Essential, much? The role of the engineer during a pandemic

To combat the COVID-19 crisis, engineers at Ford Australia are manufacturing 100,000 medical face shields to donate to medical workers. Image: Ford Australia

COVID-19 has delivered the world’s biggest health challenge in a century – and engineers have been at the frontline finding solutions.

The world has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors, nurses and medical researchers are on the frontline, but engineers are also playing a crucial supporting role amongst the crisis.

As the quest continues for a vaccine, we need new routines, technology and equipment to keep us safe as the world opens up again in the new normal.

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Engineers have been working hard behind the scenes designing technology to help flatten the curve and building life-saving equipment for the vulnerable. These innovations range from automotive engineers turning their hands to face-shield manufacture; to mechanical and test engineers working to double our supply of intensive care ventilators. – Nadine Cranenburgh

Engineering a healthier world

Keeping people healthy is complicated, and no single engineering discipline can do it alone.

Mechanical and industrial engineers work together to design health products and plan the large-scale production of masks, face shields and complex medical devices from ventilators to heart monitors.

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Civil and environmental engineers design buildings that increase health and reduce stress. They also make sure that drinking water is clean, and waste is disposed of safely.

Biomedical and medical engineers combine in-depth knowledge of mechanical and electronic engineering, human physiology and medical applications to design devices and technology including laser medical imaging, ventilators, diagnostic devices and prosthetic limbs.

Software engineers develop and maintain programs and algorithms for modern medical equipment and modelling tools, analyse health data and create health apps and secure telehealth protocols.

Electrical and electronic engineers design power systems to supply essential medical equipment – including off-grid solutions for remote locations. They also research and design new technology for sensors and electronic components of medical instruments and devices.

Chemical engineers research and mass-produce drug treatments, study the molecular causes of disease, and design ways to test blood, fluid and tissues to detect and diagnose illnesses.

Driving solutions

Ford Australia turned to manufacturing 100,000 face shields during the pandemic.

Engineers are problem-solvers and have a knack for adapting existing solutions to new challenges. To combat the COVID-19 crisis, engineers at Ford Australia are manufacturing 100,000 medical face shields to donate to medical workers. To do this, they’ve sourced custom parts from automotive suppliers, including a foam insert from a manufacturer who usually makes the foam trim inside car air-conditioner vents.

Start your career here

Engineering + health study

Engineering +health jobs

  • Biomedical engineer: $50K–$90K
  • Test engineer: $52K–$101K
  • Mechanical design engineer: $56K–$98K
  • Chemical engineer: $50K–$122K
  • Health and safety coordinator: $53K–$112K*

*Source: salaries according to payscale

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2020.

STEM Contributor

Author: STEM Contributor

This article was written by a STEM Contributor for Careers with STEM. To learn more, please visit our contact page.


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