Hey y’all, today I figured I’d take some time to give some insight into a pretty big question a lot of BME students have at some point while at USC: do I need an emphasis? The BME department offers you the ability to add an emphasis in your studies, which essentially gives you the chance to focus your degree in a specific area. In addition to some other elective options, the three emphases are Chemical, Electrical, and Mechanical engineering, each of which alters your course plan to best suit your interests.
Now to start, let me make it clear that you DO NOT have to declare an emphasis. If you want a more broad knowledge of biomedical engineering or one of the three emphases don’t seem to interest you there are several other ways to focus or expand your studies by taking some awesome technical electives, minoring in a different school, or just taking random fun and educational classes. A lot of BME students here actually do not declare an emphasis, so don’t freak out if you aren’t sure if you want to.
What do each of these emphases mean? The best way to get feel for the specifics of each emphasis is to check out the Undergraduate Handbook which lays out exactly what classes you will take over your four years, but I will also give a very brief summary of each based on what I have experienced/seen at SC.
Chemical: More Chemistry and Chemical Engineering classes. Someone with a chemical emphasis is likely interested in pharmaceuticals, tissue engineering, and/or biomaterials.
Electrical: Lots of Electrical Engineering classes to learn about biomedical signaling. Areas of interest tend to include neurological applications and signaling in electronic medical devices, but the possibilities with EE are huge.
Mechanical: Mechanical Engineering, CAD, Materials Science classes. These people are often interested in prosthetics, orthopedics, or any sort of medical device that has a mechanical component (so basically all of them!)
My emphasis is in mechanical engineering so I am a little biased, but I have friends who emphasize in the other two areas as well as tons of friends who never declared an emphasis and take elective classes in each discipline.
How early do you need to declare an emphasis? Your academic advisors are awesome and will help you make your decision if needed, and they usually recommend to declare your emphasis by the end of freshman year, or sometime during your sophomore year at the latest. Some students come in to college knowing that they absolutely want to declare an emphasis, but I didn’t declare my emphasis until my first semester junior year. Even with such a late start, I am still on track to graduate in four years, and will only be taking 10 undergraduate units in my last semester (don’t let anyone tell you it’s too late!) One of my friends actually switched in between all three emphases before deciding he wanted to do mechanical, and he is in the exact same boat as me and is on track to graduate and also get his Master’s through the Progressive Degree Program (link).
My mechanical emphasis has been awesome and allowed me to really delve deeper into my specific interests in medical devices and orthopedics. A lot of my classes have been directly applicable to my work in 3D4E, my success in the Makeathon with Bethany, and in my internship this past summer. If you are considering whether or not to add an emphasis my advice would be to just do it and try out a class or two, and if you don’t like it you can always switch! If you take a class you don’t enjoy that can help you narrow down your interests, so just remember there is a learning opportunity in every class you take. If you have any questions about declaring an emphasis within BME don’t hesitate to reach out to me and I’ll be more than happy to answer!
In other news, the Trojans had two big wins since I last posted, and things are looking good in the second half of the season as the schedule does not seem as intimidating as it did before.
In other other news, there will be a new podcast episode posted today (!!!) so be sure to give it a listen and subscribe to Viterbi Voices on iTunes!!
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