For anyone interested in going into Engineering, there are no shortage of disciplines that you can go into at Georgia Tech. You could major in Computer Engineering, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and any other type of engineering that comes to your mind, you can bet that we have it. Plus, we are a top-ranked school for any major that you have heard of! I, however, am not here to run a promotion commercial for Georgia Tech. I am sure that you have already seen and heard plenty about this school! Rather, I am here to tell you about why I chose Biomedical Engineering, and why I love what I do and the major that I am in! I am sure that many of you are either at the exciting point in your life, where you are getting ready to apply to college and wondering what you want to do, or are parents of kids and wondering what is an efficient way to spend your money! Whoever you are, I hope that you leave this post, gaining some more insight and with more information to be better prepared for your first day as an engineer at Georgia Tech, and, hopefully, a Biomedical Engineer!
First of all, you are probably wondering, what the heck is Biomedical Engineering, and why should you consider it? If you read the name of the major, you are probably thinking, “Well, it has something to do with Biology and Medicine, and how the two interact!” If this is you, then I am here to tell you that you are on the right track! In fact, broadly speaking, what we do is try to find better solutions for common medical problems facing tons of individuals in the United States, and globally, using principles that we learn in math classes, biology, chemistry, etc. But, there is so much more to it than that! With BME, there is never a wrong answer to a problem! You are probably thinking, “Is he crazy?” No, you read that right, there is never a wrong answer to a problem! Unlike Civil Engineering or Mechanical Engineering, where you may have to perform calculations, many of the problems that you are faced with in Biomedical Engineering are more personal and the choices that you make and the perspectives that you bring can profoundly change their lives for the better, or for the worse! In Biomedical Engineering, you truly get the opportunity to think outside of the box, which is something that I really think you don’t have in other majors. Are you intrigued yet? Wait till you read more!
So you may still be wondering, is this the right major for me? Specifically, you might be wondering, what type of person is a good fit for this major? My answer to those questions is that there is no such person as an ideal or a perfect fit for this major. Rather, you have to ask yourself, do you have a vested interest in having a personal impact on people’s’ lives?. This is not like Computer Science, or Mathematics where the work that you do is all theoretical, and involves sitting in a cubicle all day. This major is truly different from all the other majors because it is extremely practical in nature. If you go into this major, keep in mind that the majority of the time you spend is going to be thinking through scenario – based problems that do not have perfect answers. This may seem scary! However, I can assure you that that will make you better prepared for the real world. You grow the most when you are pushed outside of your comfort zone, and that is what will happen in this major.
Okay, so you’ve read this far, and thought to yourself, “Yes, this major is for me!”, then you are probably wondering, “I don’t really understand how and where science comes into Biomedical Engineering! All he has talked about is working in teams, on real – world and practical problems. However, I promise you that all the concepts that you learn in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics come to use here. Just this past school year, I had to work on making a Pulse Oximeter, using Arduino to better measure Oxygen Saturation Levels in users with Dementia who had Long Covid. I remember that, at first, I was so confused where to even start. However, then, by using the knowledge that I learned about the Respiratory system from my systems physiology, and biology classes, I was able to dramatically simplify the problem, and start at a much more basic level. This also was true for a project I did about creating a mathematical model to predict the likelihood that a woman would develop Endometriosis. At first, it seemed way too complex for me with my skill level to make such a sophisticated model. However, when I thought about the role of Bayes’ Rule, which I had learned in my Biology class, and its uses, I realized how excellently I could apply it to my project at hand, even if it was not necessarily a mathematics – related project. You will also be at the forefront of research, and projects where you apply science directly. For example, many of my friends are research assistants in the Laboratory for Synthetic Immunity, led by Dr. Gabe Kwong. They use some of the information that they learned in Introductory Biology, such as how T-cells work to fight off an infection to utilize the body’s own immune powers to fight off cancer cells! In Dr. Krishnendu Roy’s lab, another lab run by a prominent BME professor who teaches Biomaterials, you perform research on how to speed up the process of delivering important therapeutics to those who need them, using principles you learned in Biology, Chemistry, Biomaterials, etc! In the BME Design Shop, you can apply the principles of torque and rotational motion that you have learned in Physics to create some extremely sophisticated physical prototypes! No, I’m not talking those stick figure drawings or those simple foam prototypes! You can create real, elegant prototypes that show the mechanics of how your design would work in practice. You can use programs, such as Fusion 360 to create 3D models of your design ideas using principles that you literally learned in Geometry and Differential Calculus! My point is that, the science aspect may not always be so obvious! You may have to really do some soul searching to find where the science aspect comes into your work. However, I can assure you that it is there. Sometimes, you really just have to think outside of the box.
However, with choosing any major comes tradeoffs. The tradeoff with BME is that the classes are extremely challenging, and they require you to truly apply different principles from different disciplines, rather than just regurgitate information. In classes like BMED 2110, or Conservation Principles in Biomedical Engineering, you have to learn how to take a poorly defined system, or a poorly defined problem, and uses the principles you know, such as the Conservation of Mass, the Conservation of Energy, the Conservation of Moles etc., and the equations you learned in Physics or Chemistry to deduce and obtain information that you do not easily have access to. Similarly, in BMED 2250, Problems in Biomedical Engineering, you are going to have to take the skills that you have learned in classes, such as Intro to Matlab, General Chemistry, and Statistics to figure out how you can solve an otherwise time consuming problem, much more rapidly. In BMED 2310, Introduction to Biomedical Engineering Design, you take that to the next level. You have to ask yourself, how can the principles that I have learned be used to create a better solution to a problem, as compared to the existing present solution? Put another way, how can my use of Matlab, or linear regression, or circuits be used to create a more efficient solution that better solves the problem for the user, or the various stakeholders that are affected by a problem? This may all seem daunting, but I promise you that you will be extremely thankful at the end! These skills prepare you for a career in Research, Manufacturing, Product Development, and whatever else you may dream of!
I sincerely hope that by reading this article, you have developed the same passion for Biomedical Engineering that I have! Just kidding, I don’t expect you to have gotten that invested! However, I do encourage you to truly consider the field. One of the nice things about Biomedical Engineering is, you do not need to know immediately if you enjoy it or if it is what you want to do! There is no timeline for when you have to decide! One of the nice things about Biomedical Engineering is that it is becoming so well sought after because healthcare, and better solutions for common healthcare problems are at the forefront of many peoples’ values, and what many stakeholders want. I truly believe that there is a place for anyone who is interested as a Biomedical Engineer, so if you choose to go into this major, I guarantee that you will find what you are passionate about!