Into The Looking Glass of Biomedical Engineering


7/20/20232 min read

When I entered the Precollege program at Stevens Institute of Technology, my prior knowledge of engineering or anatomy was limited, and I had no acquaintances among my peers, nor any specific expectations. However, by the end of the intensive week, my experience had undergone a truly transformative change. Not only did it ignite my passion for providing healthcare to the underserved, but I also established meaningful connections with individuals from across the country and gained valuable insights into the college experience. Most importantly, this program provided me with a profound understanding of research and biomedical engineering, and its potential to enhance health accessibility through technology, thereby guiding me towards a potential career path aligned with my passions.

Throughout the week-long program, I immersed myself in the captivating world of biomedical engineering. I engaged in hands-on projects, attended lectures, and participated in discussions that critically evaluated the performance of our experiments. The distinguished faculty members inspired and nurtured my passion for this field, expanding my understanding of cutting-edge research and its profound impact on healthcare for the underserved. Collaborating with like-minded peers further enriched my learning journey, promoting teamwork and innovative thinking. Additionally, we had the privilege of visiting the Liberty Science Center, where we observed a surgeon performing a procedure involving the insertion of a left ventricular assist device ("LVAD") into a patient. This immersive experience solidified my career aspirations and ignited a lifelong love for innovation and healthcare advancement.

As part of the program, each group of students focused on a specific innovation in biomedical engineering. My group concentrated on the Electrocardiogram (ECG). Despite its widespread familiarity and relatively simple design, we delved into the factors that could potentially impact the accuracy of ECG technology. To achieve this, we conducted ECG tests on our peers, recording their heart activity both at rest and during movement. Other groups explored various aspects of biomedical engineering, such as the nervous system and muscular responses. Through meticulous analysis, we determined that human-based recordings were prone to inaccuracies compared to fully tech-based recordings. By comparing manual stethoscope recordings of the heart's "lub-dub" sounds by medical professionals with the accuracy of a cardiac microphone, we discovered that human error, caused by delays in reflexes, could result in less precise recordings of heart activity. Furthermore, ECG readings were significantly more "noisy" when doctors had to work with older machines rather than newer ones. This revelation was extremely enlightening, highlighting mechanical vulnerabilities in older models of healthcare tools, which are more prevalent in underserved communities, leading to greater variability in detection rates.

As I continued to delve into the field, it became evident that the world of biomedical engineering is far from equitable. Lower-income patients are highly unlikely to access or afford these healthcare procedures, regardless of their efficiency. Even those who can afford the upfront cost might struggle with maintaining devices such as LVADs, which require additional fees for the patient's lifetime. While we celebrate these revolutionary innovations, crucial class-based inequalities prompt us to prioritize potential solutions that adequately address access issues.

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