Biomedical Engineering: My BCU student journey

Anneline Sibanda studied Biomedical Engineering degree at Birmingham City University, and fully embraced all that was on offer to her. Her exciting journey included international travel, inspiring placements, and university projects that have given her so much more than just a qualification!

“From the outset, I knew I had to be actively engaged with the course, in order to gain a firm understanding of what Biomedical Engineering entailed, and to give myself a strong chance of getting the best academic experience I could. I also knew I wanted to add value to my university experience, outside of my studies. So, when I first heard about the HELS Go Abroad Scheme at my personal tutor meetings, I knew I wanted to get involved. The scheme offers undergraduate students within the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences the chance to get a bursary to help with costs of taking part in international placements, volunteering trips and study visits in locations all over the world.

Sunny California awaits!

At the end of my first year, I was lucky enough to be awarded a bursary through the scheme, which allowed me to travel across the world to California for a nine week summer placement. I was working with a company that aims to help those with physical and developmental disabilities. It was the first time that I’d been able to see first-hand how technology and its application can be used to make either bespoke medical equipment or to adapt existing equipment for patients with disabilities.

I was able to see aspects of rehabilitation engineering with wheelchairs designed for patients with conditions including Cerebral Palsy and Motor Neurone Disease.  It helped me to understand the biomechanical relationship between sheer stress of foam materials used for wheelchair design and their impact on the human body over time. While I was there, I also had my first experiences of working with Dynavox augmentative communication devices, and computer programming. This placement had to be one of the defining moments of my university experience. It definitely enriched my learning and propelled me to do well and enjoy what I was doing. However, the excitement certainly didn’t stop there! 

Hospital visits and robots!

During my second and third year, we visited the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham several times. This is one magnificent hospital which has the largest single Critical Care Unit in Europe. We were able to see a range of medical equipment during our visits, but the most exciting was the CyberKnife. This advanced technology is a fully robotic radiotherapy device, which provides precise radiotherapy treatment for patients with cancer. It was definitely a treat getting to see this piece of equipment up close, and it was an experience that added immense value to my studies.

Employability skills

By the time third year rolled around, I was pretty clear on the career path I’d chosen, and selecting my dissertation was made easier with the sessions I had with the Careers+ team. They helped me align my career goals and aspirations with the modules and the projects that I was doing. They gave me support in applying for student jobs, and ultimately, this led to my participation in a research project over the summer as a student co-researcher. I witnessed focus group modulation and was able to work with a team of fellow Biomedical Engineering students from all different year groups. This experience consolidated what we as students needed to know to be work ready and develop further employability skills for the future. It allowed me to streamline my career aspirations with skills I’d gained so far.

Other valuable experiences

As well as going to California, I also had the chance to travel to India (through help from the HELS Go Abroad scheme again), where I participated in intense workshops about critical analysis, and collaborated on a research project. 

I’ve been to Austria for a medical engineering winter school, where I visited a high-tech operating theatre that performs keyhole surgeries with a robotic arms. I got to play around with one myself, and control it remotely with impulses from my own muscles!

Here in the UK, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve worked in the public sector with the West Midlands Ambulance Service, as a Health Advisor and for their Integrated Emergency and Urgent Care Department. This allowed me to use both the clinical and employability skills that my Biomedical Engineering degree has given me, to help make a difference.

Get involved!

Overall, my time at Birmingham City University has been an enriching and fulfilling experience, and as I embark on my Master's, I’m clear on my goals, and I know what my role and purpose is as a biomedical engineer. I’ve made good friends from all over the world, and many potential networking contacts in the Biomedical Engineering industry.

My advice would be, whatever course you are doing, get involved with everything that’s presented to you. Be passionate, go out there, and use the services that the University has available to find your purpose and live your best life!

Could you be a Biomedical Engineer?

If you're inspired by Anneline's journey in the world of biomedical engineering, why not see if you have what it takes?

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