With world-class facilities and supportive university programs, Queensland is an ideal location to explore a career in the ever-evolving field of biomedicine. We spoke to three experts from the field to better understand the innovations shaping the future of healthcare in Australia and what students can expect from their biomedical degrees in Queensland.
What is biomedicine?
Biomedicine is a rapidly changing sector that supports Australia’s healthcare systems. At different points in our lives, we all benefit from the expertise of biomedical scientists. From blood tests and diagnostics to pharmacology research, biomedicine uses an understanding of human biology to support better health outcomes. With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that research in biomedicine is cutting-edge.
Someone who knows this incredibly well is Andy Koh, a PhD candidate and Associate Teaching Fellow at Bond University on Queensland’s Gold Coast. According to Andy, biomedical research is crucial for several reasons, but particularly for early interventions.
“Having blood tests, and being able to screen for different markers like cholesterol, can really help a clinician determine what type of treatment and what dosages should be appropriate for their patients,” he says.
Also at Bond University is Donna Sellers, Head of Program and Associate Professor in Biomedical Sciences at the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine. Donna describes biomedical research as dedicated to “working out what’s different between patients in terms of their biological fingerprint” and leveraging that knowledge to support the best outcomes for them.
Shaping the future of healthcare
In the coming decades, healthcare is set to become increasingly personalised, integrating technology, design and engineering advances with medical treatment. As a result, Donna explains, people with the training to couple biomedicine with data science are essential to that future - and will be in high demand.
“The more we advance screening and diagnostic technologies, the more we need technicians who can look at the results. We need people who can synthesise the data and make sense of it, so it can be fed back into the patient’s treatment and improve our healthcare,” she says.
Pioneering biomedical engineering in Queensland
At the forefront of Australian biomedical engineering is the Griffith Centre of Biomedical and Rehabilitation Engineering (GCORE) in Queensland. Director David Lloyd, who is also a professor of biomedical engineering at Griffith University, envisions the future of medicine as “personalisation coupled with digitalisation.”
The Centre explores how digital modelling of individuals’ bodies (also referred to as ‘digital twinning’) can be paired with technology and devices to help rehabilitate injuries, plan surgeries, and design implants and prosthetics.
Researchers at the Centre work closely with Griffith University’s Advanced Design and Prototyping Technologies Institute to design and create prototype implants, devices and wearables used to rehabilitate orthopaedic, neurological and cardiovascular conditions.
One current project is In-Silico Surgery, which generates personalised digital models of patients to simulate proposed surgeries. The program then creates 3D-printed cutting guides for surgeons, resulting in shorter surgery times and streamlining the sterilisation process.
Further research includes the Digital Athlete, where virtual models of athletes’ musculoskeletal tissues can show and correct stress and misalignment in real-time. Under this project, prosthetic research has even broadened to include artificial hearts.
While GCORE has a strong focus on the future of healthcare, integrating these futuristic services and devices into the field is a long process. Trial and error are an essential part of progress in any cutting-edge research field, so long-term projects are crucial for supporting revolutionary breakthroughs.
Increasing support for biomedicine in Queensland
Forward-thinking initiatives - such as Queensland’s Biomedical 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan - are encouraging signs for new graduates and students hoping to pursue a career in biomedicine.
The biomedical field currently contributes some AU$1.87 billion annually to Queensland’s economy and is predicted to grow by 38% by the year 2027. The 10-Year Roadmap will reinforce this growth by supporting biomedical start-ups and promoting the biomedical industry in the state.
Study avenues for students
There is certainly no shortage of different pathways in biomedicine. If you are tech-savvy, then bioinformatics, biomedical engineering, nanobiotechnology or biostatistics might be a rewarding option for you. Alternatively, if your passion is researching causes and treatments for diseases and illnesses, you can explore a career in virology, immunology, pathology or toxicology.
It’s also okay to not know what appeals to you yet or to change directions during your degree. Donna explains that, at Bond University, many first-year students use biomedicine as a pathway into postgraduate medical studies.
“What I find is that as students get into the course they get different experiences, and they learn about other professions,” Donna says.
She encourages every student to take advantage of professional development programs, such as Beyond Bond, to gain exposure to diverse areas of biomedicine and “find what clicks” for them.
“You’ll learn about the body and what goes wrong, and how we treat disease. It’s also a really great pathway into medicine, allied health and research,” explains Donna.
Embracing support and thinking outside the box
If the idea of starting university or picking courses is daunting, Andy encourages students to remember that teaching staff recognise these challenges.
“Just know [that] everyone understands,” he says. “And everyone wants students to do the best they can.”
Andy also highlights the broad selection of options in biomedical sciences, saying “it’s not just a pathway to medicine, it’s also a pathway to contributing to the greater healthcare system.”
If you’re just starting your studies, David emphasises the need to take risks and think outside the box.
“You’ve got to be creative. You’ve got to allow more risk in your thought processes, to be able to work easily with different disciplines, and different professions,” he encourages. “You’re allowed to fail here. You’re allowed to push the boundaries.”