Undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student Shawna Burns conducts research related to biomedical engineering.
Shawna Burns works with Dr. Jose Lage on a project that applies principles from the body, capillary blood flow and gas exchange, to other engineering systems, cooling microprocessors in computers. In the lungs, gas exchange occurs as blood cells flow one at a time through the capillary walls and in equally spaced intervals. This configuration allows for the maximum amount of gas exchange (CO2 --> O2), thereby running the lungs at the most efficient conditions. Could these same ideas be applied to cooling of microprocessors using microchannels?
“This aspect of applying biological principles to mechanical systems is what got me interested in biomedical engineering in the first place. The way that I figure, the body is one of the most efficient machines and the closer that we can come to modeling other systems in a similar way, the better,” says Burns.
Her advice for high school students:
- Take lots of classes in math and the sciences...take as many as possible and try to understand them well.
- Think about how you can apply science/engineering to life in a biological sense will spark the creativity needed for such a field.
- Interest is the most important aspect of anything...if the interest is there, then all of the necessary "steps" toward biomedical engineering aren't a chore, but instead they are a lot of fun and make the journey worth while, through both the hard and easy times.
- Find people with similar interests because that, too, sparks creativity and zeal. It also allows for growth because you are not being stifled by those around you that have no interest in the field or, as is often the case in engineering, cannot even comprehend what you are talking about except on the most basic of ideas.
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