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Biological engineering


Biological engineering, or bioengineering/bio-engineering, is the application of principles of biology and the tools of engineering to create usable, tangible, economically viable products. Biological engineering employs knowledge and expertise from a number of pure and applied sciences, such as mass and heat transfer, kinetics, biocatalysts, biomechanics, bioinformatics, separation and purification processes, bioreactor design, surface science, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and polymer science. It is used in the design of medical devices, diagnostic equipment, biocompatible materials, renewable bioenergy, ecological engineering, agricultural engineering, and other areas that improve the living standards of societies. Examples of bioengineering research include bacteria engineered to produce chemicals, new medical imaging technology, portable and rapid disease diagnostic devices, prosthetics, biopharmaceuticals, and tissue-engineered organs. Bioengineering overlaps substantially with biotechnology and the biomedical sciences in a way analogous to how various other forms of engineering and technology relate to various other sciences (for example, aerospace engineering and other space technology to kinetics and astrophysics).

Before WWII, biological engineering had just begun being recognized as a branch of engineering, and was a very new concept to people. Post-WWII, it started to grow more rapidly, partially due to the term "bioengineering" being coined by British scientist and broadcaster Heinz Wolff in 1954 at the National Institute for Medical Research. Wolff graduated that same year and became the director of the Division of Biological Engineering at the university. This was the first time Bioengineering was recognized as its own branch at a university. Electrical engineering is considered to pioneer this engineering sector due to its work with medical devices and machinery during this time. When engineers and life scientists started working together, they recognized the problem that the engineers didn't know enough about the actual biology behind their work. To resolve this problem, engineers who wanted to get into biological engineering devoted more of their time and studies to the details and processes that go into fields such as biology, psychology, and medicine. The term biological engineering may also be applied to environmental modifications such as surface soil protection, slope stabilization, watercourse and shoreline protection, windbreaks, vegetation barriers including noise barriers and visual screens, and the ecological enhancement of an area. Because other engineering disciplines also address living organisms, the term biological engineering can be applied more broadly to include agricultural engineering.

The average length of study is three to five years, and the completed degree is signified as a bachelor of engineering (B.S. in engineering). Fundamental courses include thermodynamics, bio-mechanics, biology, genetic engineering, fluid and mechanical dynamics, kinetics, electronics, and materials properties.

Environmental health engineering: application of engineering principles to the control of the environment for the health, comfort, and safety of human beings. It includes the field of life-support systems for the exploration of outer space and the ocean.

Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the U.S.-based accreditation board for engineering B.S. programs, makes a distinction between biomedical engineering and biological engineering, though there is much overlap (see above).

Institute of Biological Engineering (IBE) is a non-profit organization, they run on donations alone. They aim to encourage the public to learn and to continue advancements in biological engineering. (Like AIMBE, they do not perform research directly; however, they offer scholarships to students who show promise in the field).

Society for Biological Engineering (SBE) is a technological community associated with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). SBE hosts international conferences, and is a global organization of leading engineers and scientists dedicated to advancing the integration of biology with engineering.