Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What do you want to B.E.?

Over the past two years, through my UROP and course 20 classes, I have come to have some sense of what BE is. My conclusion: Biological Engineering is one of the most vaguely defined fields that exists today; it can BE whatever you want it to BE (I really like this pun). It ranges from DNA origami to biomaterials, from protein engineering to prosthetics, and from drug design to brain-imaging technologies, all while incorporating an wide array of concepts from pretty much every other field in science. The one thing that brings all these seemingly disconnected pieces together is the idea that you can take a biologically relevant object (in the broadest sense) and modify it for other ends.

This could mean taking existing metabolic pathways and combining them in new ways to clean waste water and simultaneously produce biofuels (there was a company at the BE career fair that did this). Or it could mean transforming a binding protein into a brain-imaging sensor (my UROP). Or it could mean designing biocompatible implants. BE includes such a huge array of topics from the nanoscale all the way to design on the scale of a few feet. And that's what I think is so great about BE. It is what you make of it. If chemistry is your thing: small molecules are extremely important in drug design as well as synthetic pathways and a range of other biologically relevant applications. More into classical mechanics or robotics? Prosthetics and tissue mechanics are the areas for you! More into physics? Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics are central to rational design of proteins and pharmaceuticals. What about neuroscience, you ask? You can create a primate model for neurological disorders or design a novel brain-imaging sensor. Can't stand wet-lab work? Don't worry, you can develop new instruments for someone else to use in the lab.

What I'm trying to say is that BE is great because you can interpret it in whatever way fits your interests, and at the end of the day (or however long it takes to do research...) you have created an amazing new technology that will improve the scientific world (or even the world at large).

So the question really is: what do you want to B.E.?

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