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What is Biological Engineering and What is it Used For?

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There are all different types of engineering, from mechanical and civil engineering, to genetic and biological engineering. Biological engineering is a very specific area in which science and engineering come together, and can include other related engineering areas like biological systems engineering. It has similarities with other types of scientific engineering, but it’s rather unique and worth learning about. In fact, it may even be the career for you! Let’s learn more about biological engineering and what it’s used for, so you can decide if this might be the path you want to take for your future. 

 

 

What is Biological Engineering?

 

According to IBE, “Biological engineers study biological processes and integrate them with engineering principles to develop solutions for a wide variety of technical problems.” 

 

In other words, it’s the application of engineering principles to analyze and solve problems within — and by utilizing — biological systems. It’s designing technology that can be harmonious with the biology of living systems. 

 

An example of something that is biologically engineered could be a state-of-the-art medical device or a solution to clean toxins from the water. Typically, we see biological engineering related to the environment, medicine, and technology. It’s amazing what biological engineering can do and has done for our world. 

 

 

 

A biological engineer
Image by RAEng_Publications from Pixabay

 

 

What Do Biological Engineers Do?

 

Now that you know what biological engineering is, what is it that a biological engineer would actually do? Well, perhaps the most important thing to recognize about biological engineers is that they are (usually) working towards a better and more sustainable world. 

 

Whether this means designing a solution to make safe food for babies that’s also safe for the environment, designing medical devices to support patients, or helping to design medical imaging technology to help doctors make a diagnosis, biological engineers do a lot for society. The next time you go to the doctor’s office, take a look around and ask yourself, “What in this room is here because of a biological engineer?” You might be surprised as to how many you see. 

 

What is Biological Engineering Used For?

 

Biological engineering has many uses, but ultimately focuses on saving lives and making lives better. The more problems we run into, the more biological engineers will continue to work to address those problems with biotechnology. Because of this, it’s a constantly evolving industry. 

 

Here are some examples of what biological engineering is used for, according to LiveScience:

 

  • Prosthetics
  • Surgical devices and systems
  • Systems to monitor vital signs
  • Implanted devices, such as insulin pumps, pacemakers, and artificial organs
  • Imaging methods, such as ultrasound, MRIs, and X-rays
  • Therapeutic equipment and devices, such as kidney dialysis
  • Radiation therapy
  • Physical therapy devices, such as exercise equipment and wearable technology

 

Different Department Research Areas

 

There are different areas of biological engineering, according to Cornell’s Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering. If you want to go into this career, it’s important to have some understanding of the different examples of department research areas to see if there’s something you’re more interested in. 

 

  • Molecular Engineering
  • Nucleic Acid Engineering
  • Soil and Water Engineering 
  • Microbial Fuel Cells
  • Physiological Engineering
  • Bioenergetics and Stress Factors
  • Energy Systems Engineering
  • Controlled-Environment Agriculture

 

These are just a couple of examples of different areas of biological engineering. 

 

a plant budding from biological engineering

Image by Kurt Bouda from Pixabay

 

 

Why Change My Major to Biological Engineering?

 

Are you already studying biology or engineering and you’re thinking of changing your major to biological engineering? Or perhaps you’re not in a related field at all yet, and you want to change your major so that you can get into this career as soon as possible. Whether you’re changing majors or you’re entering your first year of college, here’s why you should consider changing your major to biological engineering. 

 

 

Hands-On and Applications Focused

 

Do you like learning things hands-on? Other academic majors are not very hands-on; you might just be sitting in a lecture hall taking notes and doing quizzes and assignments. Biological engineering is much more interactive (though it does depend on the university you go to!). You’ll spend time in the lab doing research, for example. 

 

 

Have an Impact on the World at Large

 

Those who study biological engineering — or a similar field — will have the unique opportunity to make a difference and have a major impact on society. Studying biological engineering will give you the tools, resources, knowledge, and opportunities to prepare you for a career where you can discover positive solutions for the world. 

 

 

A Secure Job

 

Most people that pursue higher education — especially in this day in age where tuition is very expensive — want to make sure that they can have job security and a good salary when they enter the job market. 

 

Though it’s just one aspect of biological engineering, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, biomedical engineers made a median salary of $91,410 in 2019. Also, BLS mentions that the job outlook is projected to grow 5% between 2019 and 2029. In general, most engineers can expect to have a high salary.

 

 

A Path Towards Higher Education

 

What does it take to become a biological engineer? If you think you’ll need to pursue higher education to enter this field, then you’d be correct. In order to become a biological engineer, you will at the very least need a bachelor’s degree, though many will pursue a graduate degree, too. You’ll also need additional hands-on experience, from internships to actual job experience. 

 

If you are interested in pursuing a career in biological engineering, the University of the People offers degree programs in health science which can start you on the path towards becoming a biological engineer. The university also offers potential certificate programs in health science that can be considered when choosing the right course of study in the field.