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Department of Biological Engineering

BE Graduate Studies in Bioengineering

At MIT, scientists in the School of Engineering have made countless revolutionary advances that have changed the way people live. Engineers today realize that biology will be as important to technology and society in the next century as physics and chemistry have been in the closing one. Now it is time to combine engineering principles with biology. Research in Bioengineering will strengthen our understanding of the basic principals of biological and environmental systems, create novel solutions to today's health and environmental problems, and open new avenues for technological innovation.

Our program is designed to bring together engineering and biology in as fundamental a manner as possible. Stated broadly, the program educates students to use engineering principles in the analysis and manipulation of biological systems to solve problems across a spectrum of important applications. Accordingly, the curriculum emphasizes basic concepts more than particular applications. By learning to advance both engineering and biological knowledge, it is anticipated that the graduates will be well prepared for leadership careers in academia and industry related to biotechnology, medicine, and other emerging fields based on biological technology.

The Bioengineering Track is intended for students seeking Ph.D. thesis work involving the application of engineering principles to the solution of biological and biomedical problems. Following completion of the required core subjects in the Bioengineering track, students may specialize in several areas, such as biomolecular engineering, biomaterials, biomechanics, biodevices and tissue engineering. Students in the Bioengineering Track are also eligible, upon completion of several required subjects, for support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences Biotechnology Training Program, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Training Grant in Toxicology as well as the Biogen Fellowships. Students in the Applied Biosciences Track are often involved with research projects in several Centers affiliated with BE, including the Center for Environmental Health Sciences, the Biotechnology Process Engineering Center, and the Center for Biomedical Engineering and the BioImaging Center.

Research Specializations

  • Biomolecular Engineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomechanics
  • Biodevices
  • Tissue Engineering

Fellowships & Grants


The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) require:

  1. successful completion of course requirements,
  2. satisfactory performance on the comprehensive written and oral qualifying examinations,
  3. participation as a Teaching Assistant for at least one term, and
  4. execution and defense of a thesis based on original research.

A written exam is taken at the end of the first year (following completion of the core curriculum below), and an oral Qualifying Exam is taken during the second year. The oral exam serves as Thesis proposal. Following successful completion of the Exams, the student is expected to present to a Thesis Committee a minimum of two research Progress Reports before defending the Thesis. Completion of the doctoral requirements typically requires 5-6 years from date of entry.

Requirements for the Bioengineering Ph.D. Track

Entrance Requirements

Entering students typically have a B.S. (or M.S.) degree in an engineering discipline (most likely Biomedical, Chemical, Electrical, Mechanical, Materials Science, or Computer Science).

Required Core Subjects

During their first year, students engage in a unified curriculum of three core subjects, in which approaches from the various engineering disciplines are employed for analysis of biological materials and organisms over the full range of length and time scales:

  • 20.420 Biomolecular Kinetics and Cellular Dynamics
  • 20.430 Fields, Forces, and Flows in Biological Systems
  • 20.440 Analysis of Biological Networks

Elective Subjects

In addition to the core subjects, students are expected to take several restricted electives designed to add breadth and depth in the biological sciences and engineering. The goal is to find MIT subjects that best fit a student's thesis research project and career objectives. Advanced subjects are acceptable upon approval by advisor and the BE Graduate Program Chair. They fall into three categories:

1.  Biological Engineering — one subject

To provide breadth in biological engineering, at least one graduate-level course beyond the Core Classes must be selected from the following group:

  • 20.201 Mechanisms of Drug Actions
  • 20.410 Molecular/Cell Tissue Biomechanics
  • 20.415 Physical Biology
  • 20.450 Molecular and Cellular Pathophysiology
  • 20.463 Biomaterials Science and Engineering
  • 20.490 Computational & Systems Biology

2.  Engineering/Science — one subject

To provide breadth in engineering or science, at least one graduate-level subject approved by the BE Graduate Committee Chair or Co-Chair must be selected.

3.  Biological Science — two subjects

To provide a firm foundation in modern bi¬ology, the student will be expected to have biochemistry and cell biology as pre req¬uisites and then select two graduate-level subjects in biological science. If cell biology has not been previously taken, it must be selected as one of these two graduate-level subjects. If biochemistry has not been pre¬viously taken, it must be taken as a remedial undergraduate subject before selecting the two graduate-level courses.


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