In honor of Engineering Week I reflected a lot on my engineering degree this week. I also thought a lot about the first time I actually felt like an engineer. As I thought long and hard, and to be honest got kind of distracted by looking through computer files and reminiscing about all the cool things I have done during my time here, I pinpointed that the first time I truly felt like a Biomedical Engineer was during my second semester sophomore year. I was taking a class called BME 210: Computational Methods in Biomedical Engineering. It has been hands down one of my favorite classes that I have taken in college.
The professor is great and teaches the class in six parts. Each part leads up to a simulation experiment with Matlab, a computer simulation program. He spends about one class teaching about a biological concept, basically the history behind it, what factors effect it, and why it is of importance to us. Then he will take one class to entertain ideas from the class on how we could solve this problem with computer simulations. He will then take one class to show us how programmers currently solve the problem and teach us the math and coding behind a solution. We will then have one or two classes after this to work on our own code in class and get his feedback on our code.
Nearing the end of the semester we ran into a particularly interesting problem, Retinitis Pigmentosa. This is a progressive eye disease which can cause damage to the eye or even blindness. There have been some medications developed in order to help the disorder, however the hard part is trying to figure out how to get the medication into the eye. One solution is to create a retina implant that has medication that will slowly diffuse throughout the eye over time in order to correct the issue. However, this is hard to implement because you need to know how the medication will diffuse through the eye, you need to create a matrix representation of the eye in order to simulation the diffusion of the medication, you need to find out where to adhere the implant so that it will diffuse to the desired location, and you have to find out the diffusion constant of the medication and alter it if needed. This was an extremely complex problem to solve, but it was absolutely riveting to me. As I was coding the program I felt like a true Biomedical Engineer, because this is exactly where testing would start if a new implantation device was to be created. This program would help to establish feasibility before clinical trials. The picture below is what I created that made me feel like a true engineer:
Us Biomedical Engineers love simulating things with computer aid because building Biotech equipment is expensive! Ultimately with this code I simulated diffusion through a sphere with variable positions (for the implant) and variable diffusion rates (for different rate of different drugs). This means that many different positions of the implant can be tested and many experimental drugs can be tested right from the comfort of my own desk. It’s a great starting point and that was the point that I truly felt like a Biomedical Engineer. Not to mention that my Matlab skills came in handy when writing scripts in Visual Basic for GE Healthcare and Abbott Laboratories at my internships since the languages are similar in nature.
Happy Engineering Week and if you have any more questions about engineering at USC Viterbi let me know by commenting below or sending me an email and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Have a great weekend,
Now Playing: Silenced By the Night by Alesso vs. Keane with Demons (White Panda Remix) by Imagine Dragons on deck. (It has been a remix kind of week)