by Minna Chen
Bioengineers (or biomedical engineers) use engineering principles or methods to solve biological or medical problems. Some bioengineering research is more translational, meaning that it’s focused on developing a clinical therapy, while other research is more basic, meaning that it’s focused on trying to understand how a biological process works. Many different fields exist within bioengineering, such as tissue engineering (creating replacement tissues outside of the body), biomaterials (designing materials for use in the body), and drug delivery (improving the efficacy of therapeutics). Bioengineers study every organ system in the body, ranging from the brain and the heart to the skin and muscles.
I’ve always been curious about how the human body works, so I was drawn to the field of bioengineering because I liked the problems that I could think about in this field. I also like working on clinically relevant challenges, and I think it’s exciting that the work that I do could lead to new clinical treatments. In my research, I work on therapies to improve the lives of patients with heart disease. I am designing an injectable hydrogel to use as a cell delivery vehicle for cardiac repair after a heart attack. Delivering cells to the damaged region of the heart may reduce further cardiac degeneration, and even restore cardiac function. Bioengineering is a relatively new field of engineering, and it’s a very diverse discipline that uses ideas and concepts from other types of engineering, such as chemical or mechanical engineering, to tackle its own set of biologically-motivated questions.