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Guide to BME: Biomaterials/Tissue Engineering

Guides to BME List

Overview

If youíre interested in the life sciences and research, then this may be the track for you! Although there is a lot of overlap in the studies of tissue engineering and biomaterials, they are also two very different subjects. Tissue engineering is focused on biological processes at the cellular and molecular levels, development and regeneration of biological materials, preservation and restoration of organ function using cellular technologies. The biomaterials track, on the other hand, is the study of synthetic and biological materials that can be used in medical applications within the body. This includes everything from orthopedic joints to breast implants to dental fillings. Overall, this track can offer a wide range of opportunities for anyone interested in biological sciences.

Where to start

There are not many introductory courses that represent the tissue engineering and biomaterials track because much of the subject matter is fairly advanced. However, a great way to determine if this track is a good choice for you is to get involved in research on campus. Much of tissue engineering and the study of biomaterials is focused in research, so if you try research and itís not your cup of tea, you may want to look into other tracks. Biomaterials (BME 430) is a good introduction to the ideas surrounding biomaterials, but there is a lot more to the subject than is taught in this course. You will also briefly touch on tissue engineering in BME 201, which is a required design class; however, the techniques discussed in this unit are fairly basic and not very exemplary of the track. There are also a large number of people that you can speak to about tissue and biomaterials: many of the BMES officers are available to discuss any questions you may have, and Dr. John Puccinelli is also a phenomenal resource.

Classes

A great overview of all the classes can be found for both the Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials subtracks here. The courses are well laid out to help you plan what semesters to take each class.
Transport Phenomena (BME 320) is definitely worth all of its 4 credits. Don't underestimate this class. If you put in the time, you'll make the grade, but going in thinking you can coast will hurt you more so than in other classes. Be organized for this class. Keeping your work neat and organized will make long derivations and extensive homework problems easier.
For your advanced Zoology elective it is helpful to take Developmental Biology (Zoo 470) or Cell Biology (Zoo 570), but make sure they will fit into your schedule because 570 is only offered in the fall, while 470 may only be offered in the spring.

Design Projects

Design projects for this track are hard to get. The department only offers a handful of tissue engineering projects at a time, and a portion of those are saved for 400ís only. It is highly recommended to make a proposal for tissue engineering projects. Some tissue engineering design projects have been everything from stem cell culture systems to organ bioreactors. Biomaterials projects are more common, but usually are combined with another track. Proposals are also recommended.

Research

Research is a great activity to get involved in and virtually a necessity if you plan on going on for your PhD. Getting firsthand research experience will help you know if graduate school is really something you want to do as it means years and years in a lab. So if you do not learn to love research, graduate school in this field may not be for you.

Getting into a lab can take some thought and preparation however. You really should take the initiative and send out emails to professors whose lab you might be interested and personalize it to each professor by doing your research. Look at their websites and pick out specific aspects of their research that interest you and tell them It can take a lot of emails but if you can show that you have the time and interest, you will find a lab that has room for you. The earlier you start this process the better it will be for you. A lot of labs like to take sophomores over seniors, for instance, as it makes more sense for them to train someone who will be there for years as opposed to a couple months.

In many ways, when working in a lab, you get out what you put in. This often means long days and many hours spent in the lab. Be willing to put forth effort into your research, but be careful not to completely put aside your classes in pursuit of a publication. Labs are generally pretty understanding of midterms and big assignments. Still in the end, you have to find a healthy balance to get something worthwhile out of research.

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