TL;DR Majors: Biological Engineering
By Shang Chen
October 28, 2020 · 2 minute read
Today we'll be talking about biological engineering (Bioengineering or BioE for short). Now, for many high school students, this may be a new major that they have heard little about. This article aims to inform and inspire you to do your research and consider pursuing this growing and thriving field of study.
What is Bioengineering?
"Bioengineering is a rapidly growing field at the intersection of engineering, biology, and medicine. Founded on the principle that training in all three will equip students and researchers with unique skills, bioengineering is positioned to make the world a healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable place."
Bioengineering is a discipline that applies engineering principles of design and analysis to biological systems and biomedical technologies. As a Bioengineering major, you will gather knowledge on a wide array of different fields like mathematics, biology, computer science, and electrical/mechanical engineering, depending on what type of work you plan on doing. The reason for this very diverse coursework is that bioengineering often branches out into many different fields and subfields. We'll get more into the specifics of what specific types of work bio-engineers do in the next section.
What types of jobs can I get with a Bio-Engineering Degree?
"Examples of bioengineering research include bacteria engineered to produce chemicals, new medical imaging technology, portable disease diagnostic devices, and tissue-engineered organs."
As we've previously mentioned, Bioengineering majors can look towards an extensive range of fields and applications. A lot of the work that Bioengineers are doing revolves around very recent scientific advances that have allowed for a deeper study into the fields of molecular and genomic biology. Potential Bio-Engineering majors should be excited because they are going into a rapidly advancing field to understand that the work they will be doing is impactful and possibly revolutionary. Other examples of work bioengineers do include using gene editing to create more nutritious crops, designing more energy-efficient wind farms, or assisting in the creation of new vaccines and medicines.
How do I know if Biological Engineering is right for me?
"Students in bioengineering are trained in fundamentals of both biology and engineering, which may include elements of electrical and mechanical engineering, computer science, materials science, chemistry, and biology."
If any of these fields are something you are interested in or passionate about, I would recommend you reach out and see if the colleges you are applying to have a Bioengineering program. But don't take my word on it; as always, we try and reach out to students majoring in these subjects at top schools around the nation to give you their first-hand experience. Take it away, Miles!
Miles George, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
What inspired you to major in Biological Engineering?
Since middle school, I was interested in genetics and biotechnology. I remember learning about cloning and bacteria that could produce insulin in 6th grade. It was at that moment that I realized how cool Biological Engineering could be.
What are some of the coolest experiments/projects you've worked on through your high school or college career?
In high school, I conducted a genetic mouse study in my attic where I raised and bred two generations of mice for a science fair. In college, I was in a year-long synthetic biology competition with an MIT team working on creating cellular swarms with immune cells. Currently, I'm working on a Synthetic Neurobiology project where I am optimizing cellular sensors in neurons to read levels of certain biological molecules within the cell.
What have been some of the challenges of being a Bioengineering major?
Being a biological engineer, you use the disciplines of all core STEM classes (biology, math, chemistry, physics) so you have to have a strong foundation in order to do well. There are also many subfields in Biological Engineering because of how vast the field is. This means you can often get lost in all of the information if you do not focus on a certain topic.
What fields or jobs are you looking to go into after majoring in Bioengineering?
I plan to do research in the Synthetic Biology field. I want to continue research at a university, preferably studying human-based genetic conditions. A field of research that is most interesting to me right now is neurodegenerative diseases and their genetic links.
What skills would you say are the most important for aspiring Bioengineering students?
The most important skills are a curiosity of nature and the body because that will drive many research endeavors; trying to understand one biological aspect. Other skills are being innovative and patient. Biology is hard and long so you have to be able to wait to see results often times but innovation always leads to great findings.
What advice/tips would you offer to a high school student who might be interested in Bioengineering?
Take some time and look up online the cool things happening in Biology/ Biological Engineering. See if anything catches your eye in the field. Then look at colleges that have programs like that or have labs that are doing that research
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About The Author
Shang Chen is on the executive team of SciTeens and is studying Data Science and Economics at UC Berkeley. His hobbies include working out, cooking, and speedrunning video games. Feel free to reach out to him with comments, questions, and future article recommendations at Shang@SciTeens.org. Sources: https://bioeng.berkeley.edu/about-us/what-is-bioengineering https://bioeng.berkeley.edu/about-us https://be.mit.edu/about