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Department of Biological Engineering

Graduate Admissions and Review Process

What is the review process timetable?

We receive over 400 applications for September matriculation. Our Admissions Committee reviews applicants throughout January, February and early March.  Applicants are then notified if they have been selected for on-campus interviews in mid/late February and will be invited to visit for BE Interview Weekend scheduled on Friday March 9 and Saturday March 10, 2012.  Applicants are typically notified of final decisions in writing by mid/late March.  In some cases where international travel can problematic, faculty telephone interviews will be arranged with international applicants.

When will I receive a decision from BE at MIT?

Decision letters are sent no later than the middle of March. Acceptance letters are sent via FedEx. Denial letters are sent via the US Post Office.

Are decisions given over the phone or via email?

No, only by mail.

Can I visit the Department of Biological Engineering prior to applying?

We require interviews of our applicants during our Interview Weekend March 9 & 10, 2012.  Interviews are by invitation only, notification of selection takes place in mid/late February.  An invitation to interview thus signals that your application has reached an advanced stage of consideration, but does not guarantee admission. Candidates will be notified of interviews by e-mail until the end of March.  In some cases where international travel can problematic, faculty telephone interviews will be arranged with international applicants.

Faculty schedule is planned carefully for interview weekend, thus visiting on a different date may not be possible due to faculty schedule conflicts.  Applicants wishing further information about a faculty member's field of research should contact that professor via email. Applicants should keep in mind that faculty schedules are very full. MIT holds campus tours daily at 10:00AM and 2:00 PM. For further information regarding the campus tours visit the main MIT website.   

What component of the application holds the most weight during the decision process?

We can make no preliminary evaluation based on one or two qualifications.  The admissions committee weighs all parts of the application (recommendations, personal statement, grades, test scores, previous research experience, etc.) in an effort to get as complete a picture of the applicant as possible. The committee looks for applicants whose intellectual interests, skills, aptitude and experience best matches the department's research programs.

I am an undergraduate chemistry major. Do I have a chance of being admitted? Are there courses I should take to strengthen my engineering/science background?

The admissions committee considers all applications submitted.  A Chemistry major with an interest in applying chemistry to biological problems would be entirely appropriate for the graduate program in Biological Engineering since the program consists of two tracks:  Bioengineering and Applied Biosciences.  Most students admitted to the Bioengineering track have an undergraduate and/or graduate background in an engineering discipline (most likely Biomedical, Chemical, Electrical, Mechanical, Materials Science, or Computer Science).  Most students admitted to the Applied Biosciences Track have an undergraduate and/or graduate background in Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Physics.  However, we do admit students with training in other fields, these students may need an additional semester of coursework to strengthen their engineering/science background and prepare them for the doctoral qualifying exams.

Would it help my chances to send my application directly to a specific faculty member?

No, and it could hurt your application. Admission decisions are made by a department committee composed of about 12 faculty members. The decision is based on overall qualifications, independent of research interest. If you try to bypass the regular admissions route, you risk having your application misplaced.

Can an applicant who was not accepted into the program request information as to why they were not accepted?

Due to the large volume of qualified applicants to the Biologial Engineering graduate program and the small number of students accepted into the program we are unable to give specifics as to why an application was denied.

Is it possible to take courses on a part time basis?

The only option for part time enrollment is special student status, which implies enrollment without intention to attain a degree. The application form, which must be submitted for each term of enrollment, is available from the MIT Graduate Admissions Office. Approval of a special student application is made by the departmental Graduate Officer, based on the qualifications and preparedness of the applicant for the intended course. Courses are offered during the day and generally meet 2-3 times per week.

Is an accepted student allowed to defer?

Deferrals are handled on an individual basis. The maximum deferral granted is for a single year.  A deferral request must be submitted in writing to the department for consideration.

When do I choose a research advisor/supervisor?

The choice of a research advisor is made at the end of the first term of study after admission to the graduate program.  You will have many opportunities to visit with BE faculty during your first four months to help you find an appropriate match.

How many years does it take to complete the PhD program?

It varies depending on the individual and their research. Required course work should be completed by a student's 4th or 5th semester. At that time, research and dissertation writing begin.


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