In my first few months at Imperial I learnt that there is something quite special about our students. But I often wondered whether this was due to Imperial or to biomedical engineering. It’s probably a combination of the two, but what my discussion with Professor Clark Hung at Columbia illustrated to me was that there is something special about biomedical engineering students.
The relative gender equality of undergraduate biomedical engineering is an anomaly in an engineering school that has been consistent at every institution I have visited so far. But it isn’t really that surprising that girl’s would be attracted to a discipline where they can apply their skills and interest in physics and maths to real-life scenarios such as developing a new prosthetic limb, rehabilitation device or an improved drug-delivery mechanism.
The real-life applications of bioengineering whether they are healthcare, sustainability or energy related are real and impactful contributions to society. It is not surprising that many aspiring medics are drawn to the discipline for their undergraduate major of choice pre-med.
At Columbia they take a similar approach to bioengineering as Imperial College London with an emphasis on the quantitative engineering skills first and the biology second. Biomedical engineering students have a wealth of educational demands on their time. At Imperial they cover mechanical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, core engineering and biomedical engineering in their undergraduate degree. At Columbia they have to balance learning the maths, physics and engineering skills alongside the cell biology and physiology that biomedical engineering demands. They also have additional electives in a broad range of subjects on offer including liberal arts and at Imperial our students have the opportunity to do courses in business, science and society, globalisation through the Imperial Horizons scheme.
Personalised medicine is an area of great interest to the President of Columbia University where globalisation efforts are a focus which is great for the Department of Bioengineering which benefits from a number of cross-Department co-appointments.
Currently students at Columbia choose a track through their undergraduate in either biomechanics, bioimaging or cell and tissue engineering. Giving them more focus in a particular area of bioengineering at Imperial our students on MEng programme choose the mechanical or electrical and electronic engineering tracks for their third and fourth years.
What has become apparent through the institutions I have visited to far is the breadth of information that a biomedical engineering major will learn in their four years at university. I would say it is this wide knowledge base, ability to apply their engineering skills in combination with their strong interpersonal skills which are nurtured through working in a interdisciplinary environment which make bioengineers so unique.
Til’ next post