Biomedical engineering is a cutting-edge career path that applies engineering principles to medicine, the human body and the way that biology works to create life. Bioengineering careers are “inspirational” according to today’s guest, because “you can really feel like you’re making a difference in the world.” As a young biomedical engineer in the pharmaceutical industry, Amy Patel tells us about becoming a biomedical engineer, answering “what do biomedical engineers do“, and the necessary education for biomedical engineering.
Bioengineering careers deal with things like stem cell research, tissue engineering, the creation of artificial organs and limbs, nanotechnology, surgeries performed by robots and the development of synthetic drugs for things like arthritis, cancer, and Alzeimer’s disease. When becoming a biomedical engineer, you can expect to work in places like pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies and research labs. You’ll often be representing the human body and corresponding engineering principles, communicating your knowledge to team members relying on your expertise in the creation of a product. There’s a lot of variety in bioengineering careers: you can be doing something different every day and can angle your career to be working individually or part of a team, in a lab or making presentations to people.
In becoming a biomedical engineer, you’ll want to take lots of math and sciences classes in high school – particularly biology and chemistry (and advanced physics wouldn’t hurt). Colleges will call the major either biomedical engineering or bioengineering. If your school has no program, you can get a degree in chemical engineering or mechanical engineering – many people come to bioengineering careers from these other disciplines. Just be sure to either take some extra biology classes at your school or find a summer school program where you can take some biomedical engineering classes. Don’t forget that internships, available to both high school and college students, are an important step in your education for biomedical engineering.
What Do Biomedical Engineers Do 0:58-7:14
Bioengineering Careers 7:14-12:14
Education for Biomedical Engineering 12:14-15:36
Rewards and Challenges of Bioengineering Careers 19:57-26:05
Becoming a Biomedical Engineer 26:05-30:42
Keys to Success for Bioengineering Careers 30:42
Careers Out There Host Marc Luber: Hey everyone – on today’s episode of Careers Out There, we’re gonna explore careers in biomedical engineering. We’ll be talking to Amy Patel – she’s a biomedical engineer in the pharmaceutical industry in San Francisco. Amy’s so passionate about what she does that she started the Biomedical Engineering Blog, designed to help teach others about this subject. You can find that site at AmyShah.com. That’s Amy S-h-a-h dot com. On every episode of Careers Out There, we explore a career path by talking to a real professional who does that kind of work. They tell us what it’s really like and then share all kinds of advice to help you decide if it’s a path that you want to pursue. I’m your host Marc Luber and I’m really psyched to be learning about this cutting-edge career path today. It’s gonna be a great show so stick around! [theme song] Amy, welcome to Careers Out There!
Biomedical Engineer Amy Patel: Thanks Marc, I’m happy to be here.
[WHAT DO BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERS DO starts at 0:58]
Host Marc Luber: Thanks for being here. So Amy, biomedical engineering is such a cutting-edge path, and everything I’m reading about it is saying that it’s really just kind of developing now and coming into its own as its own field. So first I want to say that that makes for a great opportunity for our viewers because if anyone’s really thinking about getting into this, it’s always good to be getting into things that are new and growing because that leaves a lot of room for upward mobility, which is awesome! Let’s first start by you telling us what biomedical engineering is.
Amy Patel: Biomedical engineering is the application of engineering principles and applied sciences to medicine, the human body and the way that biology works to create life.
Luber: So can you give us some examples of biomedical engineering in action? And tell us some applications that would relate to our lives so we could all understand it.
Amy Patel: Definitely! One of the things that I think is the coolest is the DaVinci. It’s a robot that actually performs surgeries, and that is a HUGE biomedical engineering accomplishment. Some other things that you may have heard of are tissue engineering, artificial organs, stem cell research, and also pharmaceutical development of drugs like synthetic drugs that are made purely in the lab, not from things like plants or other animals.
Luber: Wow. So I assume this field must be really important to, let’s say, veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, right?
Amy Patel: Definitely. Things like artificial limbs made out of artificial organs really help a lot of veterans that come back into this country after injuries.
Luber: This all sounds so cool. Tell us some ways that this plays out in real life. Some more examples so that everyone at home who’s never dealt with biomedical engineering could relate to it and can understand it.
Amy Patel: Yeah, definitely! There’s so many different things that you could do to help society. For example, in Europe there was a 21 year-old that lost both of his arms by being electrocuted. So basically, biomedical engineers surgically implanted electronic arms on to him and he was able to live normally. He was able to brush his hair, to drive his own car that was designed for him and everything. So that’s something that really helps people all around the world. Other things are like stem cell treatments. There’s different types of adult stem cell or embryonic stem cell treatments that help people with all sorts of diseases. And we still haven’t even unlocked all of the potentials within that yet. My favorite is tissue engineering. I used to do tissue engineering research where I did a triple-cell culture, an actual respiratory tract of a person. So that could basically in the person help people with asthma breathe better and things like that – it’s really limitless in this industry. It’s amazing. We’re just scratching the surface of it. And being a part of it you could really help people later on in your life.
Luber: So tissue engineering – tell me if this is an example of tissue engineering. I recently heard a story, and I believe it was rock star Keith Richard’s wife had like a fake bladder made because she had bladder cancer. But it wasn’t just like a bag, you know they used to I think just throw a bag in there, like if your colon was removed you’d get a colostomy bag or something. And my understanding is that this is actually like an artificial bladder but made out of her own body, her own cells. Is that tissue engineering? [Patti Hansen Richards actually had a “neobladder” created from her intestines.]
Amy Patel: That’s definitely called tissue engineering with use for artificial organs. So just to go a little bit off that example, putting just a bag in your body is not gonna help. It’s not gonna expand and contract like a normal bladder. It has limits. So that’s a disadvantage of using something like that. And then if you transplant an organ from another person, you know your body could reject it because your blood and your cells are different from that person. So artificially creating an organ is creating so that it will stay within your body and also act like similarly to a normal organ in your body instead of just a bag like for a bladder. So yes, that’s definitely a great example of artificial organs and tissue engineering and you know, maybe even stem cell implantation in the future.
Luber: Wow. It’s so cool. So tell us this then – what specifically is a biomedical engineer doing when it comes to tissue engineering? How are they applying what they’ve learned and what’s going on in a lab?
Amy Patel: That is a great question. A biomedical engineer can be involved and different biomedical engineers would be involved in different steps of the process of that example you used. So for example, there may be biomedical engineers working on the actual research of it in the lab that are creating that and then there would be the next step, which would be creating it for that specific person, which is different for different people. Because it’s not in a lab setting, it’s gonna go into a real person. And then another part is during the surgery, implanting that into the person, there may be a biomedical engineer present watching or making sure that the organ or whatever they’ve created is acting as it’s supposed to both before it gets in to the body and after it gets in to the body. So there’s a lot of different steps that go on in the process.
Luber: Wow. And then I would assume that the odds of any kind of rejection like when you get a transplanted organ are way smaller when it’s being done this way, right?
Amy Patel: Definitely! You can check that out on my website too. I’ve got a lot of blog articles about reducing the rejection of transplanted organs by using artificial organs. And also there’s not as many donors as people who need organs so artificial organs are definitely in very high demand.
Luber: Wow. And what’s stopping all of these things from being so commonplace. All this stuff that you guys are doing? What’s stopping it from being everywhere?
Amy Patel: There’s a couple things. One of the biggest things is ethics. A lot of people are still scared and not as well educated about stem cells. They don’t understand that it doesn’t necessarily have to come from an embryo. There are adult stem cells or you know, even stem cells in your body that you could use for yourself. So there’s a couple different things about that and then another thing is just research. We’re so like I said, scratching the surface. We’re getting there. We’re getting there slowly but surely. So there’s a lot of trials that need to be done on both animals and people before all these things can be available on the market to everybody.
Luber: So when we hear about things like cloning – cloning of cows or cloning of sheep – is that being done by biomedical engineers?
Amy Patel: Definitely. That’s one of the biggest reasons that biomedical engineering became a separate field from chemical or mechanical engineering – it’s because of cloning.
[BIOENGINEERING CAREERS starts at 7:14]
Luber: Wow. So you were telling me over the phone that there’s a lot of subfields of biomedical engineering and I was reading about that even on Wikipedia – they were mentioning that there’s so many subfields. Can you tell us about some of those?
Amy Patel: Yeah – definitely! Some of the subfields are nanotechnology which is the study of really, really tiny particles of fluid motions. Then of course there’s tissue engineering, research, there’s actual engineering paths where you can go into like quality engineering, reliability engineering, safety, etc, etc. So tons of things that you can go into that can spark your interests. Even people like mechanical engineers and chemical engineers often go into the field of biomedical engineering because of the diversity.
Luber: Oh wow, OK. And then you were telling me even that someone could be a sales person because they could combine their personality with their technical skills? Is that right?
Amy Patel: Yes! Biomedical engineers make great sales people for pharmaceutical products or medical devices because they could actually explain how the product works in real life since they come from that industry and they have that background knowledge of whatever they’re selling.
Luber: OK, wow. You know first, I want to tell the audience too that I’m a total science idiot. So just in case anyone’s hearing that I’m not questioning certain things or that I’m glossing over certain things, that’s because some of this does go over my head because I am a science idiot! So I just want to make that clear in case someone’s wondering. You told me over the phone that there’s a certain goal that so many people have that enter this field. I thought this was REALLY interesting. Tell everybody what that goal is.
Amy Patel: Yeah, a really common thing that you’ll see in this industry no matter what subfield you go into is that people are really trying to better society through their work. Whether it’s through drugs, through artificial limbs, through research that they’re doing, it’s really to help the betterment of mankind or, you know, help people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, aging, things like that. It’s a really inspirational field where you can really feel like you’re making a difference in the world.
Luber: And is that what led you to this path?
Amy Patel: That’s definitely the first thing that attracted me to this industry.
Luber: Wow! Very cool! So tell us then what YOU do and what your role is in biomedical engineering.
Amy Patel: Great! Right now I’m a reliability engineer at a pharmaceutical company. So we help manufacture drugs for chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, diseases that stunt child growth, things like that. Basically long-term lifelong diseases where people need these drugs to live.
Luber: Wow. And what does reliability engineer mean? What does a reliability engineer do?
Amy Patel: What I do as a reliability engineer is I make sure that all of the big machines that are creating these drugs like fermenters, boilers, all of these huge machines are working properly to manufacture the drugs perfectly to every single tiny microgram that’s being manufactured.
Luber: Wow. So are you like a mechanic in a sense?
Amy Patel: I’m not a mechanic but I do analyze all the data to make sure that the mechanics are keeping up with their maintenance properly on the equipment and if a piece of equipment does fail, I do things like a root cause analysis to make sure that the equipment is performing properly or to see if we need to purchase new equipment in order to manufacture the drugs properly for our patients.
Luber: OK. It’s like the car dealer kind of. Ha!
Amy Patel: Ha. Kind of.
Luber: You have to make sure everything is running properly, take it in, get it checked… Tell us about a typical day for biomedical engineers –you can take into account what you do and then also what you know about some of the other fields – if there’s some commonalities that we can talk about.
Amy Patel: So a typical day in my field as a reliability engineer at a pharmaceutical company is I do attend a lot of meetings to represent my knowledge base and my technical knowledge. I also do a lot of data analysis on the computer and generate a lot of reports and recommendations for people to move forward with what they’re doing to ensure that the quality of our products is what we’re promising. Other biomedical engineers can be involved in things like day-to-day research, many meetings representing their technical base, grant writing to raise money for their company or the organization that they’re working for, and also a lot of things that people do is giving presentations on what they’re doing. There’s a lot of different things you could do based on if you prefer to work on your own or as part of a large team. A lot of things that we do is being part of a project to make sure that we represent the human body and the engineering principles correctly. A lot of the mechanical engineers or other marketing people that work on these things don’t understand what goes on in the human body and the engineering principles behind like fluid dynamics or other things that affect the end products.
Luber: Hmm. So then you’d say that there’s a lot of variety within each day. It’s not like you’re just sitting at a desk. You’re doing a lot of different things within a day.
Amy Patel: Definitely. That’s what I love – that I could do something different every day. But another good thing about it in going into this industry is whether you like working individually or as part of a team or presenting to people, you could pick what you like to do and go into that job eventually based on your interests.
Luber: OK. So then there’s really something for everybody!
Amy Patel: Yeah, definitely! I think so.
[EDUCATION FOR BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING CAREERS starts at 12:14]
Luber: That’s really good. Let’s talk about high school. What should someone like in school if they want to go down this path?
Amy Patel: In high school the important subjects are definitely biology, chemistry, math. If your school offers advanced physics classes or even advanced medical science classes, I’d definitely say to take that to learn more about what you’d be getting into in real life. And another useful thing to do is that there are internships that you could take even in high school. You just work for free and get experience at a company. I would say that’s really important when choosing your college major.
Luber: Whoa, so you could even do that in high school?
Amy Patel: Definitely. You can definitely intern at a company in high school. You just have to have that initiative and go out there and get it.
[WHAT TO STUDY AND WHAT MAJOR TO CHOOSE IN COLLEGE FOR BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING CAREERS at 13:22]
Luber: Interesting. God, I wish I was good at those classes. Those are all my worst classes other than economics! Those are my worst classes. I could not do them. They were interesting but I couldn’t do them. I’m an English major kind of guy but this stuff sounds so fascinating. I really love, especially the fact that this is one of those “I want to help the world” kind of jobs AND the fact that it is so cutting edge and you’re really pushing everything into the future. So I hope everyone listening who’s interested in science and math is really paying attention because I think this sounds like just a great opportunity to jump into. Let’s talk about college now: college classes and college majors. Do you major in biomedical engineering?
Amy Patel: Yes, you could major in biomedical engineering. At some schools it’s called “bioengineering”. That’s pretty much the same thing. Some people that get into this industry prefer to double major or major in something different if their school doesn’t offer it – like chemical engineering or mechanical engineering – and you could still go into biomedical engineering from those fields.
Luber: Wow, OK. So you just have to also have the bio background? You just don’t necessarily have to major in it?
Amy Patel: Yeah. You would just have to take some extra bio classes. I know that some schools still don’t offer biomedical or bioengineering for an undergraduate degree so I would suggest taking extra biology classes or, you know, maybe taking classes over the summer at another school that does offer the biomedical engineering classes. That would be a good advantage to get into the industry or see if you even like it first.
Luber: Yeah! And then if someone’s starting in college and didn’t know in high school that this is what they wanted but they’re interested in the general concept, they should just start taking as many science classes as they can?
Amy Patel: They should take specifically biomedical engineering classes. A lot of schools will offer like an entry level biomedical engineering course so you could learn about all of the different industries and what you could possibly do in the future.
Luber: Wow, OK. And then are there certain parts of the country where people really should be looking for these programs or are they pretty much popping up at a lot of universities now?
Amy Patel: Nowadays they are popping up at a lot more universities, but I would definitely say in places like the South or the Midwest it’s more rare. Maybe not impossible to find but more rare. But definitely the 2 coasts: The east coast and the west coast would be easier to find a biomedical engineering major at bigger colleges.
Luber: Is it kind of a combination of a pre-med with engineering?
Amy Patel: Yes. I would say that’s definitely accurate. I could give you one small example. There’s blood flowing through your arteries 24/7. Basically that blood puts a lot of sheer force on your arteries so knowing things like the thickness of the arteries and the viscosity of the blood and the sheer force are all engineering principles but within the body. You know there’s different cells in there and stuff – it’s not just water or a liquid and so that’s the combination of engineering and medical principles that you’re talking about.
[IS A GRADUATE DEGREE NECESSARY FOR BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING CAREERS at 15:36]
Luber: Wow, it’s all so interesting. And what about grad school? Is it possible for someone to build their career on a Bachelor’s of science or do they really need to go out and get a higher level degree after that?
Amy Patel: That is a great question. An engineering degree, and any type of engineering whether it be biomedical, chemical, electrical, mechanical, is a great degree to have even if you just want an undergraduate degree with no advanced degrees because you automatically go into the profession of engineering, whereas, you know, things like biology and economics , you kind of have to specialize a little bit more. You can of course go to grad school to further specialize in like photodynamics or tissue engineering or any of the other topics we’ve talked about. Other things that people do is get their PhDs or their MDs or you can even get your MBA afterwards, so it’s pretty diverse and open after your undergraduate degree.
Luber: Wow. OK, so lots of different ways you can spin this one.
Amy Patel: Yup.
Luber: What first attracted you to this? We were talking about your interest in helping the world but how did you first hear of it? Did you know about it in high school? Did you figure it out in college?
Amy Patel: In high school I was really motivated to figure out what I wanted to do. You know, a lot of people around me wanted to do different things and they knew what they wanted to do. I myself did not, which is very common.
Amy Patel: So basically what I did is I just went out there and figured it out. I went on Google and looked at a lot of careers that are in demand and careers that can help people. I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor or work in a hospital but I knew I wanted to help people and be something in the medical field. It’s a HUGE field. There’s so many careers out there for people.
Luber: Yeah, for sure. I love that you found it through Google! You figured it out through Google. That’s so great!
Amy Patel: Yeah!
[SKILL SETS NEEDED FOR BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERS at 17:13]
Luber: I love that! What skill sets would you say – beyond formal education, what skill sets would you say people really need to bring to the table to go down this path?
Amy Patel: You definitely need to be a hard worker. You need to be motivated, never be able to give up. But one of the biggest things is you need to have an analytical way of thinking. So, for example, if you’re looking at a lamp you see it as a light bulb, a shade, and then an electrical socket that’s coming out of somewhere. There’s different components that you see that you put together as one. That’s a great way to think. A lot of people that go into engineering when they were young they played with Lego’s a lot. That’s one of the really big indicators that you may be made to be an engineer.
Luber: Wow. Very interesting. That’s great. So many people love Legos. And Lego land in San Diego – I guess that’s a place you would go?
Amy Patel: I love that place!
Luber: Were you a regular there hanging out all the time?
Amy Patel: I’ve only been there a couple of times but I loved Lego land.
Luber: That’s hilarious! Not too far from Irvine!
Amy Patel: Yeah.
Luber: What else? Other than analytical thinking….team player?
Amy Patel: Yeah, it’s definitely not necessary to work in a team. For example, in a research environment a lot of people can work on their own but most of the jobs out there are definitely working as part of a diverse team. So not a team of biomedical engineers…
[WHO BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERS WORK AND INTERACT WITH at 18:27]
Luber: Tell us that. Who does a biomedical engineer interact with on a daily basis. What type of people, what type of roles?
Amy Patel: Well on a daily basis you’d interact with other engineers like electrical or mechanical or even chemical engineers depending on your job. And you definitely interact with a lot of project managers asking you a lot of questions that they don’t understand. Project manager basically puts everything together but maybe doesn’t understand each individual component and then there’s other people that are also involved like marketing, branding, business development, people that want to know “OK what you’re working on – is that gonna take our company to the next level or is it gonna put our product in that pipeline to make it where you’d make more money moving forward to fund what we want to do to help people?” So there’s a lot of different kinds of people that you’re working with that you need to explain different things to because they themselves have different backgrounds as well. I myself as a reliability engineer work with quality engineers, validation engineers and a lot of business development people as well.
Luber: Now when you’re talking about the business development people and marketing people, I assume that they are not engineers? They do not have a science background, they’re just very interested in this field and that’s why they’re there?
Amy Patel: Yes. Typically, they don’t have a science background. They might have an economics or business degree background. But, you know, to run a company, you need a little bit of everything.
Luber: Yeah! So they’re relying on you for your expertise.
Amy Patel: Exactly! And us on them as well. You know, I don’t know how to make the packaging to sell product properly but they do so we bounce ideas off of each other.
[REWARDS AND CHALLENGES OF BIOENGINEERING CAREERS starts at 19:57]
Luber: Yup. That’s great. What about the most rewarding aspect of this path? Other than we’ve mentioned changing the world, helping the world, what else would you say?
Amy Patel: I would definitely say seeing things go from point A to point Z. Seeing how much work is involved, how much time, how much commitment is involved in something. As a biomedical engineer, it’s really cool because you could see things from beginning to end, whereas somebody that’s in marketing might see things more towards the tail end. We get to see a lot of the research and development and then we also get to see things go to market. So that’s really cool because you could apply that to different industries. For example, even Anheuser Busch, the company that ferments and makes beer, I have a lot of knowledge about all of the instrumentation involved in pharmaceutical manufacturing, which is actually very very similar to fermenting beer! So it’s something that you’re able to apply to different industries and it’s just pretty interesting to see things go from nothing to this huge thing that everybody knows about.
Luber: So does everyone stay late after work on Fridays and kind of push the cancer drugs and the arthritis drugs out of the way and start brewing some microbrews there?
Amy Patel: Hey, you could definitely do that with our equipment!
Luber: That would be fun. That’s yet another reason to down that path!
Luber: So what’s the most challenging aspect of this?
Amy Patel: The most challenging aspect I would say is working with the different types of people and also when things don’t necessarily go your way. When you’re working at a big company, you have a lot of resources. But I’ve also worked at a small company before where we don’t have as much money, we don’t have as many employees, so you’re stretched a little bit thinner and it’s just being creative with what you have and having that positive attitude to make you pull through everything. But, you know, if you’re working with good people and you have a good attitude about it you can definitely do it. But there’s always challenges no matter what field you choose to go in to.
Luber: Absolutely. What about this? You were telling me over the phone that a lot of times people aren’t even familiar – people in your own industry might not be familiar with what biomedical engineering is. Did you tell me that it’s kind of in the industry called BME?
Amy Patel: Yes, so BME would be our short version of biomedical engineering.
Amy Patel: And you’re correct. It’s definitely – it’s something that’s been around for a long time but it’s never really had like a set name. You know, more mechanical engineers or chemical engineers would go into these biotech companies. And so more in the recent years biomedical engineering has been more widely recognized and so it’s a little bit frustrating trying to explain to people that we’re not just biology majors. You know, we’ve taken a lot of advanced calculus courses, a lot of physics courses. So we understand fluid dynamics, biomechanics, all those kind of things so those are definitely things that are a little bit difficult to deal with but you get through it as long as you have the right knowledge, you’re able to explain it to others.
Luber: What about this? You were telling me that sometimes the real world is very different from the education world, the school world for an engineer. And translating it into real life can be a tricky thing. Can you tell us about that?
Amy Patel: Yeah, if I could give you an example about that, that would be great.
Amy Patel: You know when you’re in school, you have a lot of direction. People telling you what to do, giving you instructions, helping you along the way of your path. When you’re in the real world, you basically are just given a problem and figure it out. Figure out how to do it. You’re not getting what you need to use to do it. So for example, at one of my first jobs I was doing research and the cells that I was working on in my research lab wouldn’t fit into the dishes that we had to grow them in. And so the post-doctorate that I was working under just said “well we need to grow these cells in here, this is what we have, figure it out” and he didn’t give me any other information or anything to figure it out. He just walked away to write the rest of his grant proposal. So that was a big challenge that you don’t learn about in school. You just have to be open-minded, work hard and I succeeded eventually after that. It took me hours and hours of research of what to do but you know, I did it and you just gotta figure it out.
Luber: Ha, that’s great. Thinking on your feet! That’s the real world.
Amy Patel: That is the real world.
Luber: Absolutely, yeah. What about this? You also were saying earlier that there’s something for everybody out there. There’s ways to kind of tweak your role so that you find the thing that fits your interests and skills. You told me over the phone that there are – some people don’t like the engineering aspects of the path. Maybe the drawings aren’t really their thing but the science, the biology aspect is more of interest. How does that work out and what if someone starts working, they get out there in the real world, and they realize that? They realize that their strengths are not in the drawings and not in the engineering aspects. What do they do?
Amy Patel: That’s a great question. There’s a lot of people like that in this industry. Maybe even half the people in this industry are like that. And it’s good because they have the engineering background. They’ve got a really good, solid knowledge base of the engineering so they may go into something like research, they may get their PhD, they may become a professor and go into teaching. A lot of other things that people do are related to that industry. So, for example, you could work at a pharmaceutical company and be a salesperson and sell the drugs and you could still make good money and use everything that you learned in school. Or work at a medical device company because you have a degree in BME and be a sales person or a marketing person on that end as well. I’ve seen a lot of people do that and they’re very successful and they’re very happy with what they do.
Luber: Nice! What about this? What’s the weed out factor? I always like to ask this. This would be the thing where if you can’t handle this, you really shouldn’t be in this path. You shouldn’t be going down this path at all. What would that be?
Amy Patel: I would say a big weed out factor is just not being able to consume and understand numbers that well. So it’s not the end-all be-all because this is a very diverse industry, but I think even when you go into sales or when you go into marketing you still need to understand numbers. You need to understand statistics and what these numbers have as an effect on people. So, for example, if the statistic of something is 1 in 3 and you’re trying to sell somebody, depending on whether that’s a positive or negative statistic, you want to know how to spin that. So really I think you have to be a numbers person no matter whether you’re looking at drawings or generating reports or doing sales.
[BECOMING A BIOMEDICAL ENGINEER starts at 26:05]
Luber: Wow, OK. Alright – numbers person. Remember that everybody. You’ve gotta be a numbers person. What about employment? Everyone wants to know about jobs. If you’re coming out of school now, where should you be looking? What types of places should you be looking for employment?
Amy Patel: This is a great, growing industry right now. I would say a lot of the big companies or start-ups if you have start-ups in your area. Like San Diego has a lot of pharmaceutical start-ups and the Bay Area has a lot of biotech and pharmaceutical start-ups as well. So pharmaceutical, biotech, research labs – places that basically have a large volume of things and a lot of money. That’s where you’ll be able to find a lot of jobs. However, there’s a lot of small start-up companies where you learn a lot more initially even though the companies have less money, hey – you know it’s kind of like you can learn a lot and something might happen with the company – it might not work out but you still got great experience where you can go on to your next job after that. A job that you might be able to have a more specialized role in.
Luber: Right. And what about this? Internships. You mentioned that in high school there’s opportunities. Do you see a lot of opportunities in this space for college internships?
Amy Patel: Definitely. I know tons of students that are in college right now that work at large pharmaceutical companies or even smaller companies. There’s legal firms that do want college students that have a science knowledge – maybe on some of their cases and things like that. So that’s something kind of cool – you can go into a company that’s not biotech or pharma and get great experience. I even know someone who got a great internship at the FDA – the Food and Drug Administration – and it’s always great to know the laws in this country before you go into industry as well, so there’s a lot of internships out there. You’ve just got to go get them. You can even intern at companies like Coca-Cola or Neutrogena. You know, things that you might not initially think are applicable to your industry but you will learn things that will help you later on as well.
Luber: So do companies like those even have biomedical engineers? You would have someone in your role at a Coca-Cola kind of place?
Amy Patel: They’ll probably have things like people for research or chemical industry, which are really relevant to biomedical and pharmaceutical industries as well. But the biggest thing will probably be that they would land a role in research and development or marketing. Marketing for things like over-the-counter drugs, which Neutrogena manufactures, is somewhat similar to pharmaceuticals as well, you know. So I would say it’s definitely worth a try. If that’s what you get, then go for it.
Luber: Wow, OK. Yeah internships you guys are so important. I broke into the music business that way. That was my first career before getting in to the career consulting/recruiting space. It’s all about internships. That’s how you meet everybody, that’s how you get out there, you get your work experience, you get started…So everybody should definitely pay attention. It’s good that they have it in this – in such a technical kind of career path. I think that’s really good to know. So start-up companies – those are there for people who really aren’t big fans of corporate America. If they really are interested in that more smaller, cutting-edge kind of a thing, the start-up opportunities are out there?
Amy Patel: Yes. There’s definitely start-up opportunities out there. And the good thing about a start-up company is that you get to do so many things initially so it’s a great job right out of college or even in high school if you’re able to land an internship there. It’s great. You get to do a little bit of every single thing. Especially if you get it in high school, hey – maybe you discover biomedical engineering or some other field from a start-up company. So that’s definitely a big advantage. And networking is the biggest thing. So when you work at a start-up company, you get to meet a LOT of new people and that’s a a BIG advantage to any industry.
Luber: That is Red Magic Marker territory. I always tell people that networking is Red Magic Marker territory. Get out your red magic markers everybody and highlight that in your notes. Networking is key. Right Amy?
Amy Patel: Definitely. That’s how I got all of my jobs: Networking.
Luber: Alright you guys, you’ve gotta do that! So we’ve got pharma companies, medical device, biotech, start-ups, and even places like Coca-Cola. Or even, you were telling me places like a research place like a Kaiser.
Amy Patel: Oh yeah! Kaiser definitely hires biomedical engineers. Anywhere that has big equipment where it has anything to do with medicine, you can get a job. And also like you said, pharmaceutical companies and anything that’s large-scale manufacturing companies that need help with equipment, you know.
Luber: There’s so many opportunities!
Amy Patel: Other things like research organizations or like St. John’s Hospitals or Scripps Center in San Diego, those are really big research organizations that hire a lot of people that have science and engineering knowledge. So that’s a big advantage of being in this industry.
Luber: OK. So many different places you can go and take this skill set it sounds like. Learn it and then grow it.
Amy Patel: Yes!
[KEYS TO SUCCESS FOR BIOENGINEERING CAREERS starts at 30:42]
Luber: Very very cool. Well do this. Close us out with some keys to success. Take your experience and kind of take the mentor role where you are gonna give everyone that’s watching that kind of head start – a leg up on everyone else. They can learn from you, who’s been out there in the world, and they can get a little leg up on everybody else.
Amy Patel: Great. So I’m gonna say it again: networking! Never give up. Meet as many people as you can and do not be shy. Get involved in your school, in your organizations. Get involved in clubs, get involved in industry, just get out there! That’s what you need to do. Another big thing is obviously grades are very, very important, but what’s also very important is your academics being diverse. It helps you a lot if you have leadership experience, whether that be in clubs or student government, and it also helps you a lot if you go out there and get a job early. Getting a job just teaches you responsibility, conflict management, patience, which is big in any industry, and another big thing that I would tell high school students out there is research what you want to do. Take a career aptitude test that you could probably get from your career center. If you can’t find that you could probably find a million things on line. And just get out there and do some research and try to figure it out. You don’t have to decide tomorrow what you’re gonna do for the rest of your life but at least know your options. Stay open-minded and definitely stay excited about any opportunity because the world is your oyster when you’re 18!
Luber: Ha! The world is your oyster. Great advice! Excellent advice for everybody. You guys, as always at Careers Out There, we’re helping you find a career that fits you so you could love what you do like Amy here. Amy, thanks so much for joining us today!
Amy Patel: Great. Thank you Careers Out There.
Luber: Ha! I hope this was helpful to you guys. Please leave your feedback, your questions and your comments in the comments section below the video at Careers Out There dot com. You could find Amy’s biomedical engineering blog at Amy Shah dot com and that’s Amy S-h-a-h dot com. You could find episodes of Careers Out There on iTunes, YouTube, BlipTV and of course at Careers Out There dot com. Thanks again for watching everybody. I’m Marc Luber and look forward to seeing you again soon. Take care.
©2011 Careers Out There