Biomedical engineering is a highly interdisciplinary profession devoted to solving biological and medical problems for the benefits of mankind through the use of engineering concepts and techniques . The Biomedical Engineering (BME) programme is offered by the Faculty of Engineering via deep collaboration with Faculty of Medicine. Students receive training at the forefront of engineering and medical topics through the programme’s core courses, while they also enjoy the flexibility to choose from a wide variety of electives to focus on areas critical for their chosen careers.
BME is responsible for developing medical engineering technologies such as MRIs, brain-computer interface cardiac pacemakers, orthopedic implants, rehabilitative devices, medical robotics, minimally-invasive endoscopes, etc. Biomedical devices are being designed at the micro- and nano-scales for diagnosis and therapeutics at the molecular and cellular levels. Students can leverage the breadth of cutting-edge biomedical engineering research activities conducted within the University.
Focus areas of the programme are: (1) Medical Instrumentation and Biosensors; (2) Biomedical Imaging, Informatics and Modeling; (3) Molecular, Cell and Tissue Engineering.
BME graduates work in hospitals, universities, government departments, other public organizations as well as industries. The careers available to programme graduates cover the entire value chain of BME, namely research and development, manufacturing, quality assurance, consultancy, distribution and sale, clinical engineering, regulatory affairs and entrepreneurship in technology. Graduates are also well-equipped to pursue advanced study in engineering and biomedical sciences. Some graduates also start their careers in business, law and medicine.
Saving Lives with Engineering
Several years ago, as a curious teenager without a clear vision of his academic interests, Leo Lee decided to choose a programme that would familiarise him with several fields at once. The Biomedical Engineering (BME) programme at CUHK became his final choice, a decision he is proud to have made.
Leo pointed out a common fallacy: ‘Many had warned me before my admission to BME by saying that studying various subjects would not lead me to a promising career path because I would not have expertise in any of the fields I studied. After spending four years in the programme, I am glad that I insisted on my decision – my experience in BME tells a completely different story. Nowadays, medical and healthcare technologies are expanding with the ageing population and increasing demand for advanced engineering. Talents in engineering, science, and medicine are very much sought after by a full range of associated industries, from product development and clinical trials to manufacturing. These professionals are expected to possess cross-disciplinary knowledge and lead teams with diverse backgrounds to generate new ideas and effective solutions. I strongly believe that my expertise will be in great demand.’
He attributes the source of his confidence to the comprehensive and in-depth training offered by the programme. ‘BME was established in 2010. The programme imparts knowledge in science, medicine, and engineering. The courses are taught jointly by professors from the Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Medicine, making the curriculum very broad and interdisciplinary. These professors also lead final-year projects with diverse expertise. The programme is an excellent platform for students to learn and experience how technology, engineering, and innovation can be applied in the medical and healthcare fields.
‘I had many precious moments in BME. I had opportunities to take anatomy and physiology courses, which were common for students in biomedical science or medicine. I also got hands-on programming experience by building basic medical machines and electronic devices. These lessons were very inspiring as the devices can help patients in various ways. For example, I built a machine to collect photoplethysmogram (PPG), which is essential to measuring the heart rate. Another device I created was a sitting pad, which monitored people’s sitting gestures and improved the lives of the disabled. Most importantly, we were taught to monitor and analyse the data from the devices.’
Many prospective students may be scared of the programme’s highly technical and advanced appearance. Still, Prof. Raymond Tong, Chairman of the Department of BME, explained that every effort is made to help newcomers adapt. ‘We admit students with science backgrounds in secondary education. After completing the foundation courses in engineering and biomedical sciences, they can opt for a track of elective courses and internships to suit their interests and goals,’ he said.
Leo agreed with Professor Tong that he had no difficulty fitting into the programme. Leo mentioned that every Year 1 student participates in practical workshop training and clinical rounds during their first summer. In subsequent summers, students can opt for various internships. Ample opportunities for internships and academic exchanges in Asia, Europe, and North America are available to BME students. They can choose to participate in these for one term or the whole year.
Yolanda Lau is another BME student who has always been passionate about biomedicine. Seeing a surgical robot in an operating theatre stemmed her curiosity about the use of biomedical technologies, which is how her journey in engineering began.
‘What inspires me most about engineering is its high applicability in other disciplines and the way it intersects with other fields. This is especially the case for biomedical engineering, and CUHK provides dynamic opportunities to explore sub-specialities like biomechanics, nanomedicine, and tissue engineering. We get much hands-on exposure on top of lectures, such as through laboratory work and hospital training, where I especially enjoyed learning from biomedical engineers at work in a hospital setting.’
‘I’m not alone in having multiple passions across disciplines, and we shouldn’t have to limit ourselves to one specific field.’
Yolanda Lau, in BMEG.
‘To me, being a good engineer means being creative and flexible in the face of challenges because solving problems is our pivotal role. The CUHK BME programme has equipped us with a broad knowledge base spanning topics like anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, physics, and math, as well as programming and laboratory skills. I also had the opportunity to do a summer research project on nanomedicine in my freshman year. Having these tools and experiences helps us translate technology into real-world solutions.’
‘I’m not alone in having multiple passions across disciplines, and we shouldn’t have to limit ourselves to one specific field. Meeting like-minded individuals at CUHK has been really refreshing. To this day, the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had still inspire my work today. I am excited to use all the tools at my disposal to tackle the upcoming problems I’m passionate about.’
Professor Tong is confident that BME graduates have been well-trained to serve the community. According to past records, most of the graduates have pursued various BME-related careers upon graduation, such as engineering and product support, marketing and technical sales, and laboratory and research. They have been hired in private industries, including local and international companies, as well as by public organisations like hospitals, governments, and other non-BME-related companies. A large proportion of BME graduates have pursued further studies in both local and overseas institutions. Some have continued in related areas, while others have switched to fields like business administration, medicine, and law.
If you are a lover of science who likes to explore and are interested in solving real-life problems in the medical and healthcare industries, you are welcome to join Leo and Yolanda as a member of the BME programme. Professor Tong would like to remind you that scholarships are available via the Department, the Colleges, or the University.
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2022