Hip replacements, dental implants, contact lenses, pacemakers, replacement blood vessels and heart valves. These are just a few of the examples of biomaterials that are used to replace damaged or diseased tissues, and are becoming more relevant to an increasingly ageing population.
The Biomedical Materials Science course at Birmingham is one of few courses in the UK to focus equally on both the biological and material sciences. The course puts a major focus on tissue engineering, orthopaedic and dental biomaterials, preparing students for a variety of specialisms. This prepares you for a variety of career opportunities in a wide range of areas related to medical and dental science once you graduate.
BMedSc Biomedical Materials Science is taught across several departments, including Dentistry, Medicine, and Metallurgy and Materials, and is centered around the Biomaterials Unit, one of the principal research units within Birmingham Dental Hospital and School of Dentistry. This is the only course of its kind to be based and taught within a hospital. As teaching takes place at Birmingham Dental Hospital and School of Dentistry, there is direct input by practicing clinicians into the course content.
In the first two years the course will cover four areas, delivered through a combination of lectures, tutorials, case studies and practical work:
- Material Science
- Biological Sciences
- Clinical Background
The first year in particular provides an introduction to the science of the basic systems of the body, the biochemical make-up of cells, the organisation of cells and their function, genetics and the physiology of different systems. This is taught through cell biology, physiology and biochemistry. You will then be introduced to the functional aspects of the human body and the types of forces to which human tissues are exposed. Other areas of study cover the design for structural applications of materials and provide the basis of the materials science knowledge that will underpin your educational development in subsequent years.
The areas of study in year one give an overview of the history, development and uses of biomaterials. You will also gain essential knowledge relating to the use of how IT and statistics are used for report writing, as well as the presentation and appropriate storage of research data.
Wherever possible, lecture material is reinforced with practical classes.
The second year focuses on the reactions of the body to biomaterials, how these materials are designed and how they are made into components to be used in medical applications. You will continue to build an understanding of more advanced aspects in each of the subject areas, such as orthopaedic biomaterials and dental biomaterials.
As an area of medicine relevant to an increasingly aging population, orthopaedic biomaterials is an important focus of your study at Birmingham. You will learn about how artificial materials are enabling doctors and other medical professionals to replace diseased joints and bones through a growing number of biomaterial applications. Practical sessions will give you further experience of handling and testing dental biomaterials through using ‘phantom heads’ to familiarise yourself with the techniques and procedures involved in restoring damaged teeth.
You will also develop an understanding of the physiological processes in the body and the ways in which the immune system can be compromised in a variety of clinical situations through studying bacteriology and infection, wound healing and the immune response.
Materials design and professional skills will introduce you to the concept of materials selection and the way it relates to the design and manufacturing processes. You will also discover the factors that affect the performance of biomaterials, the properties of natural bone and teeth and the various forms of microscopy used for investigating cells, tissues and biomaterials.
Your final year offers you the opportunity to be involved in a cutting-edge, state of the art two-semester research project of your own choice. This will take place in our active research laboratories, working alongside postgraduate PhD students and staff. Your research project will be carried out in partnership with supervisors and will be presented as a short dissertation and a poster. Both of which will draw on your scientific writing and presentation skills acquired in the first and second year of your Biomedical Materials Science course. Your work may ultimately be published in a scientific journal.
In addition, you will further your studies in core subject areas such as design for manufacture, emerging technologies, interactions of biomaterials with the body, biomaterials applications and laboratory assessment of biomaterials.