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Programs ME student interested in bioinstrumentation

  1. May 3, 2016 #1
    Hi Guys,

    Here is a brief overview of my background
    I am an older engineering student (28) currently in a masters program for mechanical engineering. My undergraduate studies were in chemistry and I had worked in previously as an analytical chemist operating, developing, and maintaining all types of instrumentation for chemical or biochemical analysis. Prior to entering the engineering school I beefed up on math courses to make up for some deficiencies I may have had. Since entering the program I have taken it upon myself to sit in on a number of undergraduate courses to gain a basic understanding of topics which are covered in the more advanced graduate classes. So far this includes statics, mechanics of materials, and thermodynamics, with fluid mechanics, dynamics, mech eng design, control, and heat transfer on my list. I know this sounds ambitious, but I have spaced it out so that I am not overloaded during semesters where I am taking graduate courses. So far I seem to be learning a lot from the classes and doing well in my program.

    I chose to pursue engineering as I would like to become a medical device engineer and at the time, it seemed that studying mechanical engineering was the best way to get there. As I have come to understand the medical device industry better, it seems that my true fascination is with bio/medical instrumentation. However, it appears many of the areas which I enjoy most (i.e. circuits, signals, sensors, embedded systems) are on the electrical/computer engineering side of the fence. This semester I took a class focused on medical instrumentation and seemed to come alive when I was doing circuit analysis and schematic capture. Usually ME's in the bioengineering seem to focus more on biomechanics (i.e. bone, biofluid, and soft tissue biomechanics). Sometimes I feel like I'm the odd one in the bunch or that I am some sort of an impostor given my natural interests and inclinations seem to be a bit outside of what might normally be considered part of meche. Are these feelings normal? I have heard from people that meche's in fact do play a role in engineering new bioinstrumentation, but I am not exactly sure of what the angle would be. Which subjects would they study? How would they get into that field? What kind of technical skills would they focus on attaining?

    Recently I expressed my career aspirations to my academic advisor, he recommended a course in mechatronics that is being offered in next couple semesters. I don't know a whole lot about the topic, but syllabus shows the course will cover some topics in electronics, microcontrollers, and programming in C. It looks interesting and I have had some exposure to these areas in the past. Would anyone be willing to provide some insight on the scope of mechatronics in medical devices and possible applications?

    My apology for the extra long post. Any feedback would be great.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 4, 2016 #2
    The only way to really learn about this stuff is an internship at a company that makes instrumentation. And hopefully when you get the job, you have the right background. I can imagine that at these companies, very multidisciplinary teams work on the product. And each person has their own little niche of expertise.

    They don't have the same person work with bone tissue, with electronic circuits, and with coding.

    Have you looked at vacancies in this industry? What degrees do they ask for?

    Only thing I came across myself was a company that produced electron microscopes. They asked for someone with a PhD that heavily involved using a EM. But that was a job working with customers/scientists, making sure they were satisfied with the equipment.
    Not everyone working there in a technical job will be working engineering new designs.

    Just as an example, how many people working on a new mass spectrometer for Thermo Fisher have actually used one to do a chemical analysis? Not many. Most only know something about one component of that machine and work on it with their flavour of engineering.

    MechE grads will be the most generalist out of all engineers one might hire.
    Last edited: May 4, 2016
  4. May 5, 2016 #3
    Hi Astero,

    Thanks for responding to my post. What you mentioned makes a lot of sense. The vacancies I have seen show a lot of opportnuities for those with a EE/CS background and a few for mechanical depending on their experience/specialty and the type of technology (optics, microfluidics, electromechanical etc.)

    At my Uni there are a few concentrations to choose from for meche including materials engineering, thermofluids, mechanics/design, and mechatronics. Which one would be most applicable to medical instrumentation?

    Part of me was thinking mechatronics might be a good way for me to go. I am not exactly certain what the scope is in medical devices/instrumentation, but it seems to involve more knowledge of circuits and sensors which I seem to enjoy.
  5. May 5, 2016 #4
    Electrical and embedded seem most logical. Mechatronics is already a broad multidisciplinary field.

    I can't tell you what courses are most applicable. You just give the name of the course and even if I knew the exact content, I don't know exactly what you want to do.

    It is not entirely clear what you mean when you say medical instrumentation or bio-instrumentation. It can be a MRI machine, a centrifuge, a HPLC-MS, a pipetting robot, etc etc. And design is done on those things in all engineering disciplines.

    If you end up working as an embedded systems engineer on some medical or chemical equipment, you likely will have almost no use for your chemistry background.
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