Marios Gavrielides, Richard Gray, and Sandy Weininger
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Bioengineers working for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) play important roles in protecting and promoting public health, as well facilitating medical device innovation. Most are involved in a variety of duties including evaluating new medical device technologies, conducting basic and applied research, reviewing grant proposal submissions, and providing policy recommendations based on scientific and technical knowledge. Biomedical engineers are involved with understanding a particular mechanism or assessing the performance of a device or technology, as well as trying to understand its limitations.
Weighing-in on important decisions impacting the scientific and commercial enterprises is a highlight of being a bioengineer at FDA. As an example, a bioengineer may need to determine how to select scan parameters while using X-ray computed tomography (CT) to measure the size of a tumor accurately, or determine experiments to compare traditional microscopy to digital microscopy for examining pathology tissue. The outcomes of such lines of inquiry helps bioengineers make recommendations to the agency about whether related medical devices are safe and effective.
“It’s fulfilling to know that your work directly impacts the overall health system, and consequently the everyday lives of all citizens,” says Marios Gavrielides. “At the same time, it provides relatively good job security compared to some industry jobs.” Sandy Weininger adds, “As a government biomedical engineer, you are in position to work with less bias and commercial constraints, as well as produce independent evidence that no one else might.”
Bioengineers at FDA make a huge impact on the field. They ensure the safety and efficacy of many products (e.g., medical, food, cosmetic, veterinary), assist in the public dissemination of scientific information, and facilitate innovations. The medical device and safety standards they develop impact the entire medical device industry, immediately influencing public health.
Student internships are a great way to get your foot in the door. As an intern, a student can experience the work environment and the research in progress as well as form professional relationships with colleagues. Apply for all open positions through the web site USAJOBS.GOV. You can select “Search Jobs” for “Type of Work or Work Schedule,” including internships or summer work.
FDA hires individuals with bachelor’s degrees, although some positions require advanced degrees. Sandy Weininger recommends: “Obtain a strong engineering background first, then add experience from a clinical perspective. In addition, it’s a plus to have a few years of experience in industry before coming to the government.”