Wide Exposure: Multidisciplinary Engineering Fields

gradmalaysia.com takes a closer look at the growing number of engineering jobs that call for a firm grasp of two or more disciplines.
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Our increasingly complex world is full of increasingly complex engineering issues. Taking on these challenges, however, requires the expertise of a creative and flexible-minded generation of experts.

Enter the multidisciplinary engineer.

The roots of multidisciplinary engineering can be traced back to World War II, when institutions and research facilities were set up to address the escalating military issues. The dire needs of the day called for large-scale projects which were collaborative in nature and necessitated the input and advice of experts from various backgrounds.

Today, multidisciplinary engineers play a different role. They work hand-in-hand with engineers who have backgrounds from the core disciplines of engineering to create better, sustainable solutions for millions of people around the world.

Mechatronic Engineer

The word ‘mechatronics’ might still not be recognised by some dictionaries even today, but it has been in use for quite a while now. It first surfaced in Japan in the 1980s and represents the discipline of engineering that is associated with robots and automation. Without a doubt, the engineers who choose this field do share an interest in building robots that are able to perform a variety of functions, for one purpose or another.

The foundation of mechatronic engineering is built on the elements of mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, electrical engineering and even computer science. Nevertheless, it is seen as a distinct discipline in its own right, and has a major role to play in our daily lives. Some of the products of mechatronic engineering include everyday gadgets like cameras, printers, washing machines and automatic doors.

What Does a Mechatronic Engineer Do?
In a nutshell, a mechatronic engineer is responsible for combining the elements of mechanical engineering and electronics engineering to design and develop mechatronic products. Elements of electrical engineering and computer science (in the form of software design and software engineering) play a part in the daily work of mechatronic engineers too.

Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineering takes the multidisciplinary approach one step further, by closing the gap between engineering and medicine. It aims to implement the design and problem solving skills of the engineering field and merge it with medical and biological sciences, resulting in enhanced healthcare diagnosis, monitoring and therapy for patients.

This fairly new discipline of engineering also incorporates, to a certain degree, the elements of chemical engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.

What Does a Biomedical Engineer Do?
Biomedical engineers seek to apply their know-how of engineering, medicine and the sciences to design and develop medical equipment such as life support devices, artificial organs and limbs, lasers for corrective eye surgery and ultrasound imaging equipment. Some biomedical engineers also develop mathematical models and computer simulations to gain a better understanding of the life processes that affect health.

Nanosystems Engineer

Nanosystems engineering explores the microscopic world, and focuses on building devices and components with the tiniest building blocks known to man – atoms and molecules. ‘Smaller’ is the name of the game, and with things becoming more miniscule by the day, the race is on for creating new technologies on a nano scale.

Combining the elements of chemical engineering, bioengineering and materials science, nanosystems engineering opens the doors to careers in medicine, energy, cosmetics and many other industries.

What Does a Nanosystems Engineer Do?
Nanosystems engineers work in laboratories and spend time using computers to fabricate and test nanodevices, which are in turn made with nanomaterials. Nanomaterials can be as small as a few nanometres in size – a nanometre is one-billionth of a metre. Nanosystems engineers are typically employed by private corporations or perform duties in an academic setting in research labs.

Process Engineer

Process engineering (sometimes referred to as process systems engineering) combines the elements of chemical engineering and mechanical engineering. This line of engineering focuses on the design, operation, control and optimisation of chemical, physical or biological process via the assistance of computer-based methods.

Jobs in process engineering encompass many industries including (but not limited to) the pharmaceutical, petrochemical and biotechnological industries.

What Does a Process Engineer Do?
Process engineers are responsible for monitoring the process efficiencies and yields of the plant he/she is attached to, while discovering ways to improve the quality of the products. They may also be required to redesign processes, trim down operating costs and determine the standards during inspection and maintenance works. In some cases, process engineers may even be required to evaluate the mechanical design of equipment and select the most suitable ones for the plant.

The field of engineering has never really stopped evolving. With each passing day, greater advancements are made – effectively widening the possibilities of what can be done with the theoretical and practical knowledge engineers possess. Graduates with multidisciplinary knowledge will find themselves with a head start in the future, leading the way to even greater technological endeavours.