What does the future of Biomedical Engineering look like?
This is part of our professionals series, where we ask professionals what they think students should know
1. Biomedical has now converged into different industries, notably consumer electronics
2. The scope of bio-medical industry has transcended beyond the mainstream applications like prosthetics (~ 5-6 years before)
3. Biomedical is the convergence of multiple disciplines; so opportunity for inter-disciplinary collaboration is huge.
4. Jobs: An entry level professional can branch into any job in an industry; one of my ex-colleagues specialized in neural prosthetics now working with smartwatches!
5. Entrepreneurship: Spin-offs and companies (e.g., multiple from Harvard Innovation and MIT Media Labs).
With advances in ML and AI, medical imaging is becoming more precise and efficient. This will lead to more accurate diagnoses and better treatment options. The ability to combine modalities (eg. imaging, genomics, NLP, etc.) to gleam more insights is being accelerated and transformed by ML and AI advances we all.
Real time monitoring with wearable devices is also becoming increasingly popular both for personal insights as well as healthcare (eg. monitoring chronic conditions). This real world data can generate insights that can be used as real world evidence to inform treatment decisions.
Lastly, medicine is becoming more precise with more personalized options. We can now tailor medical treatments to an individual's genetic makeup leading to more effective treatments and better patient outcomes.
Improved medical devices: Biomedical engineers are constantly working on improving medical devices, such as artificial organs, prosthetics, and imaging technology. In the future, we can expect these devices to become more advanced, efficient, and personalized.
Regenerative medicine: Biomedical engineers are also working on developing new treatments for tissue and organ damage, such as regenerative medicine. This field focuses on using stem cells and other biologically-based therapies to repair and regenerate damaged tissue.
Biomechanics: Biomechanics is a rapidly growing field within biomedical engineering that focuses on the study of the mechanics of biological systems. In the future, we can expect advancements in biomechanics to lead to improved understanding and treatment of diseases and injuries.
Personalized medicine: Biomedical engineers are also working on developing new technologies and approaches to personalize medical treatments. This may involve using genetic and other personalized data to tailor treatments to individual patients.
Robotics and AI: Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are also expected to play a significant role in the future of biomedical engineering. These technologies may be used to develop more precise and efficient medical devices and treatments.
The future is bright with opportunities. My SO has been able to turn down six figure job offers. Because they have applied themselves, the doors for them are everywhere in the field. Even people they have worked with always seem to have doors available to be open to them because their skills are in demand. Tech is every growing, and human problems are never ending. There will always be a space for people in this field. My SO has gotten jobs they were underqualified for overall, but the skills they had were enough to adapt and the companies were desperate to get someone even remotely capable to do the job. Anecdotal, sure, but one job had been open for over 2 years!
My one caveat to you is locations. Much of this work is in very specific places. If none of those places appeal to you, the money might be great, but your happiness might not be. However, there does some to be a lot of openness to remote and hybrid opportunities in the field from what I've seen second hand. I suspect this is due to how hard it is to find people who are qualified to do these jobs.
Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) – More and more, surgery is becoming less traumatic to the patient. MIS uses a combination of miniature cameras and instruments inserted into the body through small incisions, rather than a large open cut. This allows folks to heal quicker, with fewer complications than from longer surgeries.
Robotics – Although there will always be a need to have experienced healthcare providers, robotic devices are making medical and surgical procedures more efficient. This can range from automatic drug dispensing machines in hospitals to microsurgery robots that are extremely precise for delicate operations.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) – The wealth of data learned from huge amounts of past successes and failures can make doing almost every new task better. Artificial Intelligence is changing the world daily, including engineering. It’s important to know the strengths and especially the limitations, of AI. This applies both to designing devices and to evaluating the outcomes from using them.
Advanced Imaging technology – Seeing into the body is a vital tool for patient treatment. There will no doubt be instrumentation in the future that can reveal more than x-rays, ultrasound, MRI, CT, PET, etc. These new technologies will likely be based on looking beyond our usual ranges in the electromagnetic spectrum, perhaps into quantum-based realms. We should not confine our thinking to what is available today.
Innovative Sensors – Others have reminded me to add the role of using electro-chemical/electro-optical sensors in Biomed Engineering. Developments in chemistry and integrative optics—for example, glucose sensors and transdermal detectors—will have a major impact, too.