wong. She then went on to complete post doctorate training at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
“If you are focused and you have the drive and desire, there are [undergraduate and graduate] programs out there for you,” says Wong. Wong advises students interested in biomedical engineering to try out different research experiences to locate their passions within the field. Students may want to set their sights on tackling problems at the interface of medicine and engineering with the “highest unmet clinical needs” because therein lies the biggest impact, she added. Lastly, Wong says students should spend time honing their networking skills in order to develop strong research collaborations.
Wong expressed that biomedical engineering is a rewarding career path because of the potential to improve the quality of life. During Wong’s graduate training, her father had a heart attack – a turning point in her career. “I knew then that I wanted to work on problems that had an impact,” said Wong.
In her current work at Boston University, Wong is focuses on finding ways to treat surgical adhesions, or bands of scar tissue, as they are a major cause of infertility. She is also using nanotechnology and imaging methods for enhanced oil recovery.
Wong enjoys working as a professor in academia because she likes teaching the next generation of biomedical engineers. In academia, Wong has the freedom to pursue any research questions that she desires, so long as she can secure funding to support it. She is also able to work on multiple diverse research projects simultaneously.