Questions & Answers

Winfred Phillips, Senior Advisor to the President for the University of Florida

1. Is biomedical engineering a rewarding career path?

Yes, Biomedical Engineering is a rewarding career path.  Applying math, science and engineering to living systems from basic biological systems to health care, and providing solutions makes for a very rewarding career.

2. What types of problems to biomedical engineers address?

Biomedical engineers tackle a broad spectrum of engineering tasks form basic drug discovery and development to medical device development, to the design of hospital equipment to the design of support and diagnostic equipment to the design of health care delivery systems.

3. How do you become a biomedical engineer?

Biomedical Engineering requires a college education in an engineering discipline and an understanding of the basic sciences of living systems.

4. What are types of working environments for biomedical engineers?

All industrial, government and university engineering environments.

5. Which companies hire biomedical engineers?

Pharmaceutical, medical device manufacturers, agriculture business and food producers, government laboratories, and regulatory agencies all seek the skilled biomedical engineers and bioengineers.

6. What are the specialty areas within biomedical engineering?

Biomedical Engineering includes a broad spectrum of specialties from basic biology or chemistry related to cell biology, applied engineering for development of biomedical products, food science to medical devices and health care delivery.  Basically, the science and engineering appropriate for any living system from the molecular or cellular level systems engineering of all types, device design and health care delivery.

7. Do I need a degree in biomedical engineering to work as a biomedical engineer?

While you are not required to have a Biomedical Engineering degree to work in the field, a Bioengineering or Biomedical Engineering degree includes an understanding of life sciences and examples of bioengineering/biomedical systems and solutions.  While a degree in another basic engineering discipline can lead to a career in the field, it needs to be augmented with studies of living systems.

8. How long does it take to become a biomedical engineer?

A biomedical engineer requires four years of undergraduate university education at minimum.  Two year’s work toward a master’s degree is preferable.  A doctoral degree could add 3 to 4 more years of research oriented experience.

9. What types of careers do biomedical engineers hold?

Careers vary from pharmaceutical industry to medical device manufactures to academic careers.

10. What kinds of people do biomedical engineers work with?

Biomedical engineers work largely with those with technical skills and/or engineering degrees.  However, they have the opportunity to work in sales and public relations, and work with a broader public.

11. What kinds of skills do biomedical engineers possess?

According to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET):

• The capability to apply advanced math, science, and engineering to solve the problems at the interface of engineering and biology.

• An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

• An ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs

• An ability to function on multidisciplinary teams

• An ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

• An ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing

• The broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context

• A knowledge of contemporary issues

• An ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering and computing tools necessary for engineering practice

• A knowledge of biology and physiology

• An ability to make measurements on and interpret data from living systems, addressing the problems associated with the interaction between living and non-living materials and systems.

12. What courses are taken as an undergraduate student in biomedical engineering?

According to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), Undergraduate programs have core content that includes:

• One year of a combination of college level math and basic sciences including biological, chemical, and physical sciences.

• One and a half years of engineering topics, including engineering sciences and engineering design appropriate to the student’s field of study. Engineering science courses have their roots in mathematics and basic sciences but carry knowledge further toward creative application. These studies provide a bridge between math and basic sciences on the one hand and engineering practice on the other. Engineering design courses teach the process of devising a system, component, or process to meet desired needs.

• Biomedical Engineering curriculum culminates with a major design experience or project using real-world scenarios.

13. How do you decide between pursuing a masters or a doctoral degree in biomedical engineering?

A master’s degree typically takes 2 years, and is more focused on graduate-level coursework and a short-term research project. A doctoral degree is similar to a master’s for the first 2 years, but then you continue on to work on a more involved thesis, for a few more years. A master’s degree typically leads to jobs in industry, or research, while a Ph.D. is normally required if you want to be a professor or a senior scientist in industry.

14. What kinds of things should be considered when applying to graduate school in biomedical engineering?

Applying to graduate school is largely an individual interest decision.  Prospective students should look at the program content and research focus of various graduate programs.  Some programs are broad and others focus on a narrower field of interest (e.g., Chemical, Mechanical, or Electrical Systems), while others are more aligned with a type of industry (e.g., Pharmaceutical, Medical Devices).

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