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Meet the Major: Biomedical Engineering (BME)

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A photo of Esha, a UMass Amherst student, with the text, Meet the Major: Biomedical Engineering.

Meet Esha, a sophomore biomedical engineering (BME) student here at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. With aspirations to explore the depths of biotherapeutics and drug development, here is how UMass Amherst is helping prepare her to reach her goals.

Why did you decide to come to UMass Amherst?

Like so many other students at UMass, I had an older sibling that attended UMass as well, so I was already a little biased coming into the college search. Although I toured a lot of other universities before deciding on UMass, what ultimately made my decision was the flexibility that I saw here that I did not see elsewhere. UMass had so many options in terms of majors, clubs, research opportunities, and sports -- all embedded in a super positive and supportive community. You can tailor your experience to be whatever you want. Everyone at UMass is doing something unique to them, and that is what made UMass so exciting to me!  

Why did you choose your major?

I chose biomedical engineering based on a documentary I watched in high school; it was National Geographic’s How to Build a Beating Heart. It was the first time that I had considered the human body as a machine with different biological systems that could be manipulated and improved. The lens of engineering allows for systematized solutions, from vectors of drug delivery to synthetic tissue growth. I also liked that there is a huge ethical component to BME, because aside from the technical aspects of engineering, I am also interested in exploring policy regulations as well. 

What are your classes like? Do you have any favorites? 

Although BME is growing, it’s still a relatively small major, so we all have classes together and have formed a pretty tight-knit community. Aside from our BME classes, we also take other classes across different engineering disciplines to prepare for our track specialization in either biomechanics, bioinstrumentation, or biotherapeutics.

My favorite BME class so far has been biomechanics. Here, we study the material properties of the musculoskeletal system and also get to see a lot of different applications. I also really like material science, which is a mechanical engineering class we are taking this semester.

Because BME is such an interdisciplinary field, we also have a huge variety of track electives. Some courses I am looking forward to are tissue engineering, immunology, and disease modeling! 

What are the professors like?

BME professors are phenomenal resources and very accessible. All of our professors are friendly and I have always felt comfortable reaching out about classes, internship questions, research, or just general advice.

They all emphasize collaboration and communication in their classes, which are essential skills to learn, as  so much of engineering is team based. Office hours frequently turn into huge study groups, and the professors are always helpful in clarifying the material or going over extra problems with us.

Many of the professors are also doing really interesting research on campus, like tissue engineering, gene therapy, and optical imaging. They strongly encourage student participation in research as well. 

How do you plan to use your degree? How have you prepared for this path?

Biomedical engineering is a very diverse field, but I hope to continue to biotherapeutics and drug development after college. Aside from taking biochemically focused track electives, I am also currently researching with the Tew Group in the department of polymer science & engineering. We study intracellular protein delivery, which could have potential drug delivery applications as well.

The College of Engineering also has great career services. I was able to work at Takeda Pharmaceuticals last summer, and I am looking forward to joining Pfizer this summer in their immunology department!

UMass has an extremely diverse range of outlets for experiential learning. Opportunities like research, internships, and major-based clubs are always available if you look. 

Any tips for incoming students within the major?

The best advice I can give is to make friends! Your classmates will carry you through your college years, and it is so important to have study groups and build a supportive community right from the start. Classmates become labmates, and become your best friends. Reach out to your professors often and take advantage of everything the university has to offer! 


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