Biomedical Engineering after Mechanical Engineering

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Shifting from Mechanical Engineering to Biomedical Engineering? It’s possible and it’s not surprising if one is doing that. Let me tell you Biomedical Engineering is an interdisciplinary course of study involving interaction between the natural sciences, medicine, and engineering. This takes place in close cooperation with clinics and industry. Someone asked me this question on Quora and here’s what I have to say:

I am a senior undergraduate in mechanical engineering at IIT (BHU) Varanasi. Currently, I have admit offers from Imperial College London and Carnegie Mellon University for postgraduate study in Biomedical/Bioengineering. So, I am writing this from my research experience and my journey so far.

How ME finds use in Biomedical Engineering?

Mechanical engineering is a diverse field. However, mechanical engineering at the crossroads of medicine has enormous potential. There are several areas of research in biomedical engineering where the concepts of mechanical engineering play a significant role. For example, in the design of exoskeletons, one needs to take into account the force and torque required at each joint of the human limb which is usually calculated through inverse dynamics (a concept core to robotics engineering).

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Source: Bioengineering, University of Washington

 

Some key areas of research include biomechanics, biomaterials, and mechanobiology. I have seen mechanical engineers with significant research experience in biomaterials pursuing their specialization in tissue engineering. However, a mechanical engineer has to take courses like human anatomy and basic life sciences in his postgraduate study to compensate for the biology credits he missed as an undergraduate. I would also mention that usually in research groups mechanical engineering undergrads are paired with biomedical undergrads because the mechanical guys bring in specialization with them. For example, I couldn’t find courses like finite element analysis or computational fluid dynamics in a biomedical engineering undergraduate curriculum in many universities. However, you would find these in a mechanical engineering curriculum.

What do universities look into when selecting candidates for postgraduate study?

As a matter of fact, some prominent universities of the world like KU Leuven and the University of Waterloo don’t even have biomedical engineering in their undergraduate. I would advise mechanical engineering undergrads aiming to make a transition to biomedical engineering to focus on building a research profile in your area of interest through suitable internships. My summer internship at a CNRS lab in France was in computational biomechanics and this helped me secure a position at Imperial. The project at Imperial is aimed at developing a musculoskeletal model that would be useful for testing surgical tools and devices like prosthetics. Further, my open electives at IIT were ‘bioinstrumentation’, ‘signals and systems’ and ‘bioinformatics’ which gave me exposure, although limited, into the field. I believe your choice of electives does affect your postgraduate study.

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