Vol. 4 No. 1 September 2005

BE Major Welcome 


Bioengineering Options

Letter to the editor

BE Celebration

Student Research Spotlight
Science Symposium

Calendar of Events

Printable Version

The BioTECH Quarterly

A Spectrum of Bio/Engineering Degree Options offered at MIT

By Ye Ding '08, Operations Editor

    While the Biological Engineering Major is being launched, a spectrum of bioengineering-related education programs is also taking shape at MIT.

    A presentation on “Bio/Engineering Undergraduate Degree Options at MIT” was delivered last fall by four feature speakers: Jean-Francois Hamel from the ChemE department, Prof. Anne Mayes from Materials Sci & Eng, Prof. Dennis Freeman from EECS, and Prof. Matthew Lang from MechE. Prof. David Schauer also spoke about the Biological Engineering major.

    The presenters highlighted the special features of their respective programs in the context of preparing students for a career in biological or biomedical science and engineering. They also pointed out overlapping requirements with the BME Minor.

    Highlights of the BE curriculum include two new lab courses that address fundamental biological engineering techniques and instrumentation (BE.109 and BE.309). In light of the lab capacity, enrollment in the BE SB degree is currently limited to 20 students per class for the classes of 2008 and 2009.

Course 10B Chemical-Biological Engineering

    Hamel briefly explained that a chemical engineer learns about target molecules, derives processes that yield marketable products, and designs a system to reproduce lab reactions on the scale of reactor tanks. Hamel then introduced Course 10B, the Chemical-Biological S.B. program approved two years ago.

    One key aspect of the 10B curriculum is 10.28 Biological Engineering Laboratory, which covers bioprocess techniques such as vector selection and production, separation, and characterization of the recombinant product. Alternatively, students can take 10.29 Biological Engineering Project Laboratory, which places students in teams working on projects often suggested by local industry. .

    The 10B curriculum also covers core subjects from Course 7 Biology: 7.02 Introduction to Experimental Biology, 7.03 Genetics, 7.05 Biochemistry,, and 7.06 Cell Biology. .

    Chemical engineers are among those professionals receiving the highest starting salaries, Hamel said, especially because of the versatility of ChemE, the sequencing of the human genome, and the financial investment in life science and in nanotechnology. Moreover, Course 10B subjects are “well identified by potential employers.”

Course 3 Materials Science & Engineering

    Although there is no formal bioengineering degree option in Materials Science and Engineering, Mayes highlighted how biotechnology has been incorporated into the Course 3 curriculum. One such course is 3.034 Organic and Biomaterials Chemistry, usually taken by juniors. It covers topics such as polymers, protein folding, antibodies, lipids, carbohydrates, as well as the specificity, reaction routes, and self-assembly of molecules.

    The Course 3 degree option requires four REST subjects, such as 3.051 Material for Biomedical Applications, a course that examines the surface interactions between biomaterials and the cell, as well as adhesion, coagulation, and response toward foreign molecules. .

    Upon the completion of a graduate degree (M.Eng., S.M., Ph.D., Sc.D., etc), a student may work for the FDA, especially in evaluating its regulatory decisions, or join the industry in biomaterial interaction and tissue regeneration. .

Course 6 Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

    A perhaps surprising aspect of bioengineering is Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS). There is actually an area of concentration in Course 6-1 EE, known as Bioelectrical Engineering. Classes under this heading include 6.021/6.022 Quantitative Physiology, 6.024 Biomechanics, and 6.121 Bioelectronics Lab.

    Freeman outlined the methodology used in Course 6 — “measure, model, manipulate, and build.” Unlike ChemE or Materials Sci & Eng, which introduces drugs or nano-objects, EECS creates products such as prostheses, models for gene and protein interaction networks, and MRI imaging equipment that helps a surgeon visualize the patient’s anatomy during operation. Thus EECS could involve mechanics, biomedical signal and image processing, biosensors, and computational techniques in systems biology. .

Course 2A Mechanical Engineering Biotrack

    The fourth speaker, Lang, explained the curriculum of Course 2A Mechanical Engineering — Biotrack, which was developed to complement the existing ABET-accredited 2A degree program in providing additional support for MechE students with a special interest in bioengineering.

    The Biotrack requires two of the five second-level MechE core classes in addition to all the basic cores, freeing 60-66 units for students to pursue an individualized course of study in bioengineering with the guidance of a 2A faculty advisor. .

    Graduates may continue in MechE or take up a different field, such as biomedical engineering, medicine, nano- and micro- system design, or management and entrepreneurship. .

    Additional information sessions were held last spring, with the following speakers presenting: Prof. Douglas Lauffenburger and Prof. David Schauer from BE, Prof. Christine Ortiz and Prof. Krystyn Van Vliet from Mat Sci & Eng, Prof. Jean-Francois Hamel and Prof. Greg Rutledge from ChemE, and Prof. Dennis Freeman and Prof. Joel Voldman from EECS. .

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