What Biomedical Engineers Do
Biomedical engineers install, maintain, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment.
Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with medical and biological sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software used in healthcare.
Biomedical engineers typically do the following:
- Design equipment and devices, such as artificial internal organs, replacements for body parts, and machines for diagnosing medical problems
- Install, adjust, maintain, repair, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment
- Evaluate the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of biomedical equipment
- Train clinicians and other personnel on the proper use of equipment
- Work with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists to research the engineering aspects of the biological systems of humans and animals
- Prepare procedures, write technical reports, publish research papers, and make recommendations based on their research findings
- Present research findings to scientists, nonscientist executives, clinicians, hospital management, engineers, other colleagues, and the public
Biomedical engineers design instruments, devices, and software used in healthcare; bring together knowledge from many technical sources to develop new procedures; or conduct research needed to solve clinical problems.
They often serve a coordinating function, using their background in both engineering and medicine. For example, they may create products for which an indepth understanding of living systems and technology is essential. They frequently work in research and development or in quality assurance.
Biomedical engineers design electrical circuits, software to run medical equipment, or computer simulations to test new drug therapies. In addition, they design and build artificial body parts, such as hip and knee joints. In some cases, they develop the materials needed to make the replacement body parts. They also design rehabilitative exercise equipment.
The work of these engineers spans many professional fields. For example, although their expertise is based in engineering and biology, they often design computer software to run complicated instruments, such as three-dimensional x-ray machines. Alternatively, many of these engineers use their knowledge of chemistry and biology to develop new drug therapies. Others draw heavily on mathematics and statistics to build models to understand the signals transmitted by the brain or heart.
The following are examples of specialty areas within the field of biomedical engineering:
Bioinstrumentation uses electronics, computer science, and measurement principles to develop devices used in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
Biomaterials is the study of naturally occurring or laboratory-designed materials that are used in medical devices or as implantation materials.
Biomechanics involves the study of mechanics, such as thermodynamics, to solve biological or medical problems.
Clinical engineering applies medical technology to optimize healthcare delivery.
Rehabilitation engineering is the study of engineering and computer science to develop devices that assist individuals with physical and cognitive impairments.
Systems physiology uses engineering tools to understand how systems within living organisms, from bacteria to humans, function and respond to changes in their environment.
Some people with training in biomedical engineering become professors. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.