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Programme Offered

1) Undergraduate Programme

2) Postgraduate Programme

Frequency Asked Questions (Published in NST - Aug 2010)


1.    I understand the Faculty of Biomedical and Health Science Engineering at UTM is relatively new. When was it established and what was the impetus for its establishment?

The faculty was established in the year 2007. Prior to this, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering had an undergraduate engineering program in Biomedical Engineering. The program began in 2005. Being a multi-disciplinary program there were a lot of participation from lecturers from different faculties in order to run the program well. There was a need to create a new entity that would allow all these academic staff to work more closely and contribute towards the development of this field in UTM and the country. Besides running biomedical engineering degree program, the grouping of lecturers from different background would provide opportunities to explore other related areas in health science. Thus the idea of the faculty was born.

2.    What is biomedical engineering and why is it an important field of study?

Biomedical engineering is the application of engineering in the field of medicine to improve healthcare diagnosis and treatment. This is a new field that is gaining in importance around the world due to the impact and use of technology in medicine. Today it is almost impossible to provide good healthcare service without involving any kind of technological tool. A lot of the new medical procedures that are being introduced rely heavily on the use of modern medical equipment.

3.    Can you please explain and give some examples of how biomedical engineering has contributed to the field of health sciences.

The contribution of this field in health sciences is numerous and covers all areas of health sciences. Generally, biomedical engineering has helped to improve medical diagnosis and treatment as well as enabled doctors to come out with improved medical procedures that reduce trauma and hasten recovery, for example the development of “key-hole” surgery. This can be seen in the major sub-discipline areas of biomedical engineering:
•    Biomedical Imaging – magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for medical diagnosis, ultrasound imaging especially in the area of O&G, computed tomography (CT) scanning for medical diagnosis, digital X-Ray machine, PET scans, etc.
•    Biomedical Instrumentation – ECG machine to monitor and record the heart condition, EEG machine to monitor and record brain activities, EMG machine to monitor and record muscle activities, Non-Invasive Blood Pressure (NIBP) measurement system, pulsed oximeter, etc.
•    Biomechanics and biomaterials – development of artificial limbs and mechanical implants and joints for the body, gait analysis, etc.
•    Rehabilitation engineering -  development of assistive aids for the disabled like communication aids, mobility aids, living aids, visual aids, and learning aids.
•     Cellular, tissue and genetic engineering – development of artificial organs via biological materials, the manufacture of synthetic human insulin through the use of modified bacteria.
•    Biomechatronics – the development of robotic tools for medical procedures, for example, the use of robotic tools for hip joint implant; the use of micro-robots for internal surgery

4.    How important is it to have a postgraduate degree in this field?

A lot of what has been said above is the result of research work in biomedical engineering. As such postgraduate degree is crucial for the development of this field. Doctors are forever thinking of new ways to improve healthcare, to improve treatment and to lessen trauma to patients. Thus, engineers in the field have to be involved in research in order to fulfil their role in the development of new devices and equipment that will assist the medical professionals. Postgraduate degree program will prepare these engineers for this role.

5.    Please explain what postgraduate studies at the Masters and PhD level entails.

At the Masters level there are two modes; one is by coursework and the other by research. Coursework is similar to undergraduate programs in that the candidates attend lectures, sit for tests and exams, and undertake a major project. Having good undergraduate degree certainly gives candidates a strong foundation for success.
For those choosing the research path, either Masters or PhD, they need to have an ability to do independent work. Supervisors are there to help the students and give guidance and direction but the most of the work is done by the students on their own. They need to do a lot of individual reading and analysis. They need to have a critical and inquisitive mind, creative in finding solutions to their problems, industrious and diligent in carrying out their work, and focused on achieving their objectives. Assessment is by semester progress reports and a thesis examination (viva voce). All research works are supervised by academic staffs from the Graduate Faculty member.

The Masters research programme requires a nominal duration of three to four semesters (18 to 24 months) while the PhD programme requires a nominal duration of about six to eight semesters.

6.    What kinds of careers can graduates in biomedical engineering field look forward to?

Engineers in companies responsible for the maintenance of hospital medical equipment, engineers in medical equipment manufacturing companies, sales and support engineers in medical equipment supply companies, engineer in a research and development organisation, engineer in hospital planning consultancy team, engineer in Ministry of Health, engineer in biomedical engineering department of the hospital.

7.    What are the job prospects like locally and at the international level?

The local job prospect is good since this is still a relatively new area in Malaysia. This will be made even better when the Government introduce a law that will regulate the use of medical device in the country. Healthcare institutions and healthcare companies will need to have proper biomedical engineers to comply with the law. At the international level, the opportunities are also tremendous especially in the Middle East.  A lot of countries are now concerned about the use of technology in medicine and are putting regulations in place to ensure safe and proper use of these technologies. There are a lot of applicants from overseas for our degree program but we cannot accept all since we can only accommodate 5% foreign students for the undergraduate programs.

8.    What are the challenges of pursuing a profession in this field?

Since this is still a new field in Malaysia, the biggest challenge now would be public acceptance of this field and awareness of its importance for the advancement of medical healthcare in this country. Most people look at biomedical engineering as being only responsible for medical equipment maintenance and repair. This is actually only one part of biomedical engineering. The most important is the role of biomedical engineers in the development of new medical devices or assisting medical doctors in developing new medical procedures. However, this aspect of the work will take time to be implemented and will need a lot of mindset change from the healthcare professionals. The is a need for engineers and medical personnel to work together for the betterment of the patient.

9.    Have there been any interesting developments in the field of biomedical engineering lately?

As far as Malaysia is concerned, this field is now accepted as an engineering discipline by the Board of Engineers, Malaysia (BEM). In addition, the Ministry of Health, Malaysia is in the process of drafting regulatory requirements to regulate the sale, use and disposal of medical devices in Malaysia. This is inline with global efforts to harmonize regulatory requirements around the world.

As for technological development, there is just too numerous to mention. I find development of artificial organs via biological materials as very exciting. I have seen work done in Germany where they are trying to grow special tissue from a person’s donated tissue that can be used as heart valve replacement. Another area I find interesting is the development of drug delivery mechanism using special nano-technology to enable the drug to be targeted at specific infected areas of the body effectively. The use of technology today has enabled new medical procedures to be developed that are less invasive, less traumatic for patient, and quicker recovery. One item that comes to mind is laparoscopic and thoracoscopic surgery or commonly known as “key-hole” surgery. This is a new surgical technique in which operations are done through small incisions or “key-hole” as compared to larger incisions needed in traditional procedures.

10.    Any research in this field at UTM you would like to highlight?

There are four main research areas at the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering in UTM. These are:-
a)  Biomedical Instrumentation and Signal Processing - focusing on Telemedicine, Biomedical Instrumentation, Embedded System and Digital Signal Processing (DSP), Biomedical Imaging and Image Processing. Currently one of our staff is involved in the development of high energy ultrasound to detect medical conditions in the bone.

b)      Clinical Science and Engineering – focusing on Anatomy and Physiology, Biochemistry, Clinical Engineering, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan), and X-Ray.

c)       Therapy and Rehabilitation – focusing on Rehabilitation Engineering, Sports Rehabilitation & Training, Speech Training & Therapy, Assistive Aids for the Disabled, Therapy & Training Aids for those with Learning Difficulties. Quite a number of research has been done in the area of computer-based speech therapy as well as speech assessment. Currently we have one research work developing computer-based tools for assessment of children with handwriting difficulties. Significant work has also been done on development of training system for children with learning difficulties.

d)      Biomechanics and Biomedical Materials – focusing on Biosolid/Biofluid Mechanics, Biomechanics, Biomaterials, Biocompatibility, Modelling and Simulation, Prosthetic/Orthotic, Motion Analysis, Ergonomics, Biomedical Manufacturing. This is an active group involved in developing implants for joint replacement.

11.    Anything else you’d like to add?

This is still a new field in Malaysia and it will take time for people to be aware of its existence. Nonetheless, the importance of this field for the advancement of healthcare in Malaysia cannot be overstated.