Biomedical Engineering

What is Biomedical Engineering?

Academics

If you’ve always been passionate about the medical field but have never seen yourself practicing as a doctor or nurse, there may be another solution for you and your design-oriented, research-prone, analytical mind.

Biomedical engineering is the application of engineering principles and technology to solve medical problems. One part biology/anatomy and another part mechanical and electrical engineering, there’s not a lot you can’t do with this major. Whether it be genetic or cellular engineering, creating prosthetics, or developing biomedical equipment and devices, you will be able to serve and create a big impact on the medical field.

People’s lives will not only be changed and made better by what you discover and design in your career, but you'll also make an impact during your time as a student at George Fox.

Learn More About Biomedical Engineering

Student Profile: Sam Reimer

Students in the engineering program have the opportunity to participate in the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) Grand Challenge. The Grand Challenge provides a variety of goals, such as providing cleaner water solutions or reverse engineering the brain.

One of our engineering students, Sam Reimer, chose to participate in the “Better Medicine” Challenge, and the work he’s done alongside biomedical engineering professor Dr. Kang is pretty amazing. 

Here’s what Sam had to say about his research on tumor cells:

“To start, here's a quick background: When tumor cells are studied/drug tested 'in vitro' ('in glass,' meaning outside of the body in a controlled environment), they have been historically cultured and studied in culture dishes that are controlled and uniform throughout, so that the cells are all the same. This is not at all the case in vivo ('in life,' or inside a living body), in which there are nonuniformities within the tumor microenvironment such as oxygen and nutrient gradients from the outside of the tumor (supplied by surrounding blood vessels) to the center, where a hypoxic region exists (meaning nearly no oxygen reaches the center).

 

The tumor stem cells at the center are therefore much stronger and more aggressive, since only the strongest survive the lack of nutrients and oxygen, and react differently to drugs than those with a plentiful supply. Because of this, drug testing must be considered for all parts of the tumor, but in vivo testing on patients presents obvious risks, entering in Dr. Kang's research: "An in Vitro Model of the Tumor Microenvironment."

 

In this research project that Dr. Kang developed and I assisted in (and now being taken up by another student), we sought to develop a more accurate model of the tumor microenvironment for in vitro testing on MCF-7 breast cancer cells, including an oxygen gradient across the cells in the platform, one to two surrounding chambers for nutrient supply (to model a blood vessel) and normal healthy tissue cells, and collection of the tumor cells in spheroids to simulate small tumors. This was all done through microfluidics, a branch of biomedical engineering in which small channels within a chip are used to achieve various tasks/model various micro systems.

 

This chip would ultimately allow for better modeling of the tumor microenvironment and drug testing on tumor cells in vitro in a way that accounts for the peculiarities of tumors in a human body.

 

Overall, we made progress in testing the functionality of the chips (the main tumor chip and spheroid generator), culturing tumor cells for placement in the chip, and attempting to expand the initial design from a two layer system to three layers. To my knowledge, another student is taking up the continuation of the project for this coming summer.”

Career Paths in Biomedical Engineering

By now it’s pretty clear that there are many paths a biomedical engineering degree can take you on. You could do tissue cell research like Sam, or develop prosthetics like Gabby, Maddi, and AJ, and the list goes on. 

Here are some common careers that biomedical engineering students pursue:

  • Physical Therapy: You might not have been expecting this one. But at George Fox, you can major in biomedical engineering in preparation for physical therapy grad school. Classes then include all the anatomy, biology and chemistry courses you need for PT graduate school. You may decide you want to work directly with patients, but a degree in biomedical engineering can also prepare you to do research rather than working in a clinical setting.
  • Biomaterials Developer: This career specializes in tissue engineering, implants, drug delivery, and disease detection and imaging. Individuals in this field develop biomaterials, living or artificial, for human use.
  • Manufacturing Engineer: If product design and creation are up your alley, this may be the career for you. Tools are developed for the healthcare industry, specifically labs and hospitals, but also for individuals. If you’re interested in prosthetics, this is it!
  • Rehabilitation Engineer: From working on projects to promote limb mobility to creating virtual reality environments that aid in walking, here’s one where you have the chance to flex your creative muscles. 
  • Doctor: If, after you get your undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, you decide you want to work directly with patients, medical school is a viable option for you. Biomedical sciences will prepare you well to be a surgeon or physician.
  • Medical Technology Developer: Someone has to make the software and hardware for the medical devices we see in hospitals. And that someone needs to know biology and engineering to create effective instruments. Think blood pressure instruments, pacemakers, etc. 
  • Biomedical Scientist/Researcher: While all of these fields require research, if clinical trials and conducting research is your passion, this may be the field for you. Essentially, biomedical scientists take the products developed by engineers and test to ensure their safety and effectiveness. Additionally, individuals who choose this career may focus on simulating problems and body systems to create new devices. 

So how do all these fields relate back to biomedical engineering?

What do they all have in common? All these tracks value improving human welfare and have the common goal of solving the problems plaguing human life, comfort and ability. The options are pretty much endless, even within each biomedical career, but the heart of service is always present, and that starts in the classroom.

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Lydia Povolny

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Lydia is a senior Marketing major and Psychology minor. Her favorite pastimes are hiking, backpacking, going on walks to find cats and playing spikeball. She also loves board games/movie nights with friends and would bet her bottom dollar that the chai at Chapters is the best in the state.

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