What is Biomedical Engineering?
Biomedical Engineering (BME) is an interdisciplinary field that bridges engineering and medicine to address a wide array of problems associated with human health, from diagnosing and determining the biological origins of disease to designing biocompatible and living products to control/augment the healing process. Biomedical engineers use engineering and biology knowledge to design, fabricate, and analyze of biomedical systems, devices, diagnostics, and therapeutics that address problems and opportunities associated with human health and performance. Examples of products developed by biomedical engineers include biocompatible materials such as prostheses, surgical implants, artificial organs, controlled drug-delivery systems, and wound closure devices. Biomedical engineers work with doctors, veterinarians, therapists, and researchers, as well as in in a wide range of scales—from nanoscale and molecular levels to the whole body—with a focus on affecting change and restoring function.
In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported employment of 16,000 biomedical engineers, which is expected to grow to 26,000 by 2021. This predicted growth rate of 62% is by far the highest of any engineering discipline and among the highest in any profession predicted by BLS. Notably, the need for 10,000 new biomedical engineers in this decade exceeds the combined output of graduates from the top 20 BME programs nationally over this period of time. This deficit in supply of biomedical engineers into the workforce is exacerbated by the fact that a significant fraction of graduates from BME programs pursue graduate or professional education.
Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering at Cornell
Cornell’s Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering is a leader in developing research that spans the Ithaca and New York City campuses, including Weill Cornell Medical College and Cornell Tech. Our mission is to create world-class graduates to meet the 21st century needs of biomedical-related industries focused on medical devices and pharmaceuticals, as well as government and private consulting practice. We also aim to produce intellectual and technical leaders for graduate education in medicine or engineering. Most importantly, we strive to create a diverse community of life-long learners who are innovation confident, collaborative across disciplines, and community engaged. To this end, the Meinig School offers a bachelor of science (B.S.) major designed to provide a broad background in the fundamentals of biomedical engineering as well as an introduction to the many professional and technical areas of interest to biomedical engineers.
Nationally, enrollment of women in undergraduate BME programs exceeds 40%, and enrollment of underrepresented minority (URM) students is approximately 8%, both of which greatly exceed the combined average for all engineered disciplines. In our graduate programs, Cornell BME has had great success in recruiting a diverse population of students. Since the formation of the department in 2004, the collective enrollments of women and URMs in our Ph.D. program have been 42% and 22%, respectively, greatly exceeding the national averages of 31% and 7% for other top 20 BME programs in this time period.
The B.S. degree in biomedical engineering will prepare students for careers in industry and business or for graduate education in engineering, medicine, and science. Employment of biomedical engineers is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations in the next decade. Students can pursue a variety of paths within the major that are designed to meet their career goals. Students can tailor the program to meet particular career or research interests. For example, if a student is interested in industry such as biotechnology or pharmaceuticals, they can choose a roster of courses that prepares them for work in pharmaceutical manufacturing, medical device research & development, and other biologically-oriented areas of expertise. We have also developed specific programs for pre-medicine and study abroad tracks. See the Paths and Careers page to learn more about these opportunities.
Our program also features a minor in biomedical engineering that is open to all Cornell undergraduates wishing to augment their major with a flexible combination of breadth and depth from the biomedical engineering offerings at Cornell.
The biomedical engineering community at Cornell provides numerous opportunities for students to get involved in professional leadership, networking, and social activities. For example, students can participate in the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), which promotes the profession through research, educational outreach and advocacy of engineering approaches to biology and human health. See the Student Life section for more details.
A major emphasis of Cornell engineering education and training at Cornell is gained through individual and team-based, open-ended knowledge discovery, engineering, and design. BME is no exception. A hallmark of this is through our Design Team projects. Many BME students are involved in faculty laboratories as undergraduate research assistants. In addition, many of the student organizations focus on engaging local and regional communities with biomedical engineering opportunities and encourage the pursuit of science careers. See Experiential Learning for more details.
Contact information for the undergraduate program coordinator in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering:
108 Weill Hall
Ithaca, New York 14853
Phone: (607) 254-3368
Fax: (607) 255-7330