There is a growing need for engineers trained in the biomedical sciences. Biomedical engineers are employed in industry, in hospitals, in research facilities of educational and medical institutions, in teaching, and in government regulatory agencies. They often serve a coordinating or interfacing function, using their background in both the engineering and medical fields. In industry, they may create designs where an in-depth understanding of living systems and of technology is essential. They may be involved in performance testing of new or proposed products. Government positions often involve product testing and safety, as well as establishing safety standards for devices. In the hospital, the biomedical engineer may provide advice on the selection and use of medical equipment, as well as supervising its performance testing and maintenance. They may also build customized devices for special health care or research needs. In research institutions, biomedical engineers supervise laboratories and equipment, and participate in or direct research activities in collaboration with other researchers with such backgrounds as medicine, physiology, and nursing.
Some biomedical engineers are technical advisors for marketing departments of companies and some are in management positions. Some biomedical engineers also have advanced training in other fields. For example, many biomedical engineers also have an M.D. degree, thereby combining an understanding of advanced technology with direct patient care or clinical research.
Examples of work done by biomedical engineers include:
- Designing and constructing cardiac pacemakers, defibrillators, artificial kidneys, blood oxygenators, hearts, blood vessels, joints, arms, and legs.
- Designing 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.
- Designing instruments and devices for therapeutic uses, such as a laser system for eye surgery or a device for automated delivery of insulin.
- Designing systems for laproscopic and arthroscopic surgry or devices for fracture fixation or joint replacement.
- Developing 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 diseases.
- Designing 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 laboratory.
- Designing, 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.
- Constructing and implementing mathematical/computer models of physiological systems.
- Designing and constructing biomaterials and determining the mechanical, transport, and biocompatibility properties of implantable artificial materials.
- Implementing new diagnostic procedures, especially those requiring engineering analyses to determine parameters that are not directly accessible to measurements, such as in the lungs or heart.
- Investigating the biomechanics of injury and wound healing.
- Tissue engineering to create replacements for damaged tissues.
The medical device industry is largely a cottage industry composed of thousands of small companies. Unlike the large companies that interview on campus, many of these companies are too small to justify sending recruiters to campus. If you want to work in the medical device industry, you need to spend a few hundred dollars to send out your resume to a hundred or so companies. The probability of success is small with each company, but by seeking a job with many, you may be successful. LifeScience Alley lists numerous biomedical and biotech companies in the upper Midwest region.