Here is a "summary" of the responses I received. Merry Christmas to you

Clemens Rossell
Edward Draper, PhD., BSc, MIMechE, CEng, MBES
Principal Research Fellow in Bioengineering Orthopaedic Surgery Unit
Royal Postgraduate Medical School
London W12 ONN, England

I've been a biomedical engineer for over fifteen years, I started with a
Mech Eng degree. I ran a service in Edinburgh in Scotland designing one-off
devices for the physically handicapped. I did that for ten years, until I
moved into full time research. I now work in the Department of Orthopaedic
Surgery here in London, England. I am involved in a wide range of
activities. Designing and manufacturing new equipement, running a
custom-made joint replacement service, computer medical audit systems, and
much much more. The pay is bad, the stress horrendous, the carrer prospects
non-existent. But I help to make sick people better, and I sleep at night.
If you are thinking of this area as a career, then you could do a lot better
elsewhere, but you'll be hard pushed to find an area which is more demanding
and more fun.
Joe Spadaro, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Orthopedic Research
S.U.N.Y. Health Science Center - Syracuse

For one example, you might want to try looking at the web page for the
Dept. of Bioengineering at Syracuse University, which is fairly complete by
now . You can derive further contacts from there. Start with
URL: and look for "Bioengineering and Neuroscience" on
the university directory. If interested in the program for yourself,
contact the Bioengineering secretary, Kay Nentwick (a really nice person) by
e-mail at:, Bye.
J. Pierre Baudin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
School of Recreation and Physical Education
Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada
Phone: (902)542-2200 ext. 1560
Fax: (902)542-1451

To find a large amount of information on Biomedical Engineering I would
direct you to the World Wide Web site called Biomechanics World Wide. It
has a whole section on Biomedical Engineering. The URL or address of it is Hope this helps.
Professor Robert Soutas-Little
Director Biomechanics Evaluation Laboratory
Michigan State University

The best definition is the application of an engineering science to medical
problems. If that science is Newtonian mechanics or the science of forces,
motion, deformation of materials, strength of materials, etc then most
biomechanics people work with the muscular skeletal system. But if the
individual was interested in fluid mechanics, he/she might work with blood
flow. What you must realize is what we have to offer to the medical field is
the physical science and mathematical skills. For example, I direct a
biomechanics and biodynamics laboratory where orthopedic surgeons and
rehabilitation physicians send patients to be evaluated. We measure joint
motion, forces and muscle activity and use these to advise the possible
outcome of different treatments. We measure balance by the movement of the
center of mass relative to the point of reaction force between the feet and
the ground. Other biomechanists will measure the properties of ligaments or
tendons and how these properties change with disease, drugs, exercise, age,
etc. Then the stiffness of the tendon can be use as a measure of recovery,
reaction to a certain drug, etc. giving a quantitative measure which
clinical people did not have before. Electrical engineers look at the
nervous system in addition to medical instrumentation. Computer scientists
are concerned with medical imaging and interpertation of these images. If
you have interest in biomedical engineering, you should first determine
which engineering science most interests you and then look at applications
of that branch of engineering to medicine.
Trina Buhr

Biomedical engineering is quite a varied field. Although I have an
undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering (from the University of
Iowa), a masters degree in biomedical engineering, and am currently a Ph.D.
student in biomedical engineering (at the University of Michigan), I am
still hearing about biomedical engineering areas that I never knew existed.
I will give you a short summary of some of the things my friends and I have
explored in the biomedical engineering field: the artificial heart, heart
valve replacements,
artificial arteries, ultrasound, MRI, PET, and other types of medical
imaging devices, medical equipment development and maintenance surgery tools,
artificial joint replacements, computer modeling of bone and tissues,
rehabilitation engineering jobs, such as alternative communication methods,
wheelchair design, etc.; dental implants, dental tools, artificial limb
development, design of orthotics and prosthetics, artificial organs (such as
the kidney), movement analysis (studying how the body moves, why different
people, move differently; how surgeons might change the insertions of
muscles to help a person with cerebral palsy walk better, studying why older
people are more likely to fall, etc.) etc. Essentially, we apply engineering
techniques to better understand, repair, or model the body.
Brian L. Davis, PhD

If you have access to the World Wide Web, you are welcome to look at the
home page produced by our department of Biomedical Engineering. It includes
examples of BME ranging from designing artificial human hearts to analyzing
ultrasound images of human tissue to studying the effects of arthritis on
cartilage to quantifying the way people perform movements. In my homepage
there is a link to a page on Biomedical Engineering sponsored
by The Whitaker Foundation. (I believe this is maintained at Purdue
Jeffrey P. Rouleau
Orthopaedic Research Laboratories
University of Michigan

You'll find that bioengineers combine the fields of biology and engineering,
but range from nearly all biology to all engineering. All fields of
engineering (nuclear, mechanical, chemical, materials science, electrical,
..) are represented as are all fields of biology. This is why most people
have a difficult time defining the role of a bioengineer. I am interested
in orthopaedic biomechanics, or more specifically, ways to speed fracture
healing. In short, think about any hospital or medical appliance/tool - it
was designed by a bioengineer, regardless of whether he/she was an MD or a
mechanical engineer by job title.
Dave Thompson, Professor & Chairman
Department of Mechanical Engineering
The University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131

There are several tracks for people who seek this kind of training:

(A.) Research - Usually the individual gets a PhD, works to advance the
state of knowledge in the field of medicine and translate this into
devices, techniques, etc that improve health care. While most in this
field interact with clinicians, their advances are more general and they
subsequently may help millions of patients because of advances they make.
This field requires the highest technical skills possible. It is more
important to take technical coursese in this arena that to gather medical
knowledge. As an example, most of my MS and PhD students take no physiology,
anatomy or other courses. Whatever medical knowledge they need, either I or
my medical colleagues teach them on an individual or small group basis. Such
students thus get world-class training, but in a very narrow slice of
material. The major advance in the next 2-3 decades will undoubtedly be made
because of the technical skills such individuals bring to a team of
physicians, surgeons, therapists, and engineers. It is the synergism of such
teams that allow them to make such important advances.

(B.) Medical School- Many graduates of biomed engr programs seek admission
to medical school. These people wish to directly treat patients, and
spend their entire professional lives working with individual subjects.
In some sense, this limits the impact of their work to those few who are
their patients.

(C.) Industry - A very few people with biomedical engineering degrees are
directly hired into industrial firms. Most of these hire mechanical,
electrical, or chemical engineers because of their technical skills and
background. If they need medical, physiological, anatomical knowledge,
they hire an MD or a PhD in physiology or anatomy. All the rest of the
graduates are hired into hospitals or other health care facilities to
calibrate instruments, certify shock hazards, watch over gas (Oxygen,
air, water vapor) delivery systems, or other rather menial tasks.

My advice to you is to:

(1) identify an engineering program that is nearest to your medical interest
and to seek to get the highest degree possible in that field.
(2) Take a biology or anatomy course to provide you with the base vocabulary
you need to work inthe medical field.
(3) Find someone in the nation working on bioengineering research that
really pegs your interest meter and get your graduate training there.
(4) Let your future unfold from there...My own interests have given me
opportunities to work with surgeons, therapists, and even dentists.

For some background reading in biomechanics, I suggest that you read the
following books:

(A.) Clinical Mechanics of the Hand, Paul W. Brand, Mosby Press, 1993.
(B.) Ten Fingers for God, biography of Dr. Brand
(C.) Biomechanics, Y.C. Fung, Springer-Verlag, 1981.

Engineering is the application of scientific knowledge and methods to the
betterment of mankind. What better and more direct way than to work directly
on the physical bodies of mankind!
Young Hui Chang
Graduate Student in Physiology
Department of Anatomy
College of Veterinary Medicine
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-6401
Phone: 607-253-3551
Fax: 607-253-3541

Congratulations on your graduating, i also just graduated from my master's
program recently. i, too, was interested in biomedical engineering and
medicine out of high school. i came to cornell in 1989 to do my b.s. in
mechanical engineering (i was also pre-med). i was initially interested in
going to medical school and/or working on prosthetic design (artificial
limbs, etc.). then i got interested in comparative biomechanics which is a
slightly different variation from biomedical engineering. i have since
finished my m.s. in physiology (big field that deals with the study of the
physical processes in organisms). aside from prosthetics, etc. you'll
probably hear about from other responses, i deal with how nature uses
biomechanics to solve many problems. basically, i use my skills as a
mechanical engineer to study animals. i have so far worked on studying how
vampire bats jump into flight, how horses and dogs walk, trot, etc. and most
recently, i did my master's degree on how gibbons (small furry apes) use
their arms to swing like we walk and run. it may sound like none of these
projects have anything in common, but they do. i find it interesting to
study "universal" mechanisms that exist in awide range of different types of
animals. for example, did you know that crabs can gallop like a horse?
except they do it sideways and with 8 legs
instead of four! also, cockroaches (6 legs) can run on their hind legs at
their fastest speeds (speeds which would be analogous to a six foot man
running over 200 miles per hour!--you do the conversion to kph!). anyway,
these are the types of things that a comparative physiologist or
biomechanist does. it is a relatively new field and is the most exciting to
me. for more info. check out the biomechanics lab web page for the
university of california - berkeley (sorry i don't know the http site off
Kenneth R. St. John, Assistant Professor
Orthopaedic Research and Biomaterials
University of Mississippi Medical Center
2500 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39216-4505
Voice: (601) 984-6199
Fax: (601) 984-6087
Alt. Fax: (601) 984-6014
Alt. Fax: (601) 984-5151

The term biomedical engineer runs the gamut from the men who maintain the
equipment and check for appropriate grounding of electronics in hospitals
(also called clinical engineers) to researchers in any of the engineering
disciplines who are applying engineering to biological systems and medical
applications. The engineering disciplines represented include mechanical,
materials, chemical, electrical as well as others. When a University offers
a program leading to a degree in the area, it may be called Biomedical
Engineering, Biological Engineering, Biomaterials, Bioengineering,
Biomechanics, as well as others I may not have considered. Clinical
Engineering may also be encountered, although that will frequently be
specific to medical electronics. Having been a graduate of one of the first
programs to be established in the early 1970's (Renssselaer), I was very
concerned about my future prospects and my parents were even more concerned.
I received my BS a year before the US Government regulations mandating
testing of new medical devices went into effect. In my career to date, I
have worked on the development of novel contraceptive delivery systems,
electronics for the determination of dental caries, automated production of
blood products by fractionation of plasma, development of partially
degradable systems for the repair of torn ligaments of the knee, development
of new materials for the manufacture of hip prostheses, testing of synthetic
materials for bone grafts, and testing of polyethylene for property
degradations due to sterilization, packaging, and storage. Currently, I am a
faculty member at a Medical Center with appointments in Orthopaedic Surgery
and Restorative Dentistry. I would say that my areas of research involve
materials engineering and biocompatibility testing, including the tissue
responses to biomaterials and the effects of the tissue on the materials.
Philippe Archambault
Les services internet a l p h a inc.

Biomedical engineering is a somewhat vast and vague term. It is supposed
to be the application of enginerring to life sciences. What this means is
that you have a lot of people working on a wide variety of fields. To
name a few, there are:

people looking at imaging techniques (ultrasounds, scans)
people looking at biomechanics (movement, forces)
people working on computer models (of the heart, lungs, muscles)
people working in rehab (designing equipment)
people working in hospitals (designing, maintaining lab equipment)
people looking at materials (bone structure, cell structure)
Michael Orendurff
Shriners Hospital
Portland Unit
Gait Lab
Portland, Oregon, USA

In our hospital, the biomedical engineer fixes broken medical equipment. He
has a 2 year technical degree and is a expert on keeping our stuff running.
There are many other fields related to this area, such as biomedical
engineering, which means DESIGNING medical products from artifical hearts to
leg braces. This takes a bit more schooling, at least a 4 (usually 5) year
bachelors degree in engineering, and possible a master's (2 -3 years more)
or even a doctorate (Ph.D.) (4-6 years past a bachelors). I have a masters
in biomechanics and work in a Gait Lab analizing how handicapped kids walk.
I report to a team of surgeons and help answer questions about how to
address the patient's problems. My degree is more related to anatomy than
engineering although there is some overlap. Strong math skills are needed,
and a love of computers/technology 'cause things keep changing and keeping
up is a drag for people who don't like it. I love my job and the pay is
good. The health care field is pretty strong right now in terms of
pay/stability but here in the US, managed care is sweeping through and
cutting lots of jobs in some medical centers. Still health care should be
better than most areas for employment in the future. My only other advice
is to stay lost for a while and don't force a decision. You can always get
an associated degree (AA - 2 years), work for a while, and when you get
tired of that go back to school and finish an engineering degree. For me,
design would be better than repair but who's to say. If you also have an
interest in biomechaincs (muscle and joint forces and how that interact)
check out Simon Frasier or UBC. They both have programs in engineering and
biomechanics or kinesiology (the study of movement).
Dan India
Motion Analysis Corp.

Contact Simon Frazier in Vancouver, and Univ of BC good biomechanics

I have a bachelors in mechanical engineering and a masters in
biomedical engineering. Currently, I am working in an R&D company
developing equipment that can be used to monitor performance when
playing sport or performing exercises. Previously I worked in the
states are a research assistant in a back clinic mostly working as an
ergonomic person. To give you an example, one of the projects I was
involved with was commissioned by the NYC transit authority. We had
to figure out why a large % of the motor men where suffering from
back pain and what can be done to stop it. Most of the jobs available
are R&D jobs so it is helpful to have at least a masters. If you are
interested in computers, I suggest getting a bachelors in computers or
electrical/electronic engineering and then going on to do a masters in
biomedical engineering. With that kind high-tech background you can work on
medical imaging or developing different electronic equipment used in
surgical procedures. This is a big field. I don't suggest getting a first
degree in biomedical engineering because it is more of an application than a
profession. A biomedical engineer is an engineer that can communicate with
a medical doctor to understand their needs. So basically you just have to
know a little physiology and anatomy and but a lot of engineering.
Dr. J.E. Vos
Groningen University
Department of Medical Physiology
Bloemsingel 109712 KZ Groningen
The Netherlands
Phone : +31 50 3613534
Fax : +31 50 3633000

As my own son had more or less the same question, let me reply to yours
in a similar manner: Why don't you go to a University Library nearby, go to
the scientific journals section, and have a (even superficial) look at
recent issues of all journals with in their title any of: Biomedical
engineering, Biophysics, Biomedical computing, Engineering in medicine,
Rehabilitation technology, etc. If you are lucky, you'll even find jobs
being advertised, not yet for yourself, but it might give you an idea of
what "we" are useful for..By the way, I was trained as an applied physicist,
and am now in bio-informatics. Physics is good for every subject, I believe.
Francesco La Palombara

Biomedical Engineering (BME) is a branch of engineering which aims at
the application of engineering methods and techniques to the solution of
medical and biological problems. It is a typical interdisciplinary field and
requires a deep knowledge of the principles of other, more "traditional"
branches of engineering, such as electrical, mechanical and chemical
engineering, as well as a substantial understanding of the way in which
living systems are made and behave. That is why many university programs in
BME are offered in collaboration with qualified medical centers and accept
students with different backgrounds. Due to the interdisciplinariety of BME,
it is not mandatory for a student who is planning to pursue graduate studies
to enrol in a BS program in BME. Dozens of graduate programs in BME, which
cover virtually all aspects of the research field, are available and open to
applicants coming from a variety of undergraduate studies, ranging from
medicine to physics and from engineering to the life sciences. BME research
areas include modeling of physiological systems, bioinstrumentation,
biomaterials, biomedical imaging, biomedical signal processing, clinical
engineering, medical informatics, biomechanics, rehabilitation engineering
and many others. Each of the above areas includes several more specific
sub-areas, each of which could account (and in some cases DOES account) for
the existence of large research centers. Entering an efficient hospital,
you immediately perceive that modern medicine could not do without BME. I
would therefore encourage anyone who has a strong interest for both
quantitative and biological subjects to explore this challenging discipline.
Marvin Sherebrin
M. H. Sherebrin, Associate Professor
Dept. of Medical Biophysics
Univ. of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C1
Phone: (519) 679 2111 ext 6549
Dept. Phone: (519) 661 3053
Dept. Fax: (519) 661 2123

Try the Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society at They may have some pamphlets on the subject. The
organization is a Canadian one of biomedical engineers and is affiliated
with the International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering.
George Gorton, B.S.
Director, Gait Analysis Laboratory,
Shriners Hospital - Springfield Unit
Springfield, MA 01104

I graduated with a B.S. in biomedical engineering from Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute in 1985. The coursework that I took was predominantly
the standard engineering curriculum. Calculus, differential equations,
linear algebra, matrix methods for math courses. Physics (3 semesters),
chemistry (2 semesters), english (yeah, right!), material, mechanics (2
thermodynamics, electronics, and so on. All coursework involved high level
computing skills. This was combined with biology, systems physiology, and
anatomy to make it "biomedical". The bio type courses were not standard, but
rather a view of the human system from an engineer's viewpoint. Muscles and
ligaments became motors, pulleys, and damp pots. The circulatory system was
looked at in terms of flow properties. The main purpose of biomedical
engineering is to apply a detailed knowledge of engineering principles to
solving medical problems. This is important because, typically, physicians
and engineers speak different languages. The role of the biomedical engineer
is to be able to understand the questions of the physician, or the medical
community, and apply engineering principles to
address those problems. Development and analysis of the efficacy of orthotic
and prosthetic devices, dental and orthopaedic implants, medical devices
such as cardiac monitors, IV pumps, imaging systems such as X ray, MRI, CT,
all can fall under the scope of biomedical engineering. As a biomedical
engineer, I have been involved in the operation of a gait analysis
laboratory, looking at the biomechanics of walking patterns in children with
developmental problems resulting from neuromuscular diseases such as
cerebral palsy. I do some research, some clinical analysis to help guide
surgical decisions in these children, and some development of biomechanics
systems for use in our hospital. I have personally found it to be an
exciting and rewarding career. By the way, in Canada, the University of
Waterloo has an excellent program in biomedical engineering or kinesiology
(very similar, although more specifically aimed at human movement). Drs.
Aftab Patla, James Frank, and David Winter would be superb resources if you
can find their email addresses somewhere. I am sure they must subscribe to
Terry George

Bioe is VERY diverse. just about every engineering is applied to medicine.
keep in mind that bioengineering is more engineering than biology, some
people work entirely with instrumentation systems and almost never see
the medical practice, even with their own products. As a bioe, you will be
focussed on one of four areas:

Industrial: design / development / manufacturing (design in this case is
most often truly redesign)

Research: purely academic (any project under the sun) or industially
oriented (how does our product work)

Clinical: fix it when it's broken, not 'just' a technician, but
along those lines. Could be with a hospital or firm that supports clinics,
or part of the tech support department of an industrial producer

Sales: little or no actual engineering or biology, but you still need the

My advice: talk to people working in specific areas and bioe disciplines to
gain a better understanding from them. Take them to lunch, network, talk to
as many people as you can. Many people go into bioe and find their true
calling is as a medical provider rather than tech support for medical
providers, so find out the requirements for med school, and take those as
electives during your undergrad degree. That way you're ready to go if you
decide to, and it will really bolster the biology side of your education
(which I think is weak in most bioe programs). Also, be prepared to make a
sudden change of
direction, even within bioe.
Allison S. Arnold
Biomedical Engineering Department
Sensory-Motor Performance Program
Northwestern University
Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

Biomedical engineering is broadly defined as the application of engineering
to medical problems. It is really hard to say what "a biomedical engineer"
does, because biomedical engineering is such an interdisciplinary field and
because people enter the field with a diverse range of backgrounds.
Basically, if you think about all the different areas of engineering there
are (mechanical, electrical, chemical, computers, product design, fluid
dynamics, materials science, robotics, artificial intelligence ...) and all
the different areas of medicine there are (neuroscience, orthopaedics,
rehabilitation, cardiology, respiratory physiology, vision, dentistry ...),
you can imagine the incredible number of combinations that are possible!
Biomedical engineers work at various levels in industry, government labs,
and academia.

If you decide to pursue a career in biomedical engineering, here is some advice:

1. Get your undergraduate degree in a traditional engineering discipline
(mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, etc) rather than in a
"biomedical engineering" department. I think a rigorous engineering
background is really important at the undergraduate level, and you will
have greater job flexibility if your degree is in one of the traditional
disciplines. You can always take elective classes in biology, physiology,
and pursue research in a lab that does bio-related stuff. (note that this
is just my opinion; you will probably get different opinions from different

2. When trying to pick a school or program, you have to look carefully.
Biomedical engineering often doesn't happen in just one department at a
school -- you will find biomedical-related stuff in various engineering
departments, exercise science departments, health and human performance
departments, etc. Check out the areas of research that faculty are working
on. Is there a medical school associated with the university? A lot of
schools don't have formal "biomedical engineering departments", but they do
have excellent biomedical engineering -- you just have to know where to
look. In general, different schools will excel in different areas of
biomedical engineering -- some are really strong in rehabilitation and
prosthetics, others are strong in biofluid mechanics, others are strong in
biomaterials... You have to figure out what sounds most interesting to you
and then find a school that excels in that particular area.
Hamid Rassoulian
Senior Bioengineer
Department of Medical Physics & Medical Engineering
Southampton General Hospital
Southampton SO16 6YD
United Kingdom

Biomedical Engineering acts as a bridge between the Medical and paramedical
disciplines and the Physcial Sciences and Engineering. The field is very
fast and has many branches. You may gain some more insight by contacting
your local Hospital Department of Medical Physics & Medical Engineering, or
the Simon Fraser University Department of Kinesiology (they do some related
Dr. Beth A. Todd
Assistant Professor
Engineering Science and Mechanics
Box 870278
University of Alabama
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0278
(205) 348-1623

Biomedical engineering is an exciting and satisfying career. However, the
opportunities in this specialty have not been as great as in other
engineering disciplines, but that may change in the coming decades.
Additionally, working in biomedical engineering means that you need to know
a lot of stuff, and you usually end up working with MD's. Therefore, to be
considered as more than a technician in biomedical engineering, you need not
only an undergraduate education, but a graduate education as well--possibly
even a Ph.D. I advise undergraduate students to major in one of the
traditional engineering disciplines.