College and Career Plans

Hi! My name is Angela. I'm a sophomore in high school. I'm trying to figure out my college plans, career, etc. I love math and science! I have really high ACT and SAT scores, so I want to get some type of academic scholarship to help pay for college. My favorite subjects are math and science and I've taken many AP courses in these subjects. I'm really interested in the medicial field, but I know that engineering is coming to play an even more important role in medicine. I've been thinking about medical research, such as developing cures for diseases. Can you give me any information on careers related to this field, colleges with good engineering and/or medical research facilities, and colleges that grant scholarships based on merit (I don't think Ivy league schools do this)?

Thank you so much!
posted by Angela, USA on March 28, 2012

Answer 1 by Heidi Koschwanez

Hi Angela Congrats on your great ACT and SAT scores! Doing well on these tests will open a lot of doors for your future career plans! Having a degree in engineering makes you very marketable once you are finished with undergrad, since a student who does well in an engineering program tells future employers that this student can work hard, learn new concepts fast and apply these concepts and skills to a variety of problems to solve. While at Duke for the past 4 years working on my PhD in biomedical engineering, I've met several biomedical engineering undergrads that take all the pre-med classes and apply to medical school. In fact, all of the undergrads (~4) that have worked in my lab have taken this route and all of them have been accepted to medical schools. Some schools with very good biomedical engineering programs include Duke, Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins and the University of California San Diego. I would also suggest looking into mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and chemical engineering undergraduate programs for your undergrad since many employers are familiar with these classical engineering degrees, instead of biomedical engineering (which is a new field and is sometimes questioned as being a true engineering discipline, depending on who you talk to). You can major in a classical engineering program, and minor in biomedical engineering. Additionally, when you are finished with your undergrad degree, you can take the tests to become a professional engineer (important if you want to go into industry, opposed to academics). As far as I know, in the USA, there is no biomedical engineering test, but rather mechanical engineering, chemical engineering etc, so you might as well get classical engineering training in undergrad to write the professional engineer test once you are finished with your undergrad degree. Just a suggestion. These tests I mentioned are USA specific. I am not sure about what scholarships are available for you; however, you might want to look at the National Science Foundation website, the Howard Hughes Medical Research website and the National Institutes of Health website about national scholarships. Good Luck Heidi

Answer 2 by Dr. Melissa Knothe Tate

Dear Angela, It sounds like you "have the makings" to become a biomedical engineer! Actually, with an engineering background in any of the fundamental engineering areas like Mechanical, Electrical, and Chemical Engineering would also provide a foundation to make biomedical discoveries. What is important is that you learn to think critically like an engineer while also taking science and chemistry classes to understand the "world of cells and molecules" where disease processes start. You will be entering the field at an exciting time: research areas including the mechanics of the cytoskeleton (the cell's own skeleton), protein folding (yes, just like folding clothes but at a much smaller length scale), and electrical signaling between cells are changing our understanding of whole body/organ health and disease processes. By majoring in engineering as an undergraduate and then going to medical school (or graduate school to earn your Ph.D. in engineering), you will be poised to make new discoveries to prevent or to reverse disease processes! In planning for your future, I would suggest exploring research universities that have top programs in both engineering and medicine. Make sure you apply for scholarships not only at the universities but also through private foundations. You high school guidance counselor should be able to work with you to do searches on the internet as well as to contact universities directly to determine which ones have merit based aid. If your school counselor does not have much time to support you in this, I would recommend looking on the web for university research labs whose work interests you. Don't be afraid to write to professors directly to ask about their work. The best springboard for your career will be to participate in lab research as soon as you start at the university; professors who answer your emails will be more likely to mentor your in their research programs. So, keep up the great work in math and science and don't forget how important it is to excel in writing as well; a big part of research is conveying your results to others, either in written articles or at conference presentations. Good luck!