A Week in Biomedical Engineering


Semester Two is in full swing – in fact we’re half way through the mid-semester ‘break’ as I’m writing this, and I thought I would tell you a bit more about what being a BME student is like in Semester Two. The best thing about this semester is how hands on it is – we have two three hour labs every week and another every fortnight, which means lots of hands-on learning. It also means that for the standard BME semester two papers, there are only three exams worth 40%, 40% and 50% each. So what are these papers?


MEDSCI142 – Organ Systems

A paper about many of the organ systems of the body – nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine, reproductive, respiratory, renal, musculoskeletal and digestive. Many of the comments I made about BIOSCI107 relate to this paper also – it’s a premed paper, it’s content heavy, but comparatively to BIOSCI the content is much more enjoyable to learn as there is less rote-learning required!

There are fortnightly labs for this paper – two of these involve dissections (which are optional to perform). For a much fuller review of the paper than I can write, check out the SAMS review of it.


BIOMENG261 – Tissue and Biomolecular Engineering

With a title like that, I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting going into this paper, so as a bit more of an overview:

Module One – Enzyme kinetics and modelling. Using mathematic models to determine enzyme kinetics, and how this can also be used when looking at protein synthesis. This part has a bit of an engsci-y feel (and was taught by an ENGSCI graduate), but is a foundation to a lot of mathematical physiology research being done at the ABI (Auckland Bioengineering Institute). For a light read, have a flick through a book titled “Mathematical Physiology” which you can find an online copy of through the university website.

Module Two – Lab practice for Bioengineering. Lots of lab time, lots of micropipetting. Hands on practice in the lab which has so far involved using spectrophotometers to give measurements relating to reactions. These labs are worth a decent chunk of the grade for this paper, and are marked through lab reports.

Module Three – Ethics. I haven’t done this bit yet so I can’t tell you about that, but my guess is that it’s going to be about ethics…


BIOMENG241 – Bioinstrumentation and Design

The title of this paper really and truly actually describes what this paper involves. We’ve had a couple of lectures on good design practice and also a chunk on electrical circuitry – if you’re anything like me that probably sent shivers down your spine. I hated electricity through high school, tolerated it for ELECTENG101 and all of a sudden has started to click a bit more in this paper. Why? Because there are weekly labs where we play with equipment that helps us to understand what is going on, and even though we still can’t see the electricity, it makes the concepts a lot more tangible.

The highlight of this paper, however, is the design project, where in teams we are designing (and building!) a breathalyser, which involves the use of 3D printers, PCBs and soldering.


ENGGEN204 – Managing Design and Communication

See other bloggers’ views on this one! (Long story but I’m not taking this paper this semester 🙂 )


CHEM392 – Issues and Drug Design and Development

I’m actually taking this paper under my conjoint, but it can be taken as a third year elective for BME. The course is entirely taught by guest lecturers from both industry and various departments within the university. It gives a really good introduction to how a drug (but could also substitute ‘medical device’ in many cases) gets from the design and research stage to being a marketable product – hint: it’s not easy and is very expensive! It covers things like intellectual property (patents and trademarks), ethics applications, clinical trials, and looks at a number of case studies. There is a decent amount of content, some of which falls under the category of “the only way to learn this is to rote learn it.” I know that people have mixed experiences with this course, but so far I have generally found it very interesting and feels very “real world” applicable.


Extra Bonuses

Ultimate Frisbee – Our DES Sports competition this semester is Ultimate Frisbee, which I am enjoying way more than I was expecting to

Annual Bakeoff – We also recently had the annual bakeoff, where my team came away with the award for the ‘most aesthetically pleasing’ 🙂

That’s all for today, look out for my next post where I give my final word on biomedical engineering and parting advice for choosing a specialisation!


(Also watch out for the upcoming Faculty Specialisation Event and WEN Specialisation Event)


Mairi 🙂