Our New Department of Bioengineering
Since engineering started as an academic discipline about 150 years ago, it has been concerned with building artificial replacements for natural things. Houses instead of caves, cars instead of horses and new communications. Now engineering is more and more concerned with rejoining these separate ideas. In research there is rapidly growing research activity in making systems that can replace the organs of our bodies, machines that incorporate living cells or that work like animals, civil infrastructure that works with the natural world and data systems that work with or supplement our brains.
If it is so new, why should you study bioengineering as an undergraduate? If you had studied electronics in 1958, the year the inegrated circuit was invented, you would now be ending a very exciting career. If you start now, you will probably be obsolete within 20 years, like all the vacuum tube people were by 1970. That was then, the world moves faster now.
What can you do as a bioengineer? Right now, and with a bachelor's degree, join the host of companies that make and support medical implants and medical equipment. Once upon a time, your car was repaired by a highly skilled machinist who could make a replacement part. Now it is repaired by a knowledgeable engineer who knows what part is needed. Now you are repaired by a highly skilled surgeon who cuts and fixes but not for much longer. Soon the key will be the engineer who knows how the robotic equipment works. Engineering always replaces skill.
At the bachelor's level, our point of view is connected to biomedical materials, medical engineering and the engineering inherent in biology. One important theme is also "biomimetics": how can we make the artificial world more like the biological world? That is to say: softer, more reliable through flexibility, more versatile and more conscious.