What is biomedical science?
Biomedical science is a subject studied at university that focuses on the human body in health and disease. Students often chose biomedical science because they enjoy biology and mathematics at school, and the subject is laboratory-based so an interest in chemistry and experimentation is also important.
Interview with Francesca Albertini a Biomedical Scientist at Ashford and St Peters Hospitals NHS Trust. Video by Oxford University Press.
Biomedical science degrees in the UK
What is biomedical science at university? It is an undergraduate degree taught at many UK universities. It is usually three years of full-time study but many institutions will offer a “sandwich” option where students can take a year out to work in a hospital or industry. This provides excellent real-life experience and the student will return in their fourth year to complete their degree. Some degrees are accredited by the professional body – the Institute of Biomedical Science, and if you are considering study, you should look carefully at course details to make sure your degree is accredited. You will need accreditation and then registration with the Health Professions Council to work in a hospital laboratory.
Other routes of study in the UK?
The video describes the old “co-terminus” system where students could study full time and undertake placements in hospital laboratories during their holidays. Again this provided excellent real-life work experience but is a declining option in the UK today unfortunately, but it is always worth asking the university you are applying to if the “co-terminus” route still runs.
The role of biomedical scientist
What is biomedical science on a day-to-day basis? The scientist often works with clinicians to obtain patient samples perhaps during surgery or during hospital procedures. The scientist collects and prepares the sample and performs the analysis in the laboratory. Some of this work can be routine, and much requires the use of large-scale automatic diagnostic equipment particularly for analysing blood for example.
More senior scientists also give opinions on the diagnosis of samples so have a direct link into patient care and management which is very rewarding.
Scientists often specialise in an area such as pathology and cancer screening, or microbiology. However biomedical scientists don’t just work in hospital laboratories in the UK but can also take their degree and work as scientists in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industry. In these roles it is more likely the scientist will not specialise but undertake research across a number of bioscience areas for example microbiology, immunology and pathology. Scientists can have very exciting and rewarding careers in drug development, in food manufacturing or the cosmetic industry.
What is more fascinating than studying the human body, and what is more exciting than working in the hustle and bustle of a busy laboratory. If you are at school learning biology and chemistry I hope you now will find out more by asking yourself, “what is biomedical science?”