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
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:
and constructing cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators, artificial
kidneys, blood oxygenators, hearts, blood vessels, joints, arms,
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.
instruments and devices for therapeutic uses, such as a laser
system for eye surgery or a device for automated delivery of
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
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
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.
and implementing mathematical/computer models of physiological
- designing and
constructing biomaterials and determining the mechanical,
transport, and biocompatibility properties of implantable
new diagnostic procedures, especially those requiring
engineering analyses to determine parameters that are not
directly accessible to measurements, such as in the lungs or
the biomechanics of injury and wound healing.
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.