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Engineering M.D. getting engineering degree

  1. Jul 18, 2011 #1
    Hello all (first time posting)

    I've been reading these forums for awhile now and always find them interesting. I have a general question I'd like to throw out for some opinions. I have an MD degree and have been working for about 15 years (44 years old now). For several years, I have been feeling the urge to return to school and study science much deeper than I already have. My math skills from high school were worse than bad, and I did very little in college. I got into med school without a bachelor's and the rest is history.

    My father has a PhD in Mech. Eng. with much high profile stuff (government, IPOs, consulting, political stuff) and has offered me lots of encouragement and advice. I am exploring Biomedical Engineering. I spoke with the director of one of the schools here (in Massachusetts) who said as long as I fulfilled the math requirement (which isn't a problem) I would have no difficulty getting into the program.

    What interests me most is exploring quantum mechanics/effects and how it has affected the evolution of biomedical systems, and more precisely, how we can harness this info to design ways to alter disease progression, augment bodily functions, etc. An industry position would be fine with me, although I think I'd find alphabet soup applications equally interesting.

    I guess my question would be: Does anyone have any opinion as to whether a PhD in Bio. Eng. is the best way to go about pursuing these ideas or would some alternate track be more advantageous. My father told me once he almost got his PhD in math but wanted engineering on his diploma. I've heard this from another friend, too (who may very well be on this forum somewhere)

    Comments? Questions? Criticisms?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 19, 2011 #2


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    Often what your degree says can be more-or-less just a placeholder.

    You're in a different position than others who commonly post on these forums. If you were a young student who had no career and no education, it would be a good idea to pursue the PhD for certain. You of course, have a career. I don't know if you're looking for a change or if you just want to pursue these interests on the side, but I'm assuming you're at a stage where this desire is driven more by self-interest than a need for survival. And to that end, you more-or-less just need to get involved in the research.

    So one option might be a PhD. That would mean getting all the undergrad courses under your belt required for admission. If you're interested in working on devices at the quantum mechanical level, you'll need more than just the math - ie. an introductory course in quantum mechanics. Then you have to remember that it takes about 5 years of full-time work to get a PhD. Are you willing to put this kind of time in? If you do it part-time, it will stretch out even longer.

    Another option might be looking for ways you could contribute to this kind of research from a medical perspective. I might recommend attending a conference or two where work is being done in this field. You could find other physicians who are working in it, see how they are contributing, and approach it from that perspective.
  4. Jul 19, 2011 #3
    You seem to find yourself in the opposite position many of my colleagues are in. It seems that once a month I lose an engineer to med school. This seems to be an occupational hazard to working in the medical device industry, some percentage of engineers choose invest the time and money in med school to start a second career after they meet our physician consultants.

    You path should depend on what you want to do. Do you most of all want to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to be an engineer? Then another degree would be the way to go. It might be hard to find a program that is doing what you want. Most BioE stuff that I know of is prosthetics, electrical or cellular. If you really want to blaze the research path, a PhD would help. However, if you want to act like an engineer, i.e. design some new device, then you might not need another degree.

    All medical device companies big and small either hire MDs as consultants, or have appropriate expertise on staff. If you can find someone who is doing the kind of research you are interested in, I would suggest you partner with them. It is probably more efficient if you bring medical knowledge to a partnership with an excellent engineer than try to master all that knowledge yourself. I am not suggesting that you cannot do this, or that it would not be interesting. What I am saying is that you could spend a very long time learning to be a really good engineer in order to pursue your dream, or you could start sooner and learn some things on the way.

    Networking is crucially important. You need to find the right people. Choppy's suggestion about conferences is good. I don't know what your specialty is, but I was at SVS in Chicago, and all the major companies and tons of minor ones where there just waiting to be chatted up. You might also look into the current state of research in this area in order to find a professor to partner with.
  5. Jul 20, 2011 #4
    Choppy and Ben,

    thank you for the replies and your thoughts. These are exactly the kind of considered opinions I was looking forward to.

    Choppy: I will look into conferences. Any in particular come to mind for you?
    Ben: Any leads on lists of medical device companies, or a good place to start?

    Thanks again, I really appreciate it.
  6. Jul 21, 2011 #5
    What you are interested in doing is outside of my experience. I don't know of anyone working on quantum medical applications, but usually we all keep our secrets to ourselves. =)

    http://canontradeshows.com/expo/west11/" is a trade show for the design and manufacture of medical devices. If you check out the list of companies that attend the show, that may give you some leads. If you can go to one of the shows, you may be able to speak with someone in the field. This is probably a long shot, however. I think the list of companies might be more useful.

    Another possibility is to look into likely university programs, and then see if they are collaborating with any startups. An example of what I am thinking of is http://www.bu.edu/bme/research/centers/cnn/" [Broken] That's not exactly right, but it's close. You would have to see what they are working on and then try to make some connections with the researchers if you are interested.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  7. Jul 21, 2011 #6
    I could be wrong, but I would imagine that you could find employment in a biomedical engineering/technology related field without any additional degrees. I don't think anyone would mind having an M.D. on staff; they're probably hard to come by!
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