What Is Bioprocess Engineering? (Plus Applications)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Bioprocess engineering is a technical field that combines the study of biological systems with the processes used in engineering. This scientific field has many applications across several industries, such as healthcare, agriculture, chemistry and environmental science. Learning about bioprocess engineering can help you decide if a career in this field is right for you.

In this article, we answer the question 'What is bioprocess engineering?', discuss what professionals work in bioprocess engineering, describe the applications of this technical field and outline the requirements to work in bioprocess engineering.

What Is Bioprocess Engineering?

The answer to the question 'What is bioprocess engineering?' is that bioprocess engineering is the science of understanding biological processes and designing complex devices or systems that interact with living things. To understand bioprocess engineering, it can help to learn about the goals of professionals in this field. Engineers in this field apply engineering principles and biological research to study and improve biological or chemical systems. For example, bioprocess engineers may develop new pesticides that help crops thrive without damaging the local environment.

Related: Careers In Biotechnology To Consider (Salary And Details)

Who Works In Bioprocess Engineering?

Professionals in many industries work either as bioprocess engineers or in related roles. Here are some examples of professionals who work in bioprocess engineering:

Bioprocess engineers

Professionals in this role emphasise the study of cellular processes. They apply engineering principles to design devices, systems and products that benefit various industries. For example, these professionals often work with pharmacists and biochemists to design medicines that limit side effects and improve health outcomes for patients. They may also work in industries like agriculture, where they may design hybrid plants or create chemical treatments to protect crops from insects and animals. In other cases, they may work for manufacturing facilities to improve the safety of their processes.

Biochemical engineers

A biochemical engineer understands how chemical processes support and affect biological functions. These professionals study the chemical makeup of living things and how introducing other chemicals to biological processes can influence them. For example, many biochemical engineers work in the pharmaceutical industry. They apply their knowledge of how chemical processes affect the body, and they develop new medications to improve those processes. Others may work in environmental sciences. They may assess the risk of chemical pollutants or create processes that reduce waste and improve the health of the environment.

Related: What Does A Biochemical Engineer Do? (Skills And Duties)

Chemical engineers

Chemical engineers focus their work on areas similar to biochemical engineers. Unlike biochemical engineers, these professionals may also work with synthetic chemicals to create sustainable and synthetic fuels, industrial lubricants or textile components. Many engineers in chemistry applications work in the manufacturing sector, where they oversee chemical processes during operations.

Related: Chemical Engineer Skills (With Tips And Responsibilities)

Biotechnical engineers

Biotechnical engineers may take on many of the same studies and applications as bioprocess engineers, where they combine life science and technology to design and create both industrial and consumer products. They may also have knowledge of computer science and information technology. For example, a biotechnical engineer may create computer systems, software or technology devices that assist biological researchers. They combine their knowledge of bioprocess research with computer science to create technology that assists in the research and engineering processes.

Related: Different Types Of Engineering Fields (With Definition)

Agriculture engineers

Agricultural engineers use bioprocesses in support of developing efficient means of farming, harvesting and processing food crops. Engineers in agriculture often work with commercial farmers, biologists and botanists to research viable methods for genetically enhancing crops, maintaining soil health and protecting ecological diversity during farming practices. An agricultural engineer also oversees the design and development of equipment that is safer and less impactful on the environment during agricultural operations.

Related: How Much Does An Agricultural Engineer Make? (With Skills)

Environmental engineers

Environmental engineers use engineering principles to improve the health of the environment. They study the environment to identify problems like pollution and erosion. Based on their findings, they engineer solutions that solve or reduce these problems. For example, an environmental engineer may create biodegradable packaging to reduce how much waste single-use convenience products create.

Related: What Do Environmental Scientists Do? (With Career Advice)

What Are The Applications Of Bioprocess Engineering?

Many industries rely on the work of bioprocess engineers. Here are some industries in which bioprocess engineering has applications:

Pharmaceuticals

Engineers in pharmaceutical research and development study and test chemical and biological processes to help create medicines that are safe to use. They may aid in a laboratory to study various compounds to develop vaccines, medical therapies, alternative disease treatments and even veterinary medicines. Bioprocess engineers in the pharmaceutical industry may also work with medical researchers and professionals to develop more effective diagnostic methods.

Biomedicine

Bioprocess engineers often work in biomedicine, in which they may create medical devices or applications. For example, a bioprocess engineer may develop a synthetic material that doctors can use to 3D print organs for transplants. These engineers may also develop medical imaging equipment, life support devices and devices that make it easier to administer medications. Often, engineers who work in biomedicine work with a team that includes doctors, medical researchers and biochemists.

Agriculture and food science

Agricultural applications that rely on bioprocess engineering include food production and commercial farming. In food production, bioprocesses help maintain and add nutrients to foods, initiate fermentation and create products that are safe for consumption. Commercial farming necessitates bioprocessing for creating drought- and disease-resistant crops, maximising nutrient content and creating more efficient pest management.

With bioprocess engineering, many agricultural applications continue to advance with alternative food sources and more environmentally sustainable methods of planting, harvesting and processing crops. This can improve the quality of foods, the sustainability of farming practices and increase global access to food. By making food more nutritious and more abundant while maintaining the sustainability of the environment, bioprocess engineers ensure that more people can access the food they need.

Related: Scope Of Agricultural Biology Careers: A Complete Guide

Conservation

Bioprocess engineers can improve conservation efforts. For example, their knowledge of the environment and biological systems can help them create natural control methods that improve environmental sustainability. A bioprocess engineer may introduce a type of microorganism into an environment to filter pollutants and enrich the soil in the area. Some engineers in this field may work as consultants. In a consultation role, they meet with industrial developers and offer solutions to reduce the impact of construction and development efforts on the local environment.

Related: What Is An Ecologist? (With Duties, Salary And Skills)

What Are The Career Requirements For Bioprocess Engineers?

Bioprocess engineers often have high-level credentials that qualify them for their roles. Here are some of the career requirements for professionals in this field:

Education

Bioprocess engineers typically earn a bachelor's degree or higher to qualify for their roles. Professionals in this field may pursue degrees in environmental science, biology, biochemistry, microbiology or engineering. In addition to learning about life and biological sciences, students interested in becoming bioprocess engineers can benefit from taking courses in physical science, mechanics and advanced mathematics.

Often, professionals choose to earn graduate degrees to advance their careers in bioprocess engineering. Earning a master's degree or higher can help you gain skills in research methods or advanced engineering principles. If you plan to work in research or academia, you may choose to earn a doctorate. Having a doctorate qualifies you to perform independent research in your preferred area of study.

Related: Best Engineering Courses For A Rewarding Career And Salary

Training

In addition to gaining your education credentials, it is also important to pursue specialised training in your industry of choice. You may access training through internships or entry-level positions. Gaining practical experience in your industry is a great way to develop your bioprocess engineering skills, learn more about your career path and start building your professional network. While pursuing your degree, consider opportunities to gain experience in the field. After graduating, look for entry-level roles where you can access on-the-job training.

Skills

Bioprocess engineers may have different skills depending on their industry of speciality. In general, these professionals can benefit from having a combination of soft and technical skills. For example, having soft skills like communication and teamwork can help bioprocess engineers work well with others in their industry. Additionally, having technical skills helps them apply their scientific knowledge of research methods and engineering principles to engineer new devices. Here are some important skills for bioprocess engineers:

  • Collaboration

  • Knowledge of biology

  • Chemistry

  • Understanding of engineering principles

  • Organisation

  • Time management

  • Leadership

  • Project management

  • Written and verbal communication


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