The interdisciplinary field of Engineering in medicine has opened up new opportunities for students interested in healthcare
One of the biggest dilemmas facing a student at the time of choosing a career is whether to go for medicines or engineering. Though there are numerous other fields, but these two still occupy the top slot. Sometimes a student loves Physics Biology equally. He wants to continue both, but our education system forces him to decide between the two. However times have changed and thanks to interdisciplinary approach to science, a student can have the best of both subjects.
Combine any two extremely connected subjects and we have a new career. Opportunities are limitless and definitely these are the best times for a student.
Engineering applied to healthcare and medicines is emerging as a promising field with lot of scope for a student. It is an exciting field with an open room for creativity and opportunity to help the humanity too.
The field lays a comprehensive foundation of knowledge in engineering, physics, and computing as applied to medicine and medical science, a background to physics principles and technological advances of relevance to the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of patients, legislation and safety issues relating to the use of ionising or non-ionising radiation, medical equipment or software on patients, practical applications of biomedical engineering and computational methods in clinical and research environments, problem solving and workplace skills of relevance to subsequent employment as an engineer or scientist in a field related to medicine and much more. The most common streams in this field are.
Biomedical Engineering is the application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology for healthcare purposes (e.g. diagnostic or therapeutic). This field seeks to close the gap between engineering and medicine. Much of the work in biomedical engineering consists of research and development, spanning a broad array of subfields.
Prominent biomedical engineering applications include the development of biocompatible prostheses, various diagnostic and therapeutic medical devices ranging from clinical equipment to micro-implants, common imaging equipment such as MRIs and EEGs, regenerative tissue growth, pharmaceutical drugs and therapeutic biologicals.
Bioinstrumentation is the application of electronics and measurement principles to develop devices and tools used in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
Bioinformatics is one of the bio medical engineering which involves the development and usage of computer tools to collect and analyze data related to biology and medicine. The research work in bio informatics comprises the usage of sophisticated techniques to manage and generate data bases of gene sequences.
Biomechanics deals with the application of mechanics to medical field to solve biological and medical problems. It comprises the study of motion, material deformation, transport of chemical substances across biological membranes, and flow inside the body. Research in biomechanics helped in the development of artificial heart valves, artificial kidney, artificial hip, etc. It also helps in the study of organs and the skeletal system.
Biomaterial deals with the materials and the living tissues that are implanted in the body. In the design of the implanted materials, understanding the properties of the living material is a vital aspect.
Biosignal processing involves the processing of bio signals in order to extract the useful information for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. It involves the study of cardiac signals to determine whether a patient can be susceptible to sudden cardiac death, development of speech recognition systems, which nullify the background noise, detection of brain signals that can be used to run a computer.
Biotechnology is a combination of various powerful tools that involve living organisms to make or modify products, develop micro organisms for specific purposes. It has many subfields that actively take help of other subjects vital for engineering. The duration of a BSc program in biotechnology is three years whereas it is four years for BE and BTech courses.
Clinical engineering is the application of technology for health care in hospitals. The clinical engineer forms a part of the health care team along with physicians, nurses and other hospital staff. Clinical engineers develop and maintain the computer data bases of medical instrumentation, equipment records and purchase as well as use the sophisticated medical instruments. They may also work on projects to adapt instrumentation to the specific needs of the physician and the hospital. This involves the interface of instruments with computers and customized software for data analysis and instrument control. In short, clinical engineers apply the latest technology to healthcare.
Medical device / Medical equipment/ Health technology
Medical Imaging is one of the unique techniques that involve the merging of physical phenomenon such as light, sound, magnetism, etc. with high speed electronic data processing, analysis and display to create an image. These images can completely be obtained using non-invasive techniques rather than using invasive techniques as they are less painful and can be repeated any number of times.
Microtechnology and Nanotechnology comprises the design and development of devices on the scale of a micrometer, and nano technology involves the development of devices on the scale of a nano meter.
Neural Engineering is one of the emerging interdisciplinary fields in biomedical engineering. It involves the study of brain and nervous system; it also involves the replacement or restoration of lost sensory and motor abilities, the development of neuro robots, the study of complexities of neural systems in nature and neuro electronics.
Pharmaceutical engineering involves the manufacturing process of pharmaceuticals and related therapies, and pharmaceutical engineers are the professionals who help develop the manufacturing plants and design pharmaceutical products. A Bachelor of Science is the minimum amount of education required to become a pharmaceutical engineer, but a master’s or doctoral degree is strongly encouraged.
Rehabilitation engineering is one of the new and upcoming fields in bio medical engineering. The main function of the rehabilitation engineers is to enhance the quality of life and capabilities of the individuals with physical and congenital impairments. They are concerned with developing assistive technology that improves the mobility, seating, communication of the patient. They also develop hardware and software computer adaptations to help the people with congenital impairments.
Systems physiology is the term used to describe that aspect of biomedical engineering in which engineering strategies, techniques and tools are used to gain a comprehensive and integrated understanding of the function of living organisms ranging from bacteria to humans.
The field doesn’t end here but there are dozens of more streams wherein a candidate can make his career. Many more streams include Biomedical optics, Bioacoustics, Biomolecular engineering, health and safety engineering, synthetic biology, tissue engineering, Immunology engineering and so on.
Though all streams are not available in India but one can find his ways to his choicest subject after completing bachelors’ degree in the limited options available. In India colleges offering engineering courses in streams like Bio Engineering, Bio-Medical and Instrumentation Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Biochemical Engineering and Micro-Biology and Immunology Engineering is fairly common. With each passing day, many colleges are adding more relevant subjects.
(The author has an interest in career counseling.)