Here is something we don’t talk about very often– but may actually be the biggest part of our lives, consume the most of our time and may also be what defines what we do for the rest of our lives. Starting the application process, I did not know where I wanted to head, what I wanted to do with my life. It is in fact a tough decision to make at such a young age. I started to do a lot of searching, talking to those already in college and I noticed how the profession of a physician had appealed to me since a young age for numerous reasons, but that is for another topic.
I thought for the longest time I would be a Biology major and go the pre-medicine track and hopefully attend medical school later on. I ended up choosing to apply to Viterbi as a Biomedical Engineering student because I decided that I wanted a solid technical background that is comprehensive of not just Biology, but also Math and Physics. I wanted to make the most of my four years…I decided that either path I took: Biology major undergrad or BME undergrad, medical school can be an option after graduation. But, while I am in my 4 years of undergraduate, I wanted to major in something that was diverse, that gave me a little bit of everything before I went into intense specialization during my medical school years.
I am a sophomore and so far Biomedical Engineering has been an overall good experience. Here is my most honest review about what I think about BME and the career it entails as well as the future it may offer. BME here at USC starts out with a Introduction to BME (BME 101) course along with a general chemistry, general calculus and general education classes. BME 101 gives you a good feel of what BME is like but I believe it should not be the definitive class from which you decide whether BME is right for you. The course is heavily based on physics with a slight mix of biology and chemistry. You get introduced to conservation laws and Matlab coding. To those of you who are reading this just out of high school, and are a bit intimidated by what may seem like an overwhelming array of topics, do not fear! I was just as scared but there is enough help extended to you and the teachers really take it step by step and I was able to catch on pretty quickly. For the next couple semesters, you continue to take chemistry, physics and math classes. As a second semester sophomore, I am in my 2nd BME class, BME 210 (Biomedical Computer Simulations Methods) . This class so far is wonderful. It is more involved with Matlab and has a lot to do with simulating the systems of your body. For example, we learn to calculate cardiac output and blood flow rates in certain organs of your body, from which you learn to simulate into Matlab. It has only been a month into this class for me but so far I am feeling good about it. BME, at least my definition of it, is an applied form of all the other engineering fields but solely to the body and biological systems.
Coming back from the tangent, I have learned that the best and worst part of BME comes from one thing : the fact that we have so many roads open to us, in other words, the fact that we are well versed in everything that we are not necessarily specialized in one area. This can be a great thing in the fact that you get to sample the different types of engineering fields as well as touch on chemistry and biology all in one major. But it can also be a downside that you do not have one specialization, therefore making it almost harder to stand out to companies who are looking for people to finish the job. But, USC does offer great programs of specialization: You can do BME with a Electrical, Mechanical or Chemical emphasis! Also, from my experience, USC does provide great resources for finding internships and jobs. You have to be proactive and start early, but there is a good job prospect for the Biomedical Engineers and it is only growing. For example, I was able to get an internship with Abbott for the summer through the Career Expo organized by Viterbi.
Biomedical Engineering, the major itself, has been a complete mix of talent and skill. In the end, I have realized that it is an engineering major which means that everything is math based. It is more focused on mechanical and systems rather than the biology and chemistry side of BME. You have to tailor your coursework to what you want to gain out of BME. For example, I want to learn more about the molecular side of BME, so I have been looking for technical electives which are oriented in that direction. I am also involved in a Molecular Biomedical Engineering research lab.
All in all, BME is very flexible and it is what you make out of it. You need to have a strong direction on where you want to take this major, and this sense of direction will come naturally as the years progress. Once a clear direction has been determined, I feel that it is an easy to navigate through the major and tailor it to what you want to learn. It is definitely one of the newest engineering fields and therefore harbors the most confusion in a lot of ways. But, I think you just have to decide whether it is worth it for you personally, whether you like the work and concepts that BME teaches you.