We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. This is the second article in a series by Adrián Alemán, one of this year’s cohort of alumni contributing authors.
By Adrián Alemán
Biomedical Engineering is one of these new degrees. Instead of choosing a traditional engineering degree and waiting until grad school to specialize in developing biomedical applications, I opted to major on this field early for my bachelor degree. This degree consists of a considerable amount of engineering and hands-on workshops, combined with medical courses, aiming to contribute with innovative research on the creation of both materials and devices to provide technological solutions for current health problems.
The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men who are creative, inventive, and discoverers. – Jean Piaget
Perhaps inspired by the IB Diploma Program’s (DP) Learner Profile, I embraced the idea of a multidisciplinary education, where I was challenged to think and learn as an engineer, as a clinician, as a patient and as an entrepreneur. I was very excited to choose Biomedical Engineering as a degree, although I didn´t know that I would be confronted with several problems unique to a degree that is relatively new compared to others.
First of all, not many people know what my degree is about and as a result I have had to explain a million times what it consists of, especially to my relatives. The broad spectrum of responses greatly varies from a surprised and amazed reaction to a completely skeptical grin. This might seem a very superficial problem but in the long run, it can affect your self-confidence. You don’t seem to get the recognition or validation that you expect after working so hard to get a degree, which is difficult considering that you are a young adult still trying to define your identity and role in society.
My advice to anyone facing this challenge is to keep yourself well informed about what people of your field are doing and how it is positively affecting people´s lives locally and globally. If you can be actively involved in work or research done at your university then it is easier to explain to other people why your degree is so important and what specific actions you are taking to tackle a problem that they can relate to.
A second issue that I have come across is that despite most of my professors having a good domain of their specific subjects and research areas, few of them are actually Biomedical Engineers because the degree is so new. Furthermore, there are not a considerable amount of alumni to share their general views and experiences of how is life after graduation, which might lead to biased and misleading expectations.
Nevertheless, I have found through my experience that despite the small number of alumni, they are always willing to offer help and provide advice when approached. Moreover, when it comes to finding alumni technology and networking are essential tools. Professional social media websites such as LinkedIn provide tools to find and target alumni from specific fields, universities and companies. This way you can get in touch with someone who has a similar career path to yours and connect with them to ask for advice. Networking is essential and on the long term it can provide you with big opportunities.
Finally, new careers are some of the most fast-growing and require of a significant investment of time to stay updated with both the knowledge and the skills. . Although this seems problematic, an exciting part of studying a new degree is that you get to learn about things that most other people don´t know about, and your education can easily be customizable to your own interests. So if one is really curious about taking a specific direction in the field, free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and online courses from excellent universities provide learning material to explore and acquire new and unique skills.
To conclude, I would say that choosing a new degree as your major comes with a lot of uncertainty. But this uncertainty will lead to opportunities to discover new and innovative ideas that are highly important to solve the complex problems of today. If there is something I learned from TOK, it is essential to take risks when building knowledge. Now that I have graduated and am applying for jobs, I realize that a risk-taker mindset is also being sought out by employers, in addition to a passionate and creative attitude towards work, which are skills that undoubtedly come with studying a new degree.
Alumnus Adrian Aleman is a Mexican student of engineering curious about new ways and ideas of how education can be better planned and enhanced through the use of technology. He aims to continue a scientific career as a bio medical engineering researcher, keeping a creative and international mindset. He completed his IB Diploma at Centro de Enseñanza Media de la Universidad Autónoma.