Bioengineering is the application of engineering techniques and understanding to medical or biological systems. traditionally medical research has been performed by medical doctors. It was found, however, that sometimes Doctors ended up re-inventing or re-discovering things that had already been understood or discovered in the physical sciences because the Doctors were unaware of what had been studied in those sciences. Similarly when engineers turned their attention to medical problems they often found that the problems that were interesting from a physical science perspective were unimportant from a medical perspective.
Recently, therefore, there has been a huge increase in collaboration between Medical Doctors and Engineers. Examples of problems that have benefited from this type of collaboration are the development of artificial organs, laser and radiation treatments for cancer, and improved imaging technology such as the MRI.
Collaboration has also begun to occur more often between engineers and people in other biological sciences such as marine biology. In these areas, once again, engineering techniques are being applied to biological systems to provide increased insight and better models of the biological world. At UMass Dartmouth one such collaboration is the modeling of plankton transport in turbulent ocean flow.
Mechanical engineering plays a large role in bioengineering because biological systems quite often involve fluid flow, such as blood flow, ocean currents and wind, as well as heat effects, transport of chemicals and mechanical stresses. These days almost every mechanical engineering department has at least some faculty working in the area of bioengineering.