What is Biomedical Engineering?

Lots of people can give you the actual, official definition of Biomedical Engineering, and I will put it below the links to those definitions if you want to have it too if it gives you more security about what we are talking about.  

But, since I began to study this career in September 2012, I think that I have had a few opportunities to answer this very frequently asked question, and now that I am a Bioengineer, I think that I understand more than ever what it implies to be one, or moreover, what it is not.

I must admit, that at the University, even I didn't know for a long time what it exactly was. I knew it was a multidisciplinary field of life science studies that aimed to improve people's health, and that was quite interesting, even if difficult at some points.

Indeed, it is not the easier engineering you can study, if you want to know the requirements of this study, I will listing here (still working on it).

So now, what I can say, from personal experience, about it?

Let's go: 

Biomedical engineering , also called Bioengineering

According to many dictionaries, we can summarize Biomedical Engineering as the application of the principles and problem-solving techniques of engineering to biology and medicine. 

Which means the union, the bond, between technique and healthcare. It was born from Telecommunication Engineering, as, from all the other engineering careers, likely the closest to medical applications. Therefore, the pioneers, the real first biomedical engineers, were women and men who hold a degree in Telecommunications and, they had the vision, the insight, to understand that it could be applied to healthcare.

With time, the merge of those two worlds evolved to proper engineering, as it becomes more and more precise, specialized, and it left behind the Telecommunications aspects that were not essential to their purpose. That is how biomedical engineering was born. 

I do not know from which country you are reading this, but here in Spain, and generally speaking, in Europe, Biomedical Engineering is a very recent option of studies. I was in the second promotion ever existing in Spain.

So that is the reason that we were stuck in the same old building that the Telecommunication Engineers. Since it shifted away, we cannot say it has moreover in common nowadays with its mother engineering, but still is the most related one.

What you must understand from all this, apart from knowing a bit of the history of Bioengineering, is that it is, at first instance, an ENGINEERING career. This aspect was, from very far, the aspect I felt, both during my studies and when I began to search for a job (and even now, at work), that everybody insisted on.

What does that mean?

Well, it means, for example, that you shouldn't do the same mistake most people do: this is not Biotechnology. 

I know, I know. They seem very similar, they even sound almost the same. But they are two very distinct things.

As I was saying, Bioengineering is engineering, which means, that you have a solving-problem mind and that you are going to use your knowledge of health sciences and technology to resolve those problems.

Biotechnology, on the other hand, is Biology but a step beyond, they are those biologists that can use some improvements on technology (for example, those developed by a Biomedical or Industrial Engineer) to do their job.

So they may have similar backgrounds, and most of the time working together, but the focus they have about everything is completely different. Their skills too.

The ideal situation is when they work together with other scientists, but that depends a lot on the environment you are working in.

I am right now in Research, so in my case, I closely work with them.

Once this is cleared up, it may still seem quite unclear, though. Maybe you need a further explanation, so, keeping in mind the definition I gave to you, let's see some examples of what all these imply.

It goes from diagnosis and analysis to treatment and recovery, from research to consultancy, and has entered the public conscience through the proliferation of implantable medical devices, such as pacemakers and artificial hips, to more futuristic technologies such as stem cell engineering and 3-D printing of biological organs.

For a better understanding of all the specialties of Biomedical Engineering, please go to the related article.

All this is biomedical engineering. Does it sound good?

As you may see, it implies a lot of different fields and types of work. I will develop further in future articles.

Meanwhile, I hope this little article helped you to understand a bit better. 

Related links: