Kay C Dee

Kay C Dee

Professor - Biomedical Engineer
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Terre Haute, IN, United States
Kay C Dee
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Answers by Dr Kay C Dee

Hi, Emilee,
I really like being an engineer.  I like to solve problems, I like to learn new things every day, I like to understand how things work, I like to make things - and, since I teach engineering, I get to help other people learn to do all of those cool kinds of things!  What could be a better career??  I can't think of one.
I have to admit that I have not personally discovered any medicine to cure a disease.  But - medicines aren't generally discovered by one person working alone - they are developed by people (engineers, scientists, and doctors) who all work together to come up with and test ideas.  I have personally done some research that helped other engineers, scientists, and doctors get a better understanding of how cells interact with biomaterials, mechanical forces, and different kinds of biochemicals... so I like to think that I have contributed to the knowledge of the people who read my research reports, and that when they come up with great ideas for medicines, I contributed in a very small way to their good work!!
Thanks for asking!

Hello!  It's great that you are thinking ahead about college!  I'm glad to pass along some advice for you.
    It is a practical idea to combine your interests in sports medicine and biomedical engineering.  Biomedical engineers can certainly specialize in applying their skills to sports medicine - analyzing an athlete's motions to help them perform better, designing sports and training equipment, etc.  As a matter of fact, you will probably learn how to do fundamental motion analysis as an undergraduate student in a biomechanics laboratory, and you could probably work on sports equipment or rehabilitation aids as a design project in an undergraduate biomedical engineering program.
   Getting a B.S. degree in biomedical engineering is a great start toward your goal.  At that point, you could go and work for a company that develops and manufactures sports equipment or sports medicine equipment, or you could continue on for advanced education.  I would bet that by the time you are a college senior, you'll have a more refined idea of exactly what kind of career you'd like to have (what sports you'd like to specialize in; whether you want to help people generally achieve higher performance levels or instead help them with rehab after an injury; etc.), and that will guide you toward what kind of advanced learning to pursue.  It might be a Master's degree or a Ph.D. with a focus on biomechanics, or ergonomics, or kinesiology.  I've known students who earned Bachelor's degrees in biomedical engineering and then went on to study in these areas.
   For your planned career, sports medicine is a great start.  Advanced coursework in math is always helpful in setting the foundations for any engineering major.  The more biology you understand, the better.  And finally, engineering students who can write clearly and professionally have a real advantage (in college, when looking for jobs, and in their careers!) over students who have focused on math and science and neglected to work on their communication skills.  So I always encourage aspiring engineers to take classes that involve a lot of writing!
    Best of luck!  Thanks for asking.

Hello!  You asked a very good question.  ABET accreditation is an important sign that a program meets quality standards involving the breadth and depth of an engineering education, that the program has facilities, faculty, and support that allow them to provide strong learning experiences, and that graduates of the program have learned skills in appropriate areas and are building successful careers.  Graduating from an ABET-accredited program makes it easier for graduates to eventually become licensed as a Professional Engineer, which isn’t quite as important in bioengineering as it is in other areas of engineering (like civil engineering), but I think the main value of ABET accreditation is that going through the accreditation process forces the faculty and administration to look carefully at what they do for students, and why, and how it could be better.  ABET accreditation is really a sign of quality, and it’s common for bioengineering and biomedical engineering programs to be ABET-accredited, since the accreditation is such a widely recognized sign of quality.

The answer to your second question really depends on you, and what you would be happy doing for your career.  Simply put, if you major in another type of engineering and take a few biology classes, you won’t get anywhere near the educational experience you will get with a degree in biomedical engineering or bioengineering.  So if your heart is set on working in the medical device field or medical research, I’d encourage you to give yourself the best possible preparation for that field, and major in biomedical/bioengineering.  If, on the other hand, you’re interested in medical devices but you’d also be happy working on other kinds of things as well – for example, aircraft turbines, ball bearings, air conditioners – then you might decide to major in mechanical engineering (in this example) and take some biology/biomedical engineering classes on the side.  It really comes down to preparing for what you want to do.

Good luck!  I’d be happy to answer other questions.

Hi, Meghana, Great question! Most people would tell you that doing well in math and science is important - and this is true!! Taking some biology would be useful, too. I also like to advise people to take as many English/writing courses as they can. Engineers have to be able to communicate their ideas to other people, and the better you are able to communicate, the more effective of an engineer you will be! Good luck. Thanks for asking!!

Hi Carmen, Great question. Engineering degrees are much more versatile than people think. For example, I?????????ve certainly seen people with undergraduate degrees in biomedical engineering go on to work for companies that make all kinds of medical products, but many graduates also go on to graduate school in all sorts of engineering fields or in biology, go on to medical school, or go on to law school. I?????????ve also known people who graduated with undergraduate biomedical engineering degrees who then worked for consulting firms ????????? firms that basically ?????????lend????????? companies (not necessarily medical companies - banks, airlines, companies that make food products, etc.) teams of people who work on solving whatever problems those companies have. Working for a consulting firm can be exciting, because you get to work on many different kinds of problems, in diverse teams, and sometimes you get to travel around the world. I?????????ve known people with undergraduate degrees in biomedical engineering who have been hired by companies that make non-medical products ????????? snack foods, coffee, copy machines, etc. These companies (and the consulting firms) hired our biomedical engineering graduates because they had excellent communication skills, great teamwork skills, and were really good at thinking creatively and using logic to solve technical problems. You get to learn and practice all of those skills while completing an engineering degree. Thanks, KCD

Dear Tara, This is a very good question. The terms bioengineer and biomedical engineer are often used interchangeably. But sometimes biomedical engineer is used to imply someone who focuses on human health, while bioengineer is used more broadly to include someone who brings engineering expertise to issues involving animal health and/or plants and agriculture. So, if you are looking at engineering school programs, it is important to look at the educational objectives/outcomes of the programs and at the classes required by the curricula to be able to tell whether the program is using the term bioengineer narrowly or broadly. Good luck! Thanks for your question. Kay C Dee

Hello, Aida, One of the challenges in seeking training in biomedical engineering (especially advanced training) is that the phrase biomedical engineering is very broad, and so consists of different topics and specialties at different universities. The best thing for you to do is choose a couple of areas of biomedical engineering youd like to work in (robotics? medical device design? bioimaging?) and then seek out a program with faculty who specialize in that area. So, instead of choosing a place of study based on an overall program, you would be choosing a place of study based on the match between the courses and faculty in a program and your interests. That match, especially at the advanced level, is more important than the overall name or reputation of the institution. That being said, I can give you a couple of places to start looking, based on my personal experiences. Imperial College in London has a very good department of bioengineering, and excellent research/training opportunities. One of my past students spent time at Imperial and had a very good experience. In Canada, Ive seen some very good research and researchers come out of the University of Toronto, and I believe bioengineering is a growing field in Canada. Here is a useful collection of links with which to explore opportunities in Canada: http://engsoc.queensu.ca/qube/html/downloads/biomed-ed. pdf It will take some time (and Web searching) to find a school with faculty expertise that matches your areas of interest, but it will be worth it! Good luck. Kay C Dee