Biophysics Vs Bioengineering
You have a passion for STEM and want to work in a field that improves people’s lives. However, you’re unsure of which engineering major to pursue.
You may be interested in pursuing biophysics or bioengineering. Both fields offer career paths in healthcare, research and development. However, each major has different requirements and job outlooks.
What is Biophysics?
Biophysics is the application of approaches and techniques derived from physics to biological systems. It is an interdisciplinary field that intersects with molecular biology, physical chemistry, cell biology and physiology.
It aims to explain the functions of biological systems in terms of the physical properties of specific molecules and their interactions on length scales from nanometers to meters. Biophysicists have contributed to a number of important medical advances, including MRI and CAT scans that help diagnose diseases like cancer and brain tumors, as well as pacemakers and dialysis treatments.
Biophysicists work in universities, hospitals and tech startups where they research new diagnostic tests, vaccines, drug delivery systems and potential biofuels. They may also teach biology or physics, practice law in specialized fields like intellectual property, write about science for print and online publications, or work in government to advise legislatures on science policy. Their research can be extremely challenging as they try to make the transition from examining the elegance and deep simplicity of physics to exploring intricate chemical mechanisms that nature has evolved over billions of years.
What is Bioengineering?
For those interested in biology, health and medicine, as well as the application of engineering solutions to solve human issues, biomedical engineering might be the right choice. Biomedical engineers work in hospitals and technology startups to design innovative medical products, from 3D models of new proteins to precise neuroprosthetics that control artificial limbs.
Both fields require strong problem-solving skills, and a keen attention to detail. Engineers must be able to assess an issue and use their expertise to create a device that resolves it, improving people’s lives.
Both fields also rely heavily on math, science and other advanced subjects to understand and research biological systems at the molecular, cellular and tissue levels, and even larger macroscopic organisms like plants and animals. Some researchers choose to earn a Ph.D, which opens doors to prestigious academic research and teaching roles at universities.
What is the Difference Between the Two?
Despite how similar the two might sound, the fields of biophysics and biomedical engineering are quite different. The majors may share some of the same concepts, but they are distinct from each other in their work areas, courses covered and job duties.
While a bachelor’s degree in biophysics can lead to many career paths, those with an interest in medical applications should consider enrolling in a biomedical engineering program. The field prioritizes medicine and healthcare, using engineering principles to design and build equipment for the benefit of people.
Biophysicists study the fundamental aspects of living systems, such as how nerve cells communicate or how plants capture sunlight and convert it into energy. They use their knowledge of math and physics to illuminate physical laws and ideas that apply across the different biological fields. They are at the forefront of solving age-old human problems as well as future challenges.
How Can I Decide Which Major to Pursue?
It is important to consider what you are passionate about and what kind of career you envision for yourself. Also, consider the amount of time you want to devote to your studies. This is a big decision that will have an impact on your life.
Biophysics is a highly multidisciplinary science and research discipline that seeks to explain biological function in terms of the physical properties of molecules, from small fatty acids and sugars, to proteins, starches and DNA (which can be 10,000,000 nm long). The research approach of biophysicists uses experimental techniques and computational models derived from physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology.
For example, biophysicists use spectroscopic methods to observe and measure the structure and dynamics of individual molecules and complexes of molecules in cells, tissues and organs, as well as in whole organisms. The physics-based models of biological systems can be used to predict the behavior of these systems and to test new theories about their design.