In my opinion bioengineering, robotics and space travel are going to be the three most important areas of human development in the next century
In my opinion bioengineering, robotics and space travel are going to be the three most important areas of human development in the next century. I want to be a part of the team that gives someone back their sight, or the feeling of touch through a prosthetic arm, rather than part of one that makes a jet engine slightly more efficient. More than that, bioengineering is an incredibly up and coming discipline. During first year we had a module where we created a poster of all the technological developments in the area. It was a short project (only eight weeks) yet even whilst preparing, vastly disruptive technologies were being released to the market. We were constantly updating right up to the deadline with the latest releases. A poster made just a few weeks earlier would already be out of date.
Bioengineering is built around producing engineers that are able to work efficiently and creatively with all engineering disciplines, alongside clinicians and biologists. The course starts off generic, learning principals of medicine, biology and engineering. It then allows you to slowly specialise as you progress through the three or four years of study. You can end up doing anything from recreating organs and tissues with cells from the body (tissue engineering), genetically modifying bacteria to produce pharmaceuticals (synthetic biology), or building medical devices that act on, replace functions or sense the state of the body (medical devices and systems/medical imaging). Bioengineering at Sheffield produces a multidisciplinary and adaptable graduate.
I developed a mechanical prosthetic arm made out of bike parts. It aimed to regain functionality for amputees in developing countries with no access to prostheses and/or the ability to pay for them.
MEng Bioengineering with a Year in Industry
I think the parts of the course I have enjoyed most so far have been the build projects. In second year we 3D printed a robotic arm and actuated it. In third year we designed and built a bioincubator and designed and implemented the algorithms that allowed a twin blade helicopter to fly steady and correct for disturbances. The incubator controlled temperature CO2 and humidity at a set level and facilitated automatic changing of the cell food. Modules like these are great for pulling all areas of the course together, and allow you to work through them in a real product. This is certainly not available everywhere and something that makes Sheffield very unique.
Sheffield is a lovely place to live. There is an incredible culture that is very unique to Yorkshire, and one that I have struggled to find in other cities. The locals are always very welcoming, and the streets very safe. I consistently look forward to returning back to Sheffield as it simply just feels like home. It is also an incredibly lively place to live with lots to do and great opportunities to find new hobbies and interests. The night life is great and the music scene second to none. The Students’ Union certainly lives up to its high status, organising countless events and activities that allow you to squeeze the most out of your stay with them. There is always something to do in Sheffield.
Alongside my course, I developed a mechanical prosthetic arm made out of bike parts (see video below). It aimed to regain functionality for amputees in developing countries with no access to prostheses and/or the ability to pay for them. The novel part of this project was in recreating existing technology using recycled, repurposed parts. I was very lucky to get support from the university and in so finding a great team who helped me research the need of the product, cultural context and strategies for implementation. During third year I entered the idea into a design competition which allowed me to present it in front of world leading engineers. We were lucky enough to win the initial stages in London which afforded us the chance to pitch in the final at the Royal Academy of Engineers Global Grand Challenge summit in Washington DC.
I'm currently working at Philips Healthcare in the Netherlands for my Year in Industry, as part of a European-wide project called Ulimpia building smart wearable ultrasound patches. These patches promise to access information in the body in a never-before-seen way. My role is to help build a development board kit that allows researchers in other companies to collaborate with Philips. It allows them to integrate our cutting edge ultrasound technology into their applications. The device I’ve built is currently being used by these collaborators. The Bioengineering course has given me all the skills and confidence I need to not only to tackle this project, but also to start other projects and get the most out of my internship.
My year in industry has been a great opportunity to try new things and talk to people in positions I would like to one day be in. To this end, I plan to apply for more internships when I graduate and get a better feel for the opportunities available to me. Ultimately I would love to start a medical device design company, though I first plan to get as much experience in a variety of companies; big and small. I love the idea of working in the medical technology sector and look forward to the opportunities and challenges it brings.
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