Medical engineers combine the technical skills of professional engineering with the biological wonders of the human body. Hip replacements, prosthetics and robotic surgery all fall under the remit of medical engineers, whilst new technologies are emerging all the time. As a medical engineer, you might work for private medical companies, in hospitals developing diagnostic and treatment equipment, or for the government on advisory boards and in research roles.
Medical engineers must combine excellent technical ability with an in-depth understanding of biological processes, and as a result, often have a background in both engineering and biology.
As our understanding of the human body grows, and with ongoing technical advancements, the field is evolving more and more into an integral part of everyday life. Medical engineers create solutions to previously insurmountable problems, allowing people to enjoy a higher quality of life as a result.
A medical engineer needs to be a very competent computer user, as a lot of time is spent modelling particular components on design programs, and many of the items they create must be tailored specifically to individuals.
The first person to use a walking stick was the first medical engineer, but it’s in recent years that the industry has really taken off. With ever-more sophisticated means of diagnosing and treating diseases and better solutions to biological problems demanded by society, medical engineering is likely to grow exponentially in the 21st century.
Medical engineers will be called upon to create solutions that assimilate perfectly with biological functions, and there will be a lot of work on more fluid joint replacements, fully-responsive prosthetic limbs, and artificial sense technologies.
As what was once considered science fiction becomes science fact, medical engineers will also increasingly face new ethical dilemmas in their work, and the field is likely to come under intense scrutiny from the public in the long-term future.
A career in medical engineering will be a challenging one, but the fast-moving, ever-changing nature of the work, combined with the job satisfaction of making such a vital difference, makes it an attractive choice for those with the right skills.
Those with an innovative approach to problem-solving, and a diligent approach to cross-disciplinary understanding, will thrive in the industry. It is expected to grow significantly through the next fifty years, and so it is vital that medical engineers keep abreast of industry developments, through networking, events and publications.
The big players
Smith & Nephew, Johnson and Johnson, GE Healthcare, Siemens Medical Solutions, 3M Healthcare
Industry specific events
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