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What engineering major for a R&D career related to healthcare

  1. Aug 2, 2013 #1
    At first, I thought that a Bioengineering major followed by a Biomedical Engineering Masters or PhD would be the obvious choice.

    And then I found this thread in which an engineer [NeoDymium] says that the OP should instead major in another engineering major like Mechanical Engineers or Chemical Engineering stating that "as a BME undergrad [the OP] will know a little about a whole lot of subjects, and it's better to be an expert at just one." This sounds like it makes sense given the range of fields that Biomedical Engineering covers but is it actually as much of a concern as he makes it out to be?

    He also states that "the point is, you have to have a solid foundation in one of the engineering disciplines to make it as a BME. It's not a real undergraduate major. Only at a graduate level does the major really cover a real curriculum." So he suggests majoring in Mechanical Engineering but taking some additional Biology and Chemistry courses.

    However, despite this, I'm still signifcantly more fascinated with Bioengineering since I would rather focus on that for 4 years rather than study the more broad topics that Mechanical Enginner encompasses. But if what NeoDymium says is really that much of a concern, I wouldn't mind majoring in Mechanical Engineering though since it's also interesting in its own way but not as much as Bioengineering.

    Since NeoDymium contributed the most posts to that thread, I figure it'd be fine to post here for additional feedback.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 2, 2013 #2


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    This is one of those questions where the response really depends on the specific program, I think.

    I agree that BME tends to be one of those "all over the map" disciplines, and if you're not careful, you can end up with a superficial understanding of a many different aspects of the field, without a deep understanding of any single niche area.

    The really successful BME's that I know started out majoring in electrical engineering, physics, or engineering physics and specialized in BME (in particular MRI) for their graduate studies.

    One thing you could do is look up some BMEs that are where you would like to be one day and look at the educational paths they have followed.
  4. Aug 2, 2013 #3
    Breadth is an issue for engineering. I know first hand. You are better off getting a ME with a biomed concentration.
  5. Aug 2, 2013 #4
    My university does not have an Mechanical Engineering program with any concentrations. There's the requirement of taking three electives from various other departments including Bioengineering, however.

    So essentially, the Mechanical Engineering Requirements are almost entirely set out with little flexibility unless wants to take extra courses on top of the normal curriculum.

    And unfortunately, my state university isn't really renowned for its engineering programs (Gave the best financial aid though compared to other more highly regarded engineering schools). But they're building new research facilities, laboratories and academic areas for the engineering department.

    Can you comment on the 4-year curriculum of BE and ME at my university?
    http://www2.binghamton.edu/watson/advising/current/pdfs/be_2012_guidesheet.pdf [Broken]
    Mechanical Engineering
    http://binghamton.edu/me/under-grad/ME%20GUIDESHEET%20FALL%202012_pdf.pdf [Broken]

    I personally still think I would rather major in Bioengineering (Still research my options though) but take various courses from the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering departments such as Statics, Dynamics, Thermodyamics, and Fluid Mechanics so as to gain some degree of breadth.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Aug 2, 2013 #5
    Would it then be recommended to take advanced courses in various areas such as Organic chemistry after General Chem. and Intermediate Chem., Biochemistry after Intro. Biology and Gen Chem. as well as some of the more "core" courses from the Mechanical Engineering department if I still wanted to stick with Bioengineering? This way, I assume, I'd gain higher level knowledge of the broad range of topics covered in Bioengineering to help overcome the "all over the map" problem.

    Looking at the founders of the field of BME, they came from more traditional engineering fields like electrical and mechanical while others were physicists. Even for their undergraduate studies, they were at renowned universities so that may help a lot especially since many of those founders are now in academia (I'm not interested in academia however).

    They also came from majors that are popularly regarded as extremely difficult including Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, and Physics. Seems like extremely successful people are also extremely smart and motivated.
  7. Aug 4, 2013 #6
    The BE curriculum looks like more fun, but a little lax on the engineering side of things.

    Since all your semesters only require five classes, I recommend overloading with 6 classes to get some biomed classes in plus using your technical electives.

    If you do not want to overload:
    Take some summer classes that will replace your electives. Use your biomed class as your 5th class.

    You will have the marketability of the ME while satisfying your interest in BE.

    And SUNY Binghamton is not a bad engineering school. Its probably the best of the SUNY schools realistically.
  8. Aug 4, 2013 #7
    You can get into medical engineering with a wide range of degrees, from CS to EE to ME to Biomedical Engineering. Try to get a job in the industry (and better yet an internship while you're still in school).

    I studied EE and never took a bio class and I'm currently working on a medical electronics project.
  9. Aug 5, 2013 #8
    I plan to take some Mechanical Engineering courses over the summer to add a bit of breadth to my education. Surely, taking courses in thermodynamics and fluid dynamics is hardly lax.
  10. Aug 5, 2013 #9
    You will save a lot of money taking the gen ed courses at a community college over the summer.

    I strongly recommend the ME with a BE concentration if you want to be employable.
  11. Aug 5, 2013 #10
    Most of my GenEds are covered by AP credits (32 credits before even starting college)
  12. Aug 5, 2013 #11


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    How about beginning with radiology? That will give you a basis in biology and physics. My wife's cousin is a radiologist, and she keeps adding on courses as she goes along. She isn't an engineer, but she is really smart, and her foundation in biology is well-established. Just another way to look at it. She has already raised a son (later in life) and is enjoying her grand-kids, and still has time to fit in a course now and again. Just a suggestion.

    Good luck, no matter what you choose.
  13. Aug 8, 2013 #12
    My university offers no such option. Besides engineering, they don't have any other professional programs except some certification programs but not in radiology.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2013
  14. Aug 8, 2013 #13
    Right now, I have two options. I know that I'd be hard pressed to find a job with simply a B.S. in Bioengineering.

    So my options are
    Bioengineering B.S. --> Biomedical Engineering M.S. or Ph.D
    Mechanical Engineering B.S. --> Biomedical Engineering M.S. or Ph.D

    When applying to the graduate programs, how much does my degree play a factor all other things equal? Regardless of major, I still intend to work in engineering R&D related to healthcare and related fields since I'm told that in that field, there are people with mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering degrees and that not as many actually have a Biomedical or Bioengineering Bachelor's degree.
  15. Aug 8, 2013 #14
    I seriously recommend the second option if you want to be considered employable in this BS economy.
  16. Aug 8, 2013 #15
    Since my university offers a program to get a Mechanical Engineering B.S. and M.S. in 5 years, would it be worth the extra time and year's tuition (I only need to take out $7,000 in federal loans and pay $3000 right off the bat for freshman year) before going on to get a graduate degree in Biomedical Engineering especially Ph.D?

    I figure this would give me an opportunity to show my meddle in higher level courses and add more research to my belt.
  17. Aug 8, 2013 #16


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    I know F&P Healthcare takes mostly electrical and electronics engineers.
  18. Aug 8, 2013 #17
    Yes, that sounds like a great plan
  19. Aug 9, 2013 #18
    For the career goals, between Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, which is more attractive to employers?
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2013
  20. Aug 9, 2013 #19
    They are both great choices.
  21. Aug 12, 2013 #20
    You can think of studying nanotechnology it is a very promising field more focused thatn mechanical engineering and can have a future related to medicine
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