Using mechanical engineering to tackle healthcare challenges
Are you interested in combining mechanical engineering and other technical disciplines, such as electrical engineering, with a medical perspective in order to address healthcare problems? Would you like to contribute to revolutionary changes in minimally invasive surgery? Or to the development of innovative functional prosthetics, special wheelchairs or other rehabilitation and orthopaedic aids? If so, the Master’s specialization Biomechanical Engineering & Robotics (BE&R), one of five tracks you can choose from within our Master’s programme Mechanical Engineering (ME), could be the perfect choice for you.
What are the greatest challenges in clinical practice today, and how can we use mechanical engineering and other technical disciplines to tackle them? For example, how can robotics and micro-robotics, modelling and simulation or design and testing help us make healthcare technologies more effective and more personalized? And how do we ensure that curing and caring for patients are the focal point of new technological developments in healthcare industry? These are typical questions you will tackle in the Biomechanical Engineering & Robotics track.
Become a specialist in applying mechanical engineering to clinical challenges
The ME track Biomechanical Engineering & Robotics will deepen and broaden your knowledge of the design, analysis and maintenance of machinery, structures, products and production processes. In this sense, it is on a par with the other four ME specializations, Design Production & Management, Maintenance Engineering & Operations, Mechanics of Solids, Surfaces & Systems, and Thermal and Fluid Engineering. The main difference is that this track – unlike any of the others – centres entirely on one specific field of application, healthcare.
From rehab robotics to wearable exoskeletons
In the BE&R track, you will learn to combine different engineering disciplines to analyse aspects of human functioning and to come up with solutions for healthcare. As an expert in the mechanical properties of living biological tissue and the dynamics of the human system, you will be equipped to develop instruments and methodologies that help patients and clinicians. The research you will be involved in has already led to many innovative medical devices. Some examples: rehabilitation robotics, diagnostic robots for (impaired) motor control, surgical robotics, endo- and exoprostheses, and wearable exoskeletons. In this track you will also engage in testing the effectiveness of these devices in clinical practice and with industrial partners.
✓ Expand the mechanical or biomedical engineering expertise you gained in your Bachelor’s programme
✓ Learn to apply your expertise in the specific field of healthcare
✓ Learn to make use of different disciplines and to work across boundaries to create effective, personalized healthcare solutions
✓ Become a highly valued cross-disciplinary specialist in the increasingly interwoven fields of healthcare and technology
Study at an internationally leading university of technology
You can get a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at many universities, both worldwide and here in the Netherlands. Here is what makes the ME programme at the University of Twente, along with this particular specialization, different from others:
✓ Taking the BE&Rtrack at the University of Twente will give you a head start in your career, as it will expose you to some of the very best and latest research in this field. For example, our Surgical Robotics Lab is a global pioneer in the development of innovative solutions for a broad range of clinically relevant challenges, such as the use of robotic surgical needles and medical micro-robotics. In addition, our Wearable Robitics Lab is used for development, testing and evaluation of wearable robots like exo-skeletons, bionic prostheses, exo-suits, and body worn collaborative robots in a safe and real-life environment. It is a joint facility from the University of Twente and Roessingh Research and Development.
✓ Study at a university that places high value on valorization and societal impact, working shoulder-to-shoulder with clinicians and industry. Our clinical partners, for example, include University Medical Centre Groningen, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, and Medisch Spectrum Twente.
✓ Expand your mechanical engineering expertise with knowledge and skills in other vital disciplines, as you work with interdisciplinary teams representing Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, Applied Physics and Technical Medicine.
✓ The UT was acclaimed in 2017 as the best university of technology in the Netherlands and the university with the highest societal impact. In the overall ranking we joined our country’s top three universities. Not only will you benefit from our campus’ world-class facilities, but also from our pioneering, cross-disciplinary research in many fields. At the UT you will develop a strong engineering mind-set that will equip you to tackle complex healthcare challenges.
A lot of room for personal preferences
Like most of our Master’s tracks, the ME track Biomechanical Engineering & Robotics offers you a lot of room to make your own choices. You can draw up your own curriculum around the following components:
- Mandatory ME courses
- Mandatory specialization courses
- Electives related to ME, your track or other fields
- A full-time internship with an industrial organization in the second year
- Your graduation project
The BE&R track offers a range of highly specialized courses related to biomechanical engineering:
- Surgical robotics, course examples: Robotics for medical applications, Advanced medical imaging, Computer vision, Robust control, Optimal control
- Biomechatronics, course examples: Biomechatronics, Design principles for precision mechatronics, Human movement control, Identification of human motor control
- Biomechanics, course examples: Biomechanics, Lab on a chip, Introduction to finite element modelling
- Biomedical Product Development, course examples: Biomechanics, Ergonomics, Biomedical signal acquisition
- Implant Mechanics, course examples: Advanced medical imaging, Biomedical signal acquisition, Introduction to finite element modelling
Combine research with practical application in an industrial setting
Naturally, you are free as a Master’s student to come up with your own graduation project proposal. As a university that places a strong emphasis on societal impact and valorization, we require our Master’s students to choose graduation projects in which they combine fundamental research with practical application in a real-world setting. In the BE&R Master’s track of Mechanical Engineering, many of these projects are carried out with and for leading medical and industrial organizations.
Thesis research possibilities
Because of the high degree of personalization this programme allows for and the broad biomechanical overview you will develop in the BE&R track, the range of thesis research topics is huge and can involve any of the domains in which you will have taken courses (see above).
Examples of BE&R theses
- Modelling in order to predict how muscle forces operate when a human walks
- Analysis of failure mechanisms in hip implants
- Modelling of biking dynamics and stability analysis
- Modelling of needle-tissue interaction in the use of (robotic) surgical needles
- Design of a wearable exoskeleton or an MRI-compatible surgical robot for prostate biopsies
- Design of an energy storing knee-ankle prosthesis
- Design of a robot for transcranial magnetic stimulation
- Design of a wearable hand exoskeleton
- Design of soft robotics
- Control of an arm exoskeleton
- Iterative learning control of our robotic gait trainer LOPES
- Model-based control of steerable surgical needles or of micro-robotics
Demand for BE&R specialists is rising quickly
On completing the Master’s programme Mechanical Engineering you will receive a Master of Science degree. Employers in industry will attach a lot of value to your specialized expertise. At the same time, you will meet all the requirements of a qualified Mechanical Engineer and be equipped to enter any area of mechanical engineering – not just the area of your Master’s specialization.
ME job examples
Demand for mechanical engineers is huge. As a Master’s graduate from the UT you will be amply qualified to work in a wide range of companies in a variety of positions. Many graduates find jobs in research & development or design & construction. In design teams, they take on the role of engineering specialist, integrator and they often serve as team leaders. A relatively high number of them go on to manage other engineers in their first job.
BE&R job examples
As healthcare and technology become increasingly interwoven, the need for engineers with expertise in the biomechanics is increasing. The range of challenges you can take on as a specialist in biomechanical engineering is also expanding all the time. Most of our graduates quickly find exciting jobs, for example, with companies such as Demcon, a high-end technology supplier of products and systems, research institute TNO, micro-motor specialist Maxon Motors or engineering firm VIRO.