"Natural species are the library from which genetic engineering can work. Genetic engineers don't make new genes, they rearrange exisiting ones." -Thomas E. Lovejoy
During the 20th and 21st centuries, scientists have made strides in science and technology that have changed the world forever.
Not only have we sent rockets to the moon or created methods of communication that transcend borders, but we've also learned how to mimic and control biological systems, both human and otherwise.
This academic field is known as Biological Engineering or Bioengineering. The innovations made in this science affect many aspects of modern society.
Biological engineers can find solutions to a vast range of problems, whether they're medical, agricultural, chemical or mechanical.
So what exactly is it? Well, Bioengineering uses biological principles and combines them with engineering tools, to create usable and commercially viable projects.
This can involve anything from using our understanding of the human body to create prosthetics, to engineering the genes of crops to produce a bigger yield.
It is a truly fascinating scientific discipline, which is likely to become more and more important in the next decades.
If you're interested in becoming a student in this field, read on for some reasons why it's a great program, the best courses in Australia to study and some potential career pathways.
So, let's get ready for a trip into the fascinating world of biological engineering!
Remember, if you need a general biology refresher, you can try a good online Biology course.
Understanding Biological Engineering
Most people aren't exactly sure what it means when we hear the words biological and engineering put together. It may conjure an image of designer babies or strange coloured fruit.
This is why we're going to delve a little deeper into the systems of biological engineering and look at what tasks a bio-engineer might do day-to-day.
Biomedical imaging, nanotechnology, biomechanics, neuroengineering, tissue engineering, and essential ways to improve the human health are all part of the multidisciplinary subject of bioengineering.
The first thing to understand is that Bioengineering is a truly interdisciplinary field of science. It involves the study of human biology, engineering tools, medical knowledge and more.
Confused all the same? Me too! Let's look at some common examples of biotechnology created in the field of biological engineering:
- Tissue engineering: basically printing human tissue that can accumulate into a living body.
- Nanorobots: minuscule robots that can enter the bloodstream and perform tasks, like killing cancer cells.
- Food modification: working to create need breeds of food, like grapes that ferment more quickly through sped up chemical processes.
Hopefully, these examples have helped us in our quest to truly understand the function and importance of this scientific field.
To become a professional biological engineer, you'll need to spend years of study building skills in math, chemistry, technology, physics, the basics of microbiology and more.
People working in this field have a huge range of possible pathways, which is guaranteed to make day to day life more interesting.
You can go down the biomedical or design route, focus on agricultural or environmental problems and so much more.
Here are a few things biologists will do in their everyday work:
- Planning and conducting research into a variety of problems, from medical to agricultural,
- Reporting their observations and findings to their team,
- Designing, developing and testing solutions, based on their previous research,
- Organising clinical trials to test new innovations,
- Working with a range of other professionals like surgeons,
- Attending and participating in panels, talks and lectures to share their research.
A biologist in this field may find themselves working in a lab, a uni, a clinic, an office and more.
On the path to becoming a successful biological engineer, students must hone a range of skills such as:
- A thorough understanding of systems in biology, and engineering tools,
- A high level of attention to detail,
- The ability to think creatively to find solutions,
- The ability to work under pressure,
- Excellent communication skills, both with your team and your peers.
If bioengineering or biomedical students are able to successfully acquire these skills or requirements, then they'll gain admission to the industry in no time.
Of course, there are many fields of biology courses in Australia. To get some information more about other types of biology, check out this Superprof article.
Why a Bioengineering program is a great choice
If you have dreams of making news headlines with your latest scientific breakthrough or want to have access to cutting edge technology, then bioengineering could be a good choice.
Let's look at the reasons why many science students in Australia want to get the ATAR they need to gain admission to the course of their dreams:
- Stable Growth Sector: The good news is, this a consistently growing field in Australia, as well as international contexts! Looking at Job Outlook, we can see that strong growth is predicted in the number of employees in this field. You may also have the chance to work in an international position.
- Highly specialised workers: It's true that it takes many years of study to become a bioengineer, from a bachelor program to an honours course as so on. The upside of this is that not many students graduate with the abilities needed in this field, so you're guaranteed to meet the requirements of most jobs you want to apply for.
- Help people in a real way: While some scientific fields may seem quite far away from everyday life, the great news is that, with bioengineering, you can really make a difference in people's lives, making it a very rewarding experience. Designing a new treatment could save someone from a lot of pain. Creating fruit that decays more slowly could help solve food shortage issues.
These are only three reasons, but it's clear to see why it's worth that hard work to get the ATAR and the relatively high study fees to get your accreditation as a bioengineer.
Studying to become a Bioengineer in Australia
Biomedical engineering is not a program for a fainthearted student. You will need to start by getting a Bachelor degree, ideally with Honours.
Luckily for students across the country, Bachelor's and Honour's degrees in Biomedical Engineering, Biotechnology, Medical Science and more are offered by most universities.
If you are unable to find a course in the location where you're based, you could try an online learning program run by a uni in another state.
These degrees usually require 3 years of full-time learning (4 for Honours), which may include an independent research project. The typical yearly fees for a Biomedical or Bioengineering degree are around $9,000.
Another great feature of these degrees is that you may have the opportunity to gain a second major or minor, in a field like wildlife biology.
Other requirements for school leavers will be an ATAR of 85 or more. Before you apply for any program, make sure you know exactly what the ATAR and prerequisite requirements are.
Here are some of the top-rated universities for biological sciences in Australia, based on the QS Top Universities rankings:
- The University (U) of Melbourne
- The U of Queensland
- Australian National U
- Monash U
- The U of Sydney
Then, you'll need to apply to gain industry experience, either through your uni, or other professional networks.
This could mean a research internship in a professional laboratory or graduate placements in a clinic or hospital.
While not part of your uni requirements, a final step could be to apply for a membership to The Biomedical College.
Not only will you support your university accreditation, but you will also be invited to events like training courses and lectures, where you can greatly expand your industry network.
Once you've completed all of these steps, you're ready to begin your exciting job as a Biomedical engineer!
To finish off, let's look at some of the career development possibilities following your student experience...
Job Opportunities after you graduate from Biomedical or Biological Engineering
Once you're finished with your learning experience, you're ready to jump into your career. Luckily, after your degree you'll possess all the skills you'll need to be a great candidate.
As we mentioned earlier, your academic path could lead you to a range of different career possibilities. This could be in public health, research, design and more.
Some of the most popular career options are:
- Working in the development of medical devices like cochlear implants,
- Quality and assurance for such devices
- Tissue engineer
- Forensic biology engineering
- Clinical support specialist
So, while a 3 to 4-year degree may sound like a lot of learning, it could be the best decision you ever make as it will allow you admission to some of the fascinating careers mentioned here.
Working in the development of new types of biotechnology and using what you learn to help others? Sounds like a great deal to me!
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