Ask An Expert Archive

Learn more about Biological Engineering by reading the questions and answers of others interested in this exciting field!

Other
Question: To whom this may concern, I am contacting you to obtain more information about your organization. I am currently a high school student who plans to attend become a biomedical engineer. I am not asking for much information, a short and simple response would be perfect. I have a couple of questions for a small class project: What is the purpose of your Biomedical Engineering group? And What qualities do you look for in a potential member? Thank you for your time, it will be greatly appreciated
Answer: Thank you so much for your question! I am a biological engineer (not specifically a biomedical engineer) but I conduct a lot of research on biologically derived materials for biomedical applications such as wound care and tissue engineering. I work specifically on polysaccharides (like cellulose, starch, chitosan, etc.) and make films, pads, foams, even some adhesives for biomedical applications. Your question of expectations for a group member is excellent! Of course, expectations differ based on level, i.e., undergraduate freshman vs. senior, MS student or PhD student. Some of the most important qualities include: 1) Initiative (student is pushing to make progress, not being pulled along by advisor); 2) Ownership (student views project as his/her project, not the advisors/professors project); 3) Dedication/commitment (good results take time. A student can spend a lot of time making mistakes and getting no results. This is the learning process! But it takes the ability to keep trying); 4) Confidence (good students understand their level of experience, but have confidence in their ability to learn, grow, ask questions - even the 'stupid' ones (that are never stupid), network with others, present their findings or troubles, etc. This is a tough one. Also requires modesty.); 5) Scholarship (the desire to learn by reading, thinking, playing, asking questions, listening carefully, being objective, ability to be mentored, not taking things personally, being sincere – all while having fun, of course!); 6) Focus on process (many students just want to get the degree - they don't understand that its the skills that matter. Are you ready for the next step?); 7) Relationships (can you be a good lab partner, colleague, etc. Can you develop and maintain positive professional relationships – even in times of conflict? With those below you, your peers, and your supervisors? Can you give and take – good relationships are based on reciprocity.); 8) Reflection (do you actively reflect on your self, your own behavior, the activities around you, your goals, what you can contribute, what do you want to do in your life, etc.); 9) Contribution (are you aware that universities are founded on ‘scholarship for the public good’, i.e., as you become a professional and scholar the intent is for you to make a positive contribution to our world. How will you do it? What will it be?); 10) Ethics (being honest and an active moral agent. Are you being truthful when you report data? Are you thinking about the ethics of what you are doing? What is going on around you?). This should have been first on the list! This is a short list but the things that immediately come to mind. I am happy to discuss. Best of luck in your career pursuits!
Expert: Jeff Catchmark
Answered on: January 8, 2017

Biomedical
Question: What things do Biological Engineers develop and how? Do Biological Engineers only work inside laboratories with chemicals, etc. or do we physically get involved in the making of prosthetics, implants, and other devices? Does Biomedical Engineering give you opportunities to study and/or work abroad? What exactly are the aspects or "problems" Biomedical Engineers work with? How do I become a Biological Engineer? Are there governmental spots as a Biological Engineer?
Answer: Biological engineering is quite broad discipline - much broader than biomedical engineering. What you mentioned (lab work with chemicals and developing prosthetics/implants) can be tied to typical biomedical engineering, where biological engineers can also work on drug development and testing, design of industrial-scale bioreactors, environmental monitoring, food production, food safety, biosensors, etc. Both biological and biomedical engineering can give you opportunities to study and work abroad and to work in government (e.g. CDC, FDA, USDA, DoD research labs, etc.). To become a biological engineer, you may want to pursue a 4-year bachelor of science (BS) degree program.
Expert: Jeong-Yeol Yoon
Answered on: September 13, 2016

Biomedical
Question: I have just finished my freshman year in mechanical engineering, and I am seriously considering changing my major this Fall, as I am very interested in pursuing biomedical/bioengineering engineering, particularly neural systems engineering or cardiovascular bioengineering. Unfortunately my university does not have an undergraduate degree in biomedical/bioengineering, but it does have an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering with a biomedical focus. Would this major be helpful in pursuing my future goals ? Thank you
Answer: Varun: The areas you are interested in are really exciting, and they are cutting-edge research fields. It is unfortunate that your university does not offer a bioengineering degree, but even then, it would not be a guarantee that specialized courses in neural systems or cardiovascular bioengineering would be offered. If you plan to stay at your university, Chemical Engineering with a biomedical focus is probably as close as you get. I wish I could tell you more, but I do not know your institution, therefore I can't assess the biomedical courses that are offered. In any case, you might really want to look into additional options, first and foremost undergraduate research -- either at your own institution or via REU at other institutions --, but also at topics courses that you agree on with those professors that are involved in this field. Both one-on-one topics courses and (even more so!) undergraduate research will give you significant experience in your fields of interest and make your CV more competitive. Good luck!
Expert: Mark Haidekker
Answered on: July 5, 2016

Nanotechnology
Question: (Do you know any school giving the training for the dual degree of medicine and genetic engineer ?
Answer: I am sorry but I do not know of any which have a formal "dual degree". I have asked some colleagues and none have heard of such a program. Given your interest in engineering and medicine I would seek guidance from faculty in biomedical engineering who can help you identify a program which suits your career goals, i.e., do you want to focus on genetic engineering with application to medicine, or are you more interested in the medical side where new engineering techniques are used more clinically for patient treatment (as just one perspective). You may also want to identify researchers working at or affiiated with hospitals to see how engineers work in clinically focused environments. If your goal beyond the 4-year degree is to pursue an MD, then it would really benefit you to speak to some doctors at hospitals known for research like Johns Hopkins or perhaps a hospital close to you. The vast majority of professionals are very approachable for guidance. Do not be afraid to reach out to many! Best of luck!
Expert: Jeff Catchmark
Answered on: June 26, 2016

Other
Question: What universities offer degrees in Biological Engineering undergraduate degrees? I am especially interested in Genetic engineering.
Answer: Hello, there is a good list of biological systems engineering programs here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_systems_engineering It is rare to find a degree called genetic engineering. It is more common for individuals to major in molecular biology or biological sciences. If you are seeking a true engineering design path, then a program called biological engineering or biological systems engineering would provide what you are seeking. I hope that this is helpful. Regards, Mark Riley Univ of Nebraska
Expert: Mark Riley
Answered on: March 27, 2016

Answer: Thank you for your question! Genetic engineering is fascinating and an important area in biological engineering. Many universities offer a biological engineering degree. You can check this web page which lists these programs: http://www.findengineeringschools.org/Search/Majors/agricultural.htm The advantage of learning genetic engineering within the context of an engineering degree is that you will be exposed to the practical side of genetic engineering, i.e., how you can use this technology to solve socially/industrially relevant problems. Like engineering bacteria which are better suited for making biofuels. Of course, the sky is the limit! Microorganisms can produce a vast array of products useful for many industries including food, materials for healthcare, pharmaceuticals, etc. A very exciting field! Please let us know if you have additional questions. Best of luck!
Expert: Jeff Catchmark
Answered on: March 30, 2016

Biomedical
Question: What are some benefits and drawbacks of this career? What do you think that the future of this career is? Why is this job important? Where are some different places that you work at? What makes biomedical engineering better than another field such as mechanical engineering or others?
Answer: The future career directions are very strong especially for the broader biological engineering. Taking that approach encompasses biomedical but also connects to bioprocessing and environmental applications. Being able to address how living systems of all sorts interface with the built environment is a strong growth path for development of new technologies and solutions to our most complex problems.
Expert: Mark Riley
Answered on: November 21, 2015

Answer: The future career directions are very strong especially for the broader biological engineering. Taking that approach encompasses biomedical but also connects to bioprocessing and environmental applications. Being able to address how living systems of all sorts interface with the built environment is a strong growth path for development of new technologies and solutions to our most complex problems.
Expert: Mark Riley
Answered on: November 21, 2015

Biology
Question: I am really interested in learning as much as i can about Bioengineering before college so I can have a head start and be able to flesh out many of the ideas that I have. One thing I was really wondering was how can I get a cell sample from a dissection. So if I were to dissect a fish and I wanted to compare brain cells of a fish versus the brain cells of a frog. How would I go about doing that? Also what would be the optimal magnification of a microscope for cellular observation. I'd really like to see all the intricacies of the cell in the best quality I can.
Answer: Glad to hear of your interest in learning more about animal physiology. Working with any kind of tissue like this is very challenging due to the compressive mechanical properties, that is, that the tissue is squishy. A good place to start in developing a plan is the ending and then work backwards. If you are comparing tissue under a microscope you will need strong illumination and magnification of 400x (counting both a 10x eyepiece and a 40x objective) to be able to see cells clearly. You also should use a stain to increase contrast. There are numerous stains available but many are hard to obtain http://www.crscientific.com/microscope-stain.html. You might want to try iodine as a safe and readily available compound. Note that many of the compounds mentioned on the site above are hazardous and should not be used without a well prepared biosafety laboratory. Experiment with different staining techniques and dilutions of iodine with water. To get a good image you likely will be using transmitted light (through the sample). This requires that you have a thin slice of your sample otherwise light will be blocked and you won't' see much. Slicing tissue is not easy and requires that you end up with a sample that is no more than several layers of cells thick (100-200 um). A good way to accomplish slicing is to first freeze your tissue sample - it is much easier to slice semi-frozen material than that at room temperature. Try a very sharp knife or razor blade and place the samples on a microscope slide with a cover slip. Try different approaches and slicing techniques along with staining times and dilutions. As with any lab work, use careful technique and appropriate safety gear. If you are not familiar with compounds or methods, read up on the internet to learn about necessary precautions. Make good notes on your technique and record your observations. Above all, have fun with the experiment.
Expert: Mark Riley
Answered on: November 24, 2015

Other
Question: What courses would you recommend to take in school in order to go into the Genetic Engineering field? I already have an AAS degree in Engineering, but had to take time off from school due to obstacles out of my control; however now I'm looking to get back on track and don't want to waste more time taking unnecessary classes before attaining this life-long goal. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Percy Franco
Answer: If you have an engineering degree but with little chemistry or biology, then I would recommend the following (I note that you may have already had some of these courses). Inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and genetics. It is useful if you can focus on one area of genetics like, microbial genetics, plant genetics, or animal genetics for higher level information. Taking a course in systems biology will bring together all of these pieces and have a design oriented perspective.
Expert: Mark Riley
Answered on: November 10, 2015

Biofuels
Question: My name is Yonas Kidane. I have master's Degree in Biological Engineering from Utah State University. My master's thesis was on catalytic fast pyrolysis of biomass. I have been applying for a job since May, 2015 but so far I am not able to find. I have been mainly looking the openings in IBE career center, LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster and Glass door, but it didn't work well. My question is on how I could be effective in my job search as a Biological Engineer.
Answer: Hi Yonas. Congratulations on completing your masters in BE. USU is a very good school and I am sure you have been prepared well for your career. Finding a job is a difficult task; starting a career is even more so. Do not get discouraged. Many recent graduates have spent 3, 6, 9 or even 12 months finding the right position. That is why we recommend students start looking 3-6 months before they graduate. It appears you are doing the right things and looking in the right places, but maybe you could do a little more research on your own. Finding a job is a full-time job in itself. Plan to spend 6-8 hours every day doing research on companies in your chosen area of specialty. Perform internet searches for companies working in your area. Find out what they do (exactly) and figure out how your skills could integrate with their technology. Then send a well-written letter introducing yourself, identifying exactly how what you do would benefit their company. This should not be a form letter that applies in general to all companies - be VERY SPECIFIC in describing how you will advance the company's interests. Then do it again with another company. You may also want to look for technical conferences that you can attend to network with the attendees and sponsors. Try to find one that attracts a large number of industries such as BIO - the Biotechnology Industry Organization or BioCycle (unfortunately their conference was this past week). Look for others focused on your target industry. You may have to spend a few dollars in travel and registration but placing yourself in front of the right people and presenting yourself as a capable and professional engineer will go a long way. I hope this was helpful.
Expert: Ben J. Stuart
Answered on: October 22, 2015

Education
Question: Hello! My name is Madhuri Dinakar and i recently graduated in the field of biotechnology. I want do apply for masters for the 2016 fall semester. I want to pursue a career in biomimetics but have seen that there are very limited masters programs in biomimetics alone. I would like to know whether doing bioengineering is a good option to get into biomimetics. Also from what I have read and heard it seems as though bioengineering deals with solving biological problems using engineering principles and that specifically in the medical field. Since biomimetics deals with the opposite that being solving engineering problems by getting inspired from nature, does it make sense to do a masters in bioengineering? One more question is if bioengineering only deals with medical field. How are the job prospects after master completion in the US? Thanking you, Madhuri
Biofuels
Question: I am an undergraduate student attending the University of Arkansas. As of now I am enrolled as a biological engineering major, and honestly the rigorous calculus courses are quite frightening. Should I continue along this path or branch out to maybe a different major like say genetics? Genetic engineering is my passion, and I've looked forward to it ever since I was introduced to it my sophomore year of highschool. Also are there many available internships that I could possibly take advantage of in the future? I'd love to assist a professional, and learn everything I possibly can!Thank you for your time!
Answer: I am delighted that you are pursuing a BE degree! Advanced math courses can be difficult for everyone. In some institutions they are considered 'weed out' classes. I myself did not do well in differential equations even though I loved he topic. In spite of a truly dismal grade, my PHD focused on the solution of novel nonlinear systems of differential equations. I actually did quite well. The reason I mention this is that some students feel their inability to get good grades in math mean that they are not skilled in math and math related concepts. In an similar line of reasoning some students feel it may also mean that they would not be good engineers. Don't believe this. Math is challenging because it requires a lot of extra effort and independent work. Don't give up too quickly! That said, some universities allow math classes taught at community colleges or branch campuses to be transferred to their degree program. I know students who were getting very low grades in math at the main campus and then took the class at a branch campus or community college and did really well. They transferred the credits and ended up getting their engineering degree. However, it could be that you are indeed more interested in science than engineering. There is nothing wrong with that and other degree programs in molecular biology, biochemistry, etc. may be great options for you. Think about what kind of career you want. Do you want to be more of a researcher or do you like to solve problems? Do you want to work in industry? Do you want to go to graduate school (I recommend this!)? It is a lot to consider. In terms of internships there are many possibilities. Each university has Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs, co-op experiences, formal internship programs, etc. You need to see what they have available. However, don't be limited by those options. Speak to your professors about opportunities in their labs. Get a list of the department advisory board and alumni and contact those working in your area of interest. The best opportunities are often made by you! Best of luck!
Expert: Jeff Catchmark
Answered on: October 4, 2015

Education
Question: I have just graduated in the field of biotechnology (B.E) from PES Institute of Technology, Bangalore, India. I have a strong interest in biomimetics and want to pursue a career in this field. I will be applying for Masters for the 2016 batch. I would like to know whether biological engineering is the right field if I want to get into biomimetics. Also having done a degree in biotechnology, is biological engineering too broad a field for Masters? I would also appreciate if you could suggest some universities in Europe and America. Thank you
Answer: Congratulations on your graduation! I share your interest in biomimetics - it is a really exciting area! I may be a bit biased here but I think biological engineering is the ideal discpline to purse study in this area. Biological engineering involves the application of biology to engineering. This is a big part - perhaps the main part - of practical biomimetics. For example, a while ago I had a project to try to engineer a new fiber composite with improved strength to weight ratio by implementing an architecture similar to cuttlefish bone. Cuttlefish bone is amazing. Its elastic modulus is almost constant over a factor of ~3 in density due to the cellular architecture of the bone. In any case, I don't think biological engineering is 'too broad' for a masters degree. Many of the main engineering degrees are broad (civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical...). The coursework associated with your graduate degree is important (and biological engineering uniquely fits a biomimetics theme) but your MS or PHD is really about your research. It would be hard to do an MS in 'biomimetics' as it is broad - you would need to focus. You can do an MS (to follow my previous example) in "improved cellulose nanofiber composites implementing a cellular cuttlefish bone architecture" - just as an example. The biomimetics is the basis of the specific project. You may want to think of areas which interest you to narrow down your research focus. I don't know about schools in Europe, but in the US you can find a great list here: http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/engineering-doctorate-biological-agricultural/data I thought Penn State was #10 but it is not shown on that list. We will be on the list soon though I think. We are getting a beautiful new building to help us keep up with our expanding programs. It is quite exciting! I hope you find a great program to enable your biomimetics work. Please consider attending the IBE conference to learn more about others doing work in this field or to present your work. We all would love to see you there!
Expert: Jeff Catchmark
Answered on: June 25, 2015

Biomedical
Question: I am a Chemical Engineering major at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. I have been meeting with my adviser to schedule out the next few years of my study, currently an undergraduate, and I have decided to take the Biological Engineering track. I want to pursue a Master's in Chemical Engineering, but I was also looking at Pharmaceutical Engineering. If I decide to stay with the Biological Engineering track, would this mean that I would not be as qualified to work in the automotive field? I am asking this because not only do I want to educate myself as much as I can through my degree, but I also want to ensure that the track I am taking will allow me to find a job once I am done with school. Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon! Kind regards, Greta Mulbauer
Answer: Thank you for your great question! It is a complex one as both Chemical Engineering and Biological Engineering are very broad (and in fact overlap). You have an interest in the automotive industry, which is also a very broad. There are many areas where Biological Engineering would intersect with work in the automotive industry. There is interest in using sustainable materials or materials with environmentally friendly life cycles. Bioplastics, natural fiber reinforced composites, or hybrid materials which contain greener additives or manufacturing processes will continue to be important. Biological Engineering focuses on biological processes, biologically derived materials, and the application of biology to engineering. Thinking broadly, a chemical engineering degree may have more overlap with the diverse work done in the automotive industry (thinking of metals, metal finishing, conventional petroleum derived plastics and their molding, etc., as just some examples). But a biological engineer could bring a new perspective to such as industry and perhaps make you uniquely marketable. Your focus on the job market is wise, but getting a job is more than a degree, and it typically takes a path you don't expect. I would think about what you really love to do and make yourself most marketable within that area so you can get a job you would really love to do. For example, a chemical or mechanical engineer with metals processing background may have a 'higher volume' of employment opportunities in the automotive industry but if you don't like that area of work, it may not be a great career for you. Besides, although you like the idea of working in the automotive industry, you may find other opportunities which you didn't know of which would be much more enjoyable to you. Find what you like to do and focus on it to do well. Think about internships. Talk to as many professors as you can in Chemical Engineering and Biological Engineering to see what they do and how it applies to work in industry. Look for opportunities to meet with people from industry through job fairs and seminars. And keep an open mind as to how you can take advantage of opportunities. If you have more questions I am happy to discuss! Best of luck!
Expert: Jeff Catchmark
Answered on: June 25, 2015

Answer: I am originally from Riverview, Mich and got my BS degree in ChE from U-M. The biological engineering area can serve you well for training into a number of areas including biofuels and bioproducts, pharmaceuticals, and in some cases environmental engineering. These sub-focus areas depend very much on the elective courses that you may choose to take. This would not be a good fit for the automotive industry (they would mainly hire mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and industrial engineers). However, there may be some interest in addressing manufacturing facility sustainability - see the new green roof on the top of the Rouge Plant making the new Ford F-150.

Getting an MS will help you professionally to get positions in the pharma industry. Note that it is much more beneficial to get an MS based on research than one based just on classes.
Expert: Mark Riley
Answered on: August 14, 2015

Biosensors
Question: What kind of education and exams are required for bioengineering and what is the eligibility criteria for further education in biomechatronics?
Answer: Biomechatronics is multidisciplinary area. You can learn biomechatronics in either biomedical engineering (BME), biological engineering (BE), electrical engineering (EE), or mechanical engineering (ME) program. Dedicated biomechatronics education program (and formal exam) in either undergraduate or graduate program is rare, as far as I know. If your focus is the actual design and fabrication of devices (especially robots), you can pursue ME program. If your focus is physical sensors, actuators, and control algorithm, perhaps EE is the best option. If your focus is the use of biosensors, I would suggest BE. Robotic fish, drones, etc. for environmental/ecological monitoring can be best studied in BE. If your focus is to study human physiology from such devices/robots, BME would be the best.
Expert: Jeong-Yeol Yoon
Answered on: May 2, 2015

Answer: Generally one needs at least a B.S. degree to be competitive in the job market (which is quite strong right now in the U.S.). Biomechatronics is a specialization that is not common in U.S. programs and so I am not much familiar with the job opportunities. Take a look at position advertisements in this area on a search engine like monster.com Looking at current job advertisements will help you see what background is must desirable to employers.
Expert: Mark Riley
Answered on: August 13, 2015

Biomedical
Question: What type of environment do you mainly work in?
Answer: Since your question is fairly broad, I'll try to answer it from the perspective of a typical tenure-track/tenured faculty. If the thrust of your question is different, feel free to post questions that address the details you are most interested in. As a graduate student and as a postdoc, most of your work is in the lab, although this is a good time to gain experience in writing manuscripts and perhaps even contributing to grant proposals. As a faculty member, you continue to be engaged in research, but the focus shifts from performing actual experiments to planning and executing larger-scale research programs. This means that you will spend less time in the actual lab -- students (like you in your present stage of your career) will help you with these tasks. Instead, as a faculty member, you will spend much more time writing: Publications, reports, and -- most importantly for an academic career -- grant applications. You will mentor students and teach them how to successfully conduct experiments and to interpret the results. You will also integrate the individual studies into the larger picture of your research program. This means, in response to your question of the work environment, that you will spend much more time in your office and at the desk than you do now. As a faculty member, you will also become engaged in classroom or lab teaching. The time you spend in the classroom is actually short compared to class preparation and grading, so once again, you'll find yourself in your office for a good part of the time. The work environment also includes the colleagues and administrators in your department or college. In regular meetings, you will discuss goals and achievements of the department/college and plans to move it forward. Often, young faculty are mentored by more senior faculty to ensure your success. You may also discuss collaborations and work with others who complement your expertise, which allows you to pursue broader interdisciplinary research questions. I hope this caught the gist of your question.
Expert: Mark Haidekker
Answered on: August 14, 2015

Food safety
Question: I am interested in obtaining an expert opinion regarding ionic silver in water based solutions (50ppm concentration)for use as an antimicrobial, employing direct food contact and the possible adverse effects of residual nanosilver on humans.
Answer: To whom it may concern: I am sorry this response is so late - I just happened to see this post today. I am not an expert in this area but there does seem to be a big difference between ionic silver and nano particulate silver. Ionic silver has been used in clothing as an antimicrobial agent for 10-15+ years in the military and is in consumer products now also. There is a lot of concern over silver nanoparticles. In any case, please see the following articles. They may help. best of luck! Patricia F. M. Nogueira, Iêda Maria M. Paino, and Valtencir Zucolotto. 2013. Nanosilver: Properties, applications and impacts on health and environment. Vigilância Sanitária em Debate: Sociedade 1, (4): 59-71 Hartemann, Philippe, Peter Hoet, Ana Proykova, Teresa Fernandes, Anders Baun, Wim De Jong, Juliane Filser, et al. 2015. Nanosilver: Safety, health and environmental effects and role in antimicrobial resistance. Materials Today 18, (3): 122-123 Invision international health solutions, inc.; ionic silver complex designed for use in humans receives U.S. patent. 2006. Healthcare Mergers, Acquisition & Ventures Week
Expert: Jeff Catchmark
Answered on: June 25, 2015

Other
Question: My name is Kristin. I am considering Biological Engineering as my major. Please answer these following questions:
  1. How many hours a week on average do Biological Engineers work?
  2. Is there any cases where these Engineers have to take their work home with them (like to analyze information ect)?
  3. Are there any jobs similar to Biological Engineering (other than the other engineering fields) that I may consider if I do not wish to consider this as my major?
Answer: Thank you for your interest in Biological Engineering (BE)! Once you have graduated and are working as a professional BE, jobs are often ~40 hours a week, but this is not a hard rule. Many employers allow flexible hours to accommodate a person’s particular situation, and it depends upon the specific job. For example, a laboratory job requiring the use of specific equipment may require the majority of the work hours to be in the typical ~9-5 slot. However, computer work or work with customers could have very flexible hours. My feeling is that it is best to discover what you love to do, then work to make it fit with your life’s situation. Computer programmers may be able to work at home most of the time, but if you don’t like that kind of work, it may be hard to feel energized by it. You also may be able to negotiate a part-time position. You would need to discuss that with potential employers during interviews, etc.

In terms of other similar jobs apart from engineering, there are many options! Jobs which focus on other disciplines such as biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, plant science, crop and soil science, bioproducts, natural resources, as well as those which accept or prefer non-engineering technical degrees such as (these are 2 examples from Penn State, but most institutions have similar programs) Agricultural Systems Management and Biorenewable Systems. Some of these are based on the sciences (vs. engineering) or even management and business where the technical part is only one component and in many cases a minor one.

This seems complex but perhaps another way to think about it, again, is to consider what you love to do. If you like interacting with lots of different people on a daily basis, perhaps a lab job is not for you. A business/management degree which relates to biological engineering (pharmaceuticals, bioproducts, health care, etc.) where you could be involved with technical sales, working with customers, etc., may be the best thing for you. If you like the lab and designing experiments or dealing with developing specifications for products, etc., then engineering may be the best option. I would advise you to spend some time becoming familiar with all the programs in your institution which are available to you in the colleges of engineering, science, agriculture, business, etc. You may be surprised how many options there are!

In terms of specific companies and jobs, there are so many. Some industries include: food production, agricultural machinery, bioprocessing machinery, pharmaceuticals, health care, and chemicals just to name a few. Any mid to large sized company would have technical and non-technical positions. What they are often looking for beyond a great academic record include a number of ‘soft skills’ like leadership, energy, enthusiasm, initiative, ability to work in teams and independently, create a positive and productive culture, objectivity, willingness to accept positive constructive criticism and a desire to improve and grow personally and professionally. A lot to show on a resume and interview! If you have such skills a company will want to invest in you, including helping you with your work schedule.

Here are some good sites to look at: http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/usda/careers/biosystemsengineer.html http://www.cbe.iastate.edu/careers/careers-in-chemical-and-biological-engineering/

Best of luck!

Jeffrey Catchmark, Associate Professor, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Penn State University
Expert: Jeff Catchmark
Answered on: January 26, 2015

Answer: 1. The work hours will not be different from other engineering disciplines. I would say 40 hours per week. 2. Unlike IT or software engineers, I do not think biological engineers can work in their home. This discipline is experiment-heavy. 3. I suggest Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering.
Expert: Jeong-Yeol Yoon
Answered on: January 27, 2015

Answer: Biological Engineering (BE) is a diverse major with many potential career options. This also is often called Biosystems Engineering or Bioengineering (although this last term has a stronger connotation of biomedical components). I have seen graduates from BE programs go on to careers in areas of the environment, biotech, food, pharmaceuticals, biomedical, and agriculture.

Most individuals do work more than 40 hours per week but this depends very much on the industry in which they work. It would not be uncommon to take work home at times to write reports, review the literature, or analyze data.

There are other entry points into BE jobs other than BE majors. Some students follow an environmental engineering path, or chemical engineering, or agricultural engineering. The BE major differs from these others in that there is a greater emphasis on the biological sciences and this is integrated more into the upper level courses.

In general working in the BE field is hard, requires much education, and takes long hours. This is typical of all engineering majors. However, the BE job market is very strong with numerous opportunities and with very good rates of pay. Individuals who enter this area typically are driven by a desire to have their work have a positive impact on the world (people, environment, animals), they want to develop unique and helpful technologies, and they have perseverance. The last trait (to my mind) is more important than any other characteristic like skills in math or science.
Expert: Mark Riley
Answered on: August 14, 2015