Is There a Place for Biomedical Engineers in the ID Process

I’m a Biomedical Engineer and wanted the community’s advice about Biomedical Engineers and design. I see a lot about mechanical engineers, but not so much is mentioned about biomedical.

My background:
I got an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from one of the best schools in the country. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do when I “grew up” so when I was offered a fellowship to do a PhD in biomedical engineering I took it. Why turn down a free degree?

Through some classes late in my undergrad career I really fell in love with the idea of how we interact with the stuff around us, but on more of a biological level than a design level.

Now to today:
I’m about to finish up my PhD. Having spent numerous hours with surgeons and physicians, I am amazed at how great ideas are going unused because of poor design. Even award winning designs go unused. I’m artistic, but so is everyone reading this. What I do have that sets me apart is a great understanding of how doctors work, a deep knowledge of the medical theater, and an extremely observant nature. Designing devices that are easy for physicians to use and safe for the patient really excites me. I really want to be more on the design/ethnography/idea creation end of products rather then the engineering side of them. I’d love to work for an ID firm doing whatever I could rather then the typical engineering someone with my training would normally do.

My question for the community is would I be able to get a job in ethnography or some part of the design process with my education?

What can I do to better my chances of getting into an ID firm?

Although I’ve only been exposed to medical device design for a short time, it’s clear that anyone with your background would be immensely valuable to a team designing for that arena. My question would be whether you would be more attractive to a consultancy or corporate design department? I’m sure many with more experience would have much more to offer, but I see how easy it would be for a consultancy to be overwhelmed without an expert on hand to guide part of the process.

Welcome to Core,

Before reconsidering your career path, get a job with someone like Ethicon.
They have a great ID department, and you could see for yourself the difference between the disciplines.

Perhaps becoming a certified ergonomist might accelerate yourself into a user-centered process, but really, you can probably write your own ticket.

What about the term “biomimicary”? I’m sure you are aware of it. I know that engineering company like Altair has developed a software that uses bio-mechanics to simulate the best possible structural design, which really helps designer and engineers design more efficiently. I’m sure your expertise in bio-medical can have a lot of significance in design.

i prefer the word “bionics”
its been around before the others,
sounds better,
just ask, Steve Austin, Astronaut

Yes, you’ve got a chance, but it’s all about showing an employer what you’re capable of (ie. your portfolio.)

Can you share some of your work with us? Coroflot (the link in the upper right of this page) allows you to create a free personal page. Use this to tell your creative process with photos, sketches, diagrams etc. We’ll critique you!

Hi cygnus. Anything is possible and a degree in biomedical engineering certainly can’t hurt but where you will fall in product development process can only be a guess without knowing you. Your training to date is more for the back-end of the process, determining specifications and requirements, safety and efficacy testing, validation, etc.

You ask about ethnography, which again is possible, but takes a certain kind of personality. You need to be very outgoing, almost a salesperson’s personality. Yes you want to be detached and not influence the research, but a lot of the work is field interviewing all healthcare providers. The best researchers can easily make a connection with their subjects to quickly get the necessary information.

As for the design end, you need to be fearless. Many of those great ideas you mentioned are killed for a variety of legitimate reasons that from the outside seem stupid. So out of the 100 great ideas you have, 1 may see the light of day. A lot of people take that personally. They shouldn’t.

As for a job with an ID firm, your best bet is to get hired in your specialty. I have never known a firm not to let their employees branch into other areas of the process. They will put a quick stop to it if you do poorly. The pay they offer you will be much worse than going to work for and engineering firm. They will not hire you for something like ethnography or concept development if you have no experience in those areas. If you go corporate (Medtronic, etc.), the R&D departments can give you access to the research and concept development but not as much as a consultancy can.

Good luck!

Thanks for all the advice. It’s all great.

Per your comments:
I would love to work for a consultancy, but realize that I will probably have to work in a corporate environment for a few years before I could switch over.

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in the OR and have worked on the creation of several devices. Unfortunately, my work has been geared for an academic audience rather then a design audience. I’m currently working on converting my old work into a portfolio from it’s current grant proposal style (ie lot of text without many pictures). When it gets done I’ll definitely have to post it to get your thoughts.

Thanks again