Writing and Bio-Medical Engineers

Those in the field of Biomedical engineering must be significantly accomplished writers regardless of what they do as a biomedical engineer. Some biomedical engineers work for hospitals locally and do research based on the patients there and use the statistics in hope of showing a correlation to be significant. Others work in their own dedicated labs testing stem cells, nanotechnology, or other bio-materials in search for answers and cures to deadly diseases. They may further be in the field of bio-materials to develop, for example, synthetic skin so patients do not have to have skin removed for a grafting surgery.

Regardless of their specific job as a biomedical engineer, all must do at least one thing in common: write. If one does not record his findings in his lab and publish them, other biomedical engineers will find themselves doing the same experimentation over and over without breaking through and discovering cures or significant information. Therefore, biomedical engineers often record what they have found so other engineers can go further and they can build off each-others work. These writings may be closer to a lab report than a literary work of art and thus contain terms that only a fellow biomedical engineer would understand. These must be done with perfect accuracy and with proper use of the jargon familiar to biomedical engineers. It must follow clear structure and leave no open ends. In contrast to romantic writing, the conclusion or point of the report is not “up to the reader to decide.” It must be composed of pure absolutes and contain no doubt for the reader of the report.

Indeed, sharing results is key to progression for biomedical engineers. But biomedical engineers must also have their research funded. For this to occur, they must be able to articulate to sponsors what they are doing in their field of research without all the biomedical engineering jargon. They must be capable of writing about what they study in simple yet specific terms so that potential funders of their work will be eager to fund their research. Suppose a potential sponsor flipping through his mail received a letter from a biomedical engineer requesting funding. Underneath the “Object and reason for research” section of the letter it begins, “The nucleation cell of platelet division is key to understanding the cardiopulmonary travel. That is the reason I need to research this.” The sponsor will just choke on the words: he doesn't know what any of it means. He wants to know the hypothesis, goals, and likelihood of the research being a success - a biomedical engineer must write his letter accordingly.

I gained this view while sitting in my BMES club watching a lecture given by a biomedical engineer who was discussing some of the problems that biomedical engineers faced. The main problem he discussed was the lack of simplification of terms used by biomedical engineers when speaking or writing to sponsors. He explained that if potential sponsors were made more aware of the researchers area of study, they might more willing to be a part of a potentially large philanthropic breakthrough. This gave me a clearer view of how a engineer needs to communicate. In addition, it made me aware to how important it is to know your audience and to write or speak accordingly. Engineers must be aware of how a small change in jargon creates a large difference in the impression you leave with your listeners.

I often find myself encountering similar problems when attempting to explain how engines are assembled and the components involved. After disassembling my trucks diesel engine, fixing the issue, and putting it back together, I have no problem explaining to a mechanic from my church what I did. In fact, I have to use proper terms and jargon when talking to him or else he will not understand me. I could tell him, “I replaced the lower intake manifold gasket(which seals the valley pan, cylinder head, and manifold all together)” and he would nod his head in agreement. But if my sister asks me what I did, I would have to simplify my words because she lacks the knowledge of how all the components of an engine work and the related terminology. I would explain what I did, for example, like, “I resealed the top of the engine so that no air would leak out and reduce the power.” Engineers will have to share this quality by using the proper jargon at the right time.

I struggled last semester in my English 110 class because I was constantly forced to write in a “not straight-forward way.” My Professor instead wanted me to write in such a way that the reader can attribute many different meanings and conclusions based on whatever I wrote. He instructed me never to “just state something,” rather, he said, I should hint at things so that the reader can draw his own conclusions. While this style was perhaps somewhat pleasant to read, I doubt it is used by many engineers. I trust that my habit of writing everything and explaining everything will serve as an asset in this course of writing for engineers. As stated before, I believe a engineer must write with absolutes and leave no doubt or suspense to the reader. The job of a engineer is to solve problems and give answers to problems in the world. An engineers writing should reflect that quality and leave the reader informed and absolutely sure of what he just read.

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