PhD in Biomedical Engineering

The PhD program in Biomedical Engineering at BU is a highly quantitative approach to the biomedical sciences, based on principles of engineering and physical science. Details of the academic requirements for the PhD degree in Biomedical Engineering can be found in the BME Graduate Student Handbook. Key elements of the program are outlined here.

Admission, Prerequisites, and Financial Aid

Students with undergraduate training in engineering, mathematics, physics, or quantitative natural sciences are invited to apply. With rare exceptions, all new PhD students who are admitted to the Biomedical Engineering department are offered open fellowships for the first year. During the first year, while the students are also taking courses, they do rotations in the labs of two or three professors, and arrange with one of them for a research assistantship starting the summer after the first academic year, assuming that the student has been making satisfactory progress in his/her academic studies. Since the BME department at BU is one of the largest in the country, with a wide range of research areas, this approach is advantageous for students as well as professors, giving both a chance to get to know each other and to assess the fit of the student to the lab before committing.

Domestic applications must be submitted by January 15 and international applications by December 15 for admission for the following Fall Semester. Students can apply online through the College’s Graduate Programs website.

Course Requirements

Post-bachelor’s PhD students must enroll for a minimum of 64 credits.These include eight structured graduate courses (32 credits) and two semesters of Teaching Practicum (8 credits). Additional credit requirements are fulfilled with research credits, to reach the minimum total of 64. Specific course requirements include:

  • ENG BE 605 Molecular Bioengineering I (4 cr)
  • ENG BE 606 Quantitative Physiology for Engineers (4 cr)
  • ENG BE 790 Biomedical Engineering Seminar (0 cr)
  • ENG BE 791 BME PhD Laboratory Rotation (3 cr over two semesters)
  • ENG BE 792 Literature Review (2 cr)
  • ENG BE 801 Teaching Practicum I (4 cr)
  • ENG BE 802 Teaching Practicum II (4 cr)
  • Three BE graduate-level electives at 500 level or higher (12 cr)
  • Two graduate-level technical electives at 500 level or higher (may be BE electives) (8 cr)
  • Math course from approved list (4 cr)

Each student must complete a minimum of 12 research credits (registered as BE 900).

Post-master’s PhD students must enroll for a minimum of 32 credits and must take six approved structured courses, including BE 605, BE 606, BE 792, the math requirement and two graduate-level electives (at least one BE). Each post-MS student consults individually with the BME Chair for Graduate Programs to determine overlap of prior coursework with PhD curriculum requirements, but, typically, 12 credits of this structured coursework may be waived if equivalence is demonstrated. Two semesters of teaching practicum (8 credits) are also required. Students must complete a minimum of 4 research credits of BE 900.


All graduate students are assigned an academic advisor who is a full-time academic faculty member in the department. During the student’s first year, the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies serves as the student’s academic advisor, or assigns an academic advisor from among the BME primary faculty members. Once a student joins a lab, that professor becomes the student’s academic advisor, or a BME co-advisor is chosen in the case of a research advisor who is not in the BME department.

Qualifying Examinations

The biomedical engineering oral qualifying exam is taken at the end of the first academic year.

Oral Prospectus Defense

Within six semesters of matriculation, the student is required to present an oral defense of the thesis prospectus (proposal) to the dissertation committee and have the written dissertation prospectus approved. The committee evaluates the potential of the proposed research and the student’s academic preparation to engage in dissertation research.

Thesis Progress Reports

Following the prospectus defense, the student must meet at least every 12 months with his/her thesis committee to provide a progress report, allowing the committee to assess progress vs. milestones. Starting at the prospectus defense, the student’s thesis committee must indicate expected milestones for the next thesis committee meeting. Thesis committee meetings are to be held on a regular basis in order for the student to report progress and the committee to provide feedback. The student must forward to his/her committee a written report (Thesis Progress Report) detailing progress toward milestones and the next planned steps at least one week before each meeting.

Residency Requirement, PhD Candidacy, Dissertation Prospectus, Final Oral Examination Time Limit

See Course Requirements in the Doctoral Programs Overview section of this bulletin.


A PhD candidate is expected to prepare and carry out an independent and original research project in partial fulfillment of the dissertation requirement. The Dissertation Committee, with a minimum of four members, must include three College of Engineering tenured or tenure-track faculty, including at least two primary Biomedical Engineering faculty members, and one faculty member of an academic department other than the one in which the student is enrolled. Frequently, scholars from other colleges within the University, as well as outside the University, serve on dissertation committees. A Special Faculty Appointment form is available from the Biomedical Department Office for this purpose.

MD/PhD Combined Degree Program

The combined degree program is conducted under the joint auspices of the School of Medicine and the College of Engineering and is intended for highly qualified individuals who are strongly motivated for an education and a career in both medicine and research.

The program typically requires eight years of study/research in both schools and leads to award of both the MD and PhD.

The applicant must meet the requirements for admission to both the School of Medicine as a candidate for the MD degree and the Biomedical Engineering department as a candidate for the PhD degree. Typically, the student attends the first two years of instruction in the School of Medicine, then transfers to the BME department for approximately four years of coursework and research, culminating in the thesis defense, after which the student returns to the Medical Campus to complete the third and fourth years of medical training.

Read more about degree, eligibility, and admission requirements. Requirements for application to the MD/PhD program can be found on the BU School of Medicine website.