Creating an Effective Engineer: The Primary Goal of a Biomedical Engineering Program

One of the issues that a number of Biomedical Engineering baccalaureate programs have had for some time is a lack of a core based on traditional engineering field. These programs put their students through a wonderful range of courses. However, the courses tend to be loosely related to each other with the exception of a two or three course series in the biomedical engineering department. As a result too many programs spend time widening the students background without giving them enough depth to actually perform the basic engineering tasks that would make them valuable assets to a company. This is not a new observation.  Many programs also dilute their resources by attempting to meet the needs of two different populations of students, that of the serious engineering student and that of the premed student. Although its commendable to meet the needs of the customer and the premed students do increase enrollments the following definition should always be kept in mind for the benefit of the student. ( See Webster Online Definition of Engineering }

“engineering: 2 a: the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people b: the design and manufacture of complex products”

Engineering has always been about making things that are useful to people.  The holder of a Bachelor of Science degree is expected to know what the tools are and how to use them effectively.  The entry level biomedical engineer is expected to contribute to the routine engineering level tasks, many times in traditional engineering fields, while they learn the intricacies of the art of making products in a regulated environment.  That typically means they get significant technical assignments requiring them to use design tools and solve low complexity design problems.   The assignments typically require an ease with the particular engineering field that only significant coursework in the area can bring.  If the hiring manager does not see the courses in the resume they will not ask the graduate for an interview.  If the hiring manager does not feel the candidate has retained the knowledge during the interview they will not hire.  See Medical Device Industry Feedback Series

Clearly the serious engineering student would benefit with an increased level of knowledge but so would the premed biomedical engineering student.   A significant number of premed students do not make it into medical school and find themselves looking for a backup position. ( See Odds of Getting Into Medical School…” )  Since the majority of biomedical technology jobs are in industry these students would need to have the skills and knowledge that engineering hiring managers need.  In the end both student populations would benefit.

See Medical Device Industry Feedback Series

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