College of Engineering News Room

Combining Engineering and Medicine to Help Others

By Brad Stager

The Biomedical Sciences bachelor’s degree that Youssef Mohamed received from the University of South Florida in 2017, at age 18, is often considered a gateway degree to advanced study or work in health-related fields, such as medicine or dentistry. Mohamed added a new dimension to his pursuit of a Doctor of Medicine degree at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine by adding the goal of a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, which he studied as a minor field in his undergraduate work.

The professional aspiration that Mohamed formed growing up in Tampa, to combine engineering with medicine, could not have had better timing in terms of finding a place where he could pursue high levels of achievement in each discipline, with the recent establishment of the Department of Medical Engineering at the University of South Florida. The department is a partnership of the USF College of Engineering and the Morsani College of Medicine, and was formed to advance the growing field of biomedical engineering.

“I chose to attend USF because it had a great engineering and premed track with many research opportunities, and it was close to home,” says Mohamed, who graduated at age 15 from Middleton High School in Tampa, a STEM magnet school of the Hillsborough County School District. He adds that he focused his attention on technology early in life.

Youssef Mohamed

“I have had an interest in engineering since I was in middle school and maybe even before then,” says Mohamed. ``I enjoyed taking things apart to learn how they worked and putting them back together. I got involved with First Lego League and loved being able to build unique solutions to the given problem each year. I joined the engineering magnet program at Middleton High School to expand my knowledge in things like 3D-modeling and programming and my passion for engineering only grew.”

Besides focusing on his STEM education at Middleton, Mohamed and his family faced major health crises that required spending a lot of time with doctors and having significant healthcare discussions with them. It is an experience that Mohamed says helped shape his views on life and how to support it on a professional, as well as personal basis. In time, that perspective found purpose through student activities, such as working on projects like building electromyogram-controlled robotic arms, as a member of USF’s Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) chapter.

It was also through BMES activities that Mohamed met ophthalmologist Dr. Steven Maskin, a Tampa physician who invents tools to aid in treating his patients, such as technology and procedures to more effectively treat obstruction of the glands lining the edges of eyelids. Mohamed says that combining medical knowledge with engineering problem-solving skills will put him in a position to work toward a goal of contributing toward increasing access to healthcare.

“I witnessed on countless occasions the joy a physician can give to a patient, and the rewarding feeling of helping that patient. I think back to Dr. Maskin and the treatment he helped engineer, providing instantaneous relief to patients. I aspire to be a physician scientist and use my medical and engineering backgrounds to care for the health of others.”

Involvement with BMES chapter activities is just one of the opportunities and resources Mohamed has utilized at the College of Engineering to acquire the skills needed to achieve the goals ahead, such as the USF Design for X Lab where he learned to cut with lasers and operate CNC machines. He is currently a research assistant in the USF Ocular Neuroscience and Neuroengineering Lab and has published and presented extensively on topics related to aqueous humor dynamics and electrophysiologic signals of the rat eye, particularly as it relates to diseases like glaucoma.

Besides his academic accomplishments, Mohamed has directed his energy toward activities ranging from serving in leadership positions with the Boy Scouts of America to preparing and distributing food for Tampa’s Downtown Project, as well as mentoring public school students in STEM competitions. The busy routine reflects an approach to living that is serving him well.

“My mother has always told me that nothing in life is ever constant, if you are not improving, you are getting worse,” says Mohamed. “I have tried to always place myself in challenging situations so that I have the opportunity to grow and learn from them.” Mohamed adds that his accomplishments also reflect contributions and support beyond his own efforts.

“I would like to thank Allah (SWT) first and foremost, my mother, Dr. Hanan Ahmed, and my brothers, Dr. Ahmed-Zayn Mohamed, Adam Mohamed, and Saefallah Mohamed for their continued support along my journey, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them.”

Mohamed will receive his PhD in Biomedical Engineering in August and expects to complete his Medical Doctor degree, with a Scholarly Concentration in Innovation, Entrepreneurship,and Business in Medicine, in May 2025.