What Does a Biomedical Engineer Do?

Biomedical engineers design replacements for damaged parts of the human body.

Biomedical engineers design replacements for damaged parts of the human body.

Biomedical engineers apply knowledge of technical design, biology and physiology to develop new medical equipment ranging from a superior toe splint to artificial organs. Biomedical engineering is a relatively new field, and universities can't graduate new biomedical engineers fast enough to keep up with the demand. Most major universities now offer an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering or biomedical science, but until a few years ago, most biomedical engineers had an undergraduate engineering degree in another field and did graduate work in bioengineering or learned through on-the-job experience.

Research and Development

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost a quarter of biomedical engineers work for medical device and supply manufacturers. Almost all of these engineers are involved in research and development in some capacity. Although a small percent will work in supervisory roles, the large majority of them will be actively engaged in research, usually as a member of a team working on a project. Biomedical engineering projects run the gamut from developing more functional prosthetic hands to developing an implantable artificial liver.

Hospital Staff

Some biomedical engineers work in hospitals together with doctors and physical therapists. This means working hands on with patients a great deal, supervising and observing the use of new prostheses and other medical devices. Biomedical engineers also consult with hospital administrators on the value and potential uses of new medical equipment, and assist with developing new procedures for diagnosing diseases and treatment of medical conditions.

Clinical Trials

Quite a few biomedical engineers are employed by pharmaceutical companies or clinical research organizations to help in running clinical trials for new medical devices. Biomedical engineers work closely with doctors and other medical professionals in planning and carrying out a clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of new medical devices. Biomedical engineers not infrequently work directly with clinical trial participants, assessing the fit of a prosthesis or interviewing a patient about a new device.

Work as a Patent Attorney

Since the first years of the 21st century, there has been a growing number of people with an undergraduate degree in biomedical science going to law school to prepare for a career as a patent attorney. A modern patent attorney is required to have specialized knowledge in at least one technical field, and a BS in biomedical engineering gives a budding patent attorney a good background in both engineering and medicine.

 

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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