What to expect in Biomedical Engineering

G’day Guys and Girls, 

If you are in the process of selecting a specialisation for your Engineering degree, and Biomedical Engineering is one of the options you are considering, then you’re probably asking yourself the same question that we BME’s get asked on the daily. What actually is it? In this post I want to outline what to expect from the degree, and specifically what will be coming at you in the first semester of Part II. 


On our first day of Semester One, the lecturer’s gave us this slide to ponder over…

…And what it essentially shows is that Biomedical Engineering is a pretty broad if not vague degree.

Yes there is still math.

Yes there is still software.

Yes there is still electronics.

And yeah there is even a little bit of biology. 


Pretty much, BME takes a little extract from each of the specialisations and sticks the learning objectives into a biological context. The result of this, as described by one of the lecturers, is that we students are a ‘Jack of all trades, and master of none’. It is possibly this that makes BME such a perfect degree. It is actually not as specialised as many would think – we study the software, electronics, physics and math of other specialisations to a high extent so that we have background in nearly all Engineering fields. On top of this, we are also pursuing what the degree intends through applying these in a biological and medical context.


It is highly evident in your first semester as a BME student how broad the degree is, and I think this is reinforced in the fact that 3 of your 4 papers are shared with Engineering Science. Further than that actually, BME and Engineering Science are very much run parallel within the same department. 

If you’d like to read up on some of these shared papers, Michael Sewell of Engineering Science has posted a brilliant summary of BIOMENG 221 and ENGSCI 233 on his very own blog, which can be found here: https://student-editorials.blogs.auckland.ac.nz/2019/07/27/heres-a-collection-of-stuff-that-semester-1-threw-at-me/

(He also mentions the ENGSCI/BME Field Trip, which is a great time)

The one unique paper that BME sat during our first semester was that of BIOSCI 107, and goodness

A 60 slide lecture in the first week was a highlight of BIOSCI 107

me this is a little bit of a wake up call for us engineers. Walking into a first year cohort as a second year is already dodgy enough without having to completely change the learning style that you’ve spent the last year perfecting. What do I mean by this?

Well, in Part One Engineering you might find that life can actually be a little chill. Definitely not always, but for some parts, the content can be summarized by a couple of formulas, and after practicing a couple of exam questions you feel like you’ve got it pretty sorted. This is not true for BIOSCI 107. Missing one lecture pushes you back light years, and you go from using math that makes sense, to literally memorizing every little detail on a slide. 

For a lot of people, this ‘rote learning’ style isn’t really an indicator of intelligence – and I definitely agree. Just being able to memorize something doesn’t make you smart at all, however, it can be a very important skill to have. Another positive to BME might therefore be that us students exercise a range of different learning methods. Sometimes we have to apply mathematics, and sometimes we just have to learn some facts – this isn’t something that you find in the majority of other specializations. (And btw, the stuff you have to memorize in ENGGEN 140 (lol) and CHEMMAT 121 is not even close to being in the same league)


In regard to the social side, BME is one of the smallest cohorts of any degree (30 people), and with such a tight-knit group making friends isn’t too difficult. This is compounded by a range of group projects and activities set out so that over three years everyone knows everyone. Expect that you will get very close to your fellow Biomedical Engineers. 


If you ever have any specific queries about life as a Biomedical Engineer, you can find me on Facebook, so just send through a message and we can get chatting. 

That’s it for this message. Next time I hope to talk you through the start of Semester Two, and also the stress that comes with applying for internships (might have to actually do that first though). 

Stay classy, San Diego.

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