Biomedical Engineering: Fact vs. Fiction– Sanjana Chemuturi

As I read the engineering assignment’s description, I was overcome with a sense of exasperation– it was yet another task instructing me to make a report on an engineering career of my choice. After doing three similar assignments about Aerospace Engineering, the field I thought I would commit to in the future, I decided to switch things up. For this report, I wanted to look at a different field - just for fun. After an unhealthy amount of overthinking, I chose Biomedical Engineering.

My report was quite thorough; it had information from credible sources and was backed by multiple websites. A good portion of the information emphasized manufacturing prosthetics and medical devices, and a few websites mentioned Genetic Engineering. After completing the assignment I felt that I understood the field to a reasonable degree.

Little did I know, this was far from the truth. In fact, this report was simply a glimpse into the vast, wide reaching sphere that is Biomedical Engineering.

It wasn’t until I took up a mentorship program with a Ph.D student at the University of Texas at Dallas that I learned more about the scope of Biomedical Engineering. During the course of the mentorship, I had the opportunity to speak to various researchers about their area of expertise, and learn about what they were bringing to the Bioengineering table.

Two researchers I spoke to delved into lung biomechanics, analyzing chick embryos. They explained that each property of an artificial lung needs to be similar to that of a biological lung, so each biomechanical property needs to be studied, recreated, and support the ability to collaborate with other parts.

Another researcher taught me about a neural probe that she and her team were developing. The probe was less than an inch in both length and width, and was being inserted in rats. The human application of these neural monitors, she explained, lies in their ability to observe neural activity and brain signals -they could be used to control prosthetic arms, or if a person is paralyzed, send signals to something that could move their arm for them.

It seemed every online source about artificial organs was discussing them as something that has already been figured out, and in a phase much more advanced than I saw in the lab. In contrast, many websites were talking about restoring paralysis with a reasonable timeline, but never recognized the depth of the concept. Before considering humans, the technology must be scaled down and looked at with animals.

I asked every researcher I spoke to about their biggest pet peeve with respect to the public perception of Biomedical Engineering. Everyone felt that prosthetics were the only thing people were aware of. For researchers looking into the emerging technologies that could significantly develop the healthcare realm, I could understand why this would be frustrating.

With avenues such as Font Femme being available, it is imperative that young students better understand the field they are looking to make their career in. While not everyone is blessed with the resources of extensive and comprehensive mentorship programs, it is up to those that are to provide better insight.

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