Bioengineering: Strong Roots and a Growing Future



The Canadian Society for Bioengineering, formerly designated the Canadian Society for Agricultural Engineering, has changed its name to reflect the increasing diversity of the occupations in which its membership is engaged.

The CSBE is the national society for professionals who apply engineering principles to agricultural, food, environmental and biological systems. This broad mandate encompasses exciting new enterprises as well as essential, primary industries.

With roots in the strong, innovative traditions of agriculture, forestry and the fisheries, the society now boasts a vibrant and growing membership. Its work engages the explosive potential of cutting-edge biological advances and high technology.

What have bioengineers contributed to society in the past, and what opportunities and challenges will they engage in the future? Agricultural engineers helped to develop the technology that drove some of the greatest social transformations in recent history, including the mechanization of agriculture and rural electrification.

Today’s bioengineers are positioned to help initiate an even more dramatic shift in the way that modern society sustains itself. Humanity’s current success and exponential growth is being driven largely by cheap and available energy and by industrial feedstocks from fossil deposits. Fossil resources are finite, however, and their affordability and availability will eventually decline.

In order to avoid the catastrophic consequences that could result, it is necessary that the global economic basis be shifted from nonrenewable resources to renewable energy sources and biological feedstocks. The need for fundamental technological, economic and social change is made even more urgent by the continued growth of the global population. The increase in the sheer number of people on this small planet, their struggle for a dignified lifestyle, and the resulting demand for natural resources make it imperative that we better understand the ecological systems of which we are a part.

We must develop ways to harmonize our increasing presence with the continued integrity and health of our larger ecology. Failure to do so will result in degradation of the ecological services that we require and so very often take for granted: safe and abundant food and water; timber and fiber for shelter and clothing; plentiful and renewable energy resources; and clean air.

Fortunately, there is growing recognition of the need for change, and we can turn to science and technology for some of the tools that can help us with this transition. Bioengineers are ideally positioned to engage the momentous challenges that the global community now faces.

These professionals are trained to solve problems related to systems, processes and machines that interact with humans, plants, animals, micro-organisms, biological materials, and the larger ecological communities that they comprise. Bioengineers, together with their colleagues in other engineering areas, the life sciences and social disciplines, must cooperate to meet this enormous and unprecedented challenge.

Humanity can emerge from the current era into a prosperous and sustainable future, but only if we plan with intelligence and foresight. It is in this epic chapter of history that bioengineers will play a vital role.

How does this far-reaching enterprise relate to the immediate concerns of the young engineering or science student seeking a career path? With a unique understanding of the interrelationships between technology and living systems, there is a wide variety of employment options available.

For example, bioengineers work in food and bioprocess engineering, information and electrical systems, mine and wellsite reclamation, structures and environment, renewable energy, forest engineering, aqua-cultural engineering, and many other areas. Daily activities might range from devising practical, efficient solutions for producing, processing, and packaging biological products; optimizing biomass fuel production; to developing new applications for biorobotics, machine vision systems, or biosensors.

The CSBE is a national institution with strong international affiliations, a distinguished history and an exhilarating future. Would you like to become involved in its work?

 This year the 2006 CSBE National Technical Conference will be held from July 16-19 in the Fantasyland Hotel and Conference Centre in West Edmonton Mall. The conference will feature a trade show, tours and workshops, as well as excellent technical sessions, poster presentations, a student paper competition with cash prizes, and great networking opportunities.


Visit www.bioeng.ca