Career Story: Bionics Engineer At A Small Company

Bionics Engineer At A Small Company

Job Title: Bionics Engineer

Education: MSc in Space Studies, International Space University •• BASc in Engineering Physics, University of British Columbia

Job Tasks: I work as the analyst in a three-person spin-off company at a German college. We provide engineering solutions for local industry including trouble-shooting failures, running computer analysis of existing and proposed systems and proposing bionic (inspired by Nature) solutions.

Our firm consists of a director, who is also a professor, a project manager and myself, the analyst. We have temporary help from students working on a thesis or coursework. In such a small firm, I am the product. There is no back-up if I can't find a solution, so I have to be self-sufficient.

A typical day is spent at a computer work-station designing and running analyses. This involves thinking, sketching out a path, proposing the method to colleagues and setting up this method in the computer program.

I also support the students' theses by demonstrating how to use software, explaining key issues in designing an analysis and helping to interpret their results.

To be successful, I needed to 1) teach myself how to perform an analysis and present the results so that clients would understand how I arrived at them 2) actively seek support for our analysis programs, including online forums and help lines 3) be assertive about asking my colleagues to build partnerships with experts who can expand my knowledge.

Because bionics is a new, small field, it can be difficult to find resources, but attending conferences and following up with contacts has built a network of support for me.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Being in a new field is exciting and interesting - I am reading about and doing things that haven't been done before. Other people that I meet in this field are imaginative and optimistic.

However, there are many dead ends in new research. Nothing is a procedure, so I have to check my own work and often have nothing to compare it with. This can leave me feeling incompetent or uncertain. The network I have built helps overcome this.

Job Tips:
1. While bionic engineering is probably not offered as a full program at your university, you can often find related courses to take as electives. I convinced the program director to let me take Zoological Physics (how Nature uses physics) as my senior physics course.

2. Teach yourself the TRIZ method and apply it in your work.

3. Help build a bionics database like bionics2space to make connections and find inspiration.

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