As we contend with an aging population and new medical challenges, there has never been a better time to become a bioengineer and make an impact while improving the health and lives of others.
With advances in technology, you can expect roles in bioengineering to increase. There is no shortage of exciting and lucrative opportunities, especially since Covid-19 hit, which has left the world in dire need of advanced medical supplies.
What is Bioengineering?
Bioengineering, also known as biomedical engineering, is a broad field that combines engineering principles with medical sciences to create usable and economically viable products for the healthcare industry.
Bioengineers create life-saving devices such as pacemakers and artificial hearts, heavy-duty equipment such as MRI and surgical robots, and biomaterials used to repair tissue damage. On top of that, they create bionic hands and prosthetic limbs.
They also design the software and hardware that keeps these medical instruments running. In addition, they run lab experiments and computer simulations to test new drug therapies.
In simpler terms, “biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with medical sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software.” – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
How to Become a Bioengineer
Bioengineering offers many lucrative career choices for anybody who is passionate about using their skills in engineering and medicine to help others.
According to the BLS, the annual median pay for biomedical engineers was $91,410 in May 2019. That’s a great salary for a career that is projected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
Bioengineers typically require a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering or a related engineering field, although a master’s degree helps you to land the best jobs.
Earning a master’s degree in bioengineering is incredibly easy nowadays. You don’t even have to attend on-campus classes. Many universities, such as the University of California, Riverside, offer a master’s in biomedical engineering online. Yes, that’s right. Thanks to virtual learning you can become a bioengineer without ever having step foot in a classroom.
Beyond a degree, Internships and earning industry certifications will also improve your chances of landing your dream job. From there, consider joining professional groups to network with peers and future employers.
Now that you know what it takes to become a biomedical engineer, let us look at six bioengineering technologies that changed healthcare for the better.
6 Bioengineering Technologies that Changed Healthcare
Bioengineering has contributed immensely to healthcare. The field is responsible for many medical devices and equipment such as:
MRI, Ultrasound & Other Imaging Devices
According to WebMD, “Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a test that uses powerful magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed pictures of the inside of your body.”
The MRI Scanner is used to diagnose disease or injury or how you’re responding to treatment.
MRI scans are especially useful in diagnosing blood vessel damage, cancer, stroke, brain injury, heart disease, bone infections, and a host of other diseases and injuries.
According to Healthline.com, “An ultrasound scan is a medical test that uses high-frequency sound waves to capture live images from the inside of your body. It’s also known as sonography.”
Doctors use ultrasound to detect problems with tissues, organs, and vessels without performing a surgical operation.
Since ultrasound does not use radiation, it’s the preferred method to image a fetus during pregnancy.
MRI, ultrasound and other imaging devices have made it extremely easy to diagnose and detect life-threatening diseases early on. All these inventions wouldn’t have been possible without bioengineering.
A dialysis machine is one of the best inventions in bioengineering. The technology was invented back in 1940 by Dutch physician Willem Kolff, after seeing a patient struggle with kidney failure.
Dialysis is the process of removing excess toxins, solutes and water from the bloodstream of patients suffering from kidney damage. There are several types of dialysis namely hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, hemofiltration, hemodiafiltration, and intestinal dialysis.
The dialysis machine is like an artificial kidney. It sucks blood out of your body and takes it through a series of membranes and filters to eliminate impurities.
Thanks to advances in bioengineering technology, chronically ill patients can perform their own dialysis at home without frequent visits to the clinic.
A pacemaker is a small electrical device that’s placed under the skin of the chest to control irregular heartbeats, a condition known as arrhythmia.
The first clinically successful pacemaker was invented in 1960 by VA researchers. The team consisted of Dr. William Chardack, Dr. Andrew Gage, and engineer Wilson Greatbatch.
Cardiac pacemakers are used to treat two types of arrhythmia: tachycardia (heartbeat that is too fast) and bradycardia (heartbeat that is too slow).
Whenever the pacemaker detects irregular heartbeats, it sends a pulse to your heart to control the rhythm.
There are several types of pacemakers, and all are implanted in your chest by a surgeon. Today, more than 3 million people have pacemakers.
According to Wikipedia, “An artificial organ is a human made organ device or tissue that is implanted or integrated into a human — interfacing with living tissue — to replace a natural organ, to duplicate or augment a specific function or functions so the patient may return to a normal life as soon as possible.”
Artificial organs include organs such as the heart, liver, kidney, ear, bladder, eye, lungs, trachea, pancreas and even ovaries.
Artificial organs are the results of extensive research and experimentation in tissue engineering, also known as biomaterials science.
According to ScienceDirect, “Artificial organs can be either surgically implanted or extra corporeal (in which blood is temporarily processed outside the patient’s body).”
The invention of artificial organs is a profound breakthrough in bioengineering, and as technology advances, you can expect to see artificial organs that can replace natural organs successfully.
Artificial & Bionic Prosthesis
In medical terms, a prosthesis is an artificial device that is used to replace missing body parts such as a foot, knee, or hand.
During manufacturing, prostheses can be created either using computer aided design (CAD) or by hand.
Unknown to many people, there are many types of prostheses such as robotic prosthetics, myoelectric prosthetics, bionics and more.
Artificial and bionic prostheses have helped many people who have lost body parts to trauma or disease. Thanks to artificial and bionic prostheses, these people can regain some degree of motion and lead an easier life.
Who would have thought we would live at a time when robots perform serious surgeries on human patients?
That’s right, 21st century biomedical technology that we now have robo-surgeons i.e. robots that are controlled by human surgeons to perform surgeries.
At the time of writing, we still don’t have autonomous robots that can perform invasive surgical procedures, but we are getting there.
Making a self-driving car is way easier than building a fully automated robot surgeon, but researchers are already working on robots that can perform surgeries without direct implication of humans.