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Education • Dedication • Life

Bio-engineering: Thinking Outside the Biology Box

Posted by Rachel Thuillier on Nov 18, 2014 3:50:00 PM

Bio-engineering: sounds complicated. Bio-technology: sounds boring. Bio-medical Engineering: sounds like a lot of work.

Sure, when one thinks about bio-engineering and medical implants, it seems a bit overwhelming and like something only doctors and other medical professionals would discuss and know about. Though this may be true, bioengineering boiled down to the basics is just divergent thinking, or the thought process behind taking every day materials and finding other purposes for them.

This was made clear on October 29, when Fisher College held a speaker event hosting Adam Zeiger, a technology specialist. Students and faculty were able to learn what bio-engineering is all about. During the introduction to the lecture, we were challenged to think about a paperclip and determine what other purposes we could find for it, rather than just holding papers together. This was simply engineering in itself! It seemed to all make sense and this quick exercise made us all feel much more positive about learning this seemingly difficult subject.

R E T H I N K  :  R E P U R P O S E




Though bio-engineering and bio-technology may appear to be primarily focused on the medical industry, it also plays a key role in computer and material science, biology, chemistry, and business, just to name a few.

Need more interesting bio-uses?

  • Brewing Beer (fermentation of grains),
  • Green Technology (biofuels),
  • DNA testing
  • Antibiotics & Vaccines

Don't stop there! Think about viruses in the body. You probably envision becoming sick. Repurpose them, and now think about them being replicated in long tubes, coated with metal, and being used as a bio-battery for a car. Better batteries through biology?  This is happening now! It’s truly amazing to think about because a car battery made of viruses replicating from the human body would of course be far less expensive than the batteries made today. Even better, they’d be biodegradable!


Bio-medical engineering was also discussed in-depth and included a multitude of topics including artificial organs, bone replacements, stem cell therapy and cloning. FDA specifies three different classes of risk/harm when it comes to medical devices, which encompasses everything from crutches, glasses/contacts, Band-Aids, thermometers, to bone implants.


  • Class 1 - minimal risk - include things like Band-Aids and Breathe Right strips.
  • Class 2 - most devices - include wheelchairs and insulin pumps.
  • Class 3 – life sustaining - are the greatest risk to people, include implants.



Class 3: Right Knee Implant, Front View

Did you know, that in 1923 Dr. Marius Smith-Peterson performed the first hip implants – made of glass!? Of course, these were unsuccessful due to the glass shattering. Though he failed, his failures are the reason hip implants are successful today and he contributed a lot to the field.

Of course, they are now made with mostly metals, alloys, ceramics and polymers (plastics). Implant failure is always a risk, as the immune system can reject it, dependent on whether or not the implant is bio-compatible with the patient, has proper size/shape, design flaws, etc. Numerous tests and computer simulations are done to try and avoid these failures before being implanted into a human. Bio-engineers use the information gathered from these tests to predict the behavior of the device, avoid failure, and design other implants and replacement limbs. Ultimately, an implant is used to replace natural anatomy, so it has a lot of responsibility in a body.

The world of bio-technology, bio-engineering and bio-medical engineering is truly amazing. What amazing examples do YOU have? Let us know in a comment below. Your feedback will help us at Fisher College improve our own program.

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Topics: Boston Campus, Boston Student Experience, Health Sciences, Day Student Posts

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