Biomed: Challenging But Promising
If you use a hearing aid, have a pacemaker or have gotten a blood test, then he has probably benefited from the expertise of a biomedical engineer.
Diana Ko, a fourth-year biomedical engineering major, admits that her major is difficult.
‘The major requires the student to be familiar with a wide range of subjects including biology, quantitative physics, math, electric circuits and computer programming and design. Combining biology with engineering creates a complex field of study,’ Ko said.
There are two branches of biomedical engineering that UC Irvine offers, the general biomedical engineering major and the biomedical engineering, premedical major. The BMEP major has a greater focus on biology than on engineering, thus preparing students for medical school. These are relatively new majors, which explains the relatively small number of students in the BME and BMEP majors compared to other majors. Currently, there are 180 undergrad BME majors and 305 BMEP majors.
Due to the wide range of subjects BME students need to be familiar with, students may find the course load to be very challenging.
‘With both biology and engineering fields to study, it is difficult to become thoroughly familiar with all topics,’ Ko said.
Brent Honda, a fourth-year biomedical engineering, premedical major, finds the course load to be difficult, affecting his ability to graduate in the typical four years. ‘The heavy course load of bio and BME courses is one reason why I’m staying a fifth year,’ Honda said.
Honda stressed the importance of teamwork in this major as well, though he recognizes that competition exists among students throughout UCI.
‘I feel that the BME major promotes a lot of teamwork and cooperation,’ Honda said. ‘For example, in the intro BME courses, we did a lot of group projects and often times ,everyone in the class is so confused by the material that everyone needs to work together to complete the assignments.’
Though stressful at times, the major doesn’t come without its advantages. ‘One of the things I like about this major is that it’s so fulfilling when you can solve a problem on your own. It requires so much thinking and hard work, but in the end, you feel really good about yourself,’ said Allison Sarff, a third-year biomedical engineering ,premedical major.
According to Stephanie Wong, a peer academic advisor for the School of Engineering, there is a wide range of career options to choose from. ‘You can become a doctor, go into the industry and work for a biomedical company doing research or be the head of a biomedical project. You can do consulting for a company or other, you can get a graduate degree and do research and teach for the university,’ Wong said. ‘One can even go into stuff that doesn’t require engineering.’
Examples of specific activities of biomedical engineers include building artificial organs such as pacemakers, hearing aids and synthetic blood vessels. They may also make surgical devices such as laser systems for eye surgery.
The U.S. Department of Labor anticipates that the number of biomedical engineering jobs will increase by 31.4 percent through 2010