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 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. All new PhD students who are admitted to the Biomedical Engineering department are offered fellowships for their first year. Over two semesters, while the students are also taking courses, they perform several lab rotations and arrange with an approved professor 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 Biomedical Engineering 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.

All applications must be submitted by December 15 for admission for the following fall semester. Students can apply online through the college’s Graduate Programs website.

Learning Outcomes

Students who complete the PhD in Biomedical Engineering program will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a strong foundation of biomedical engineering knowledge in the phenomena of molecular and cellular biology and in physiology from a quantitative and systems perspective as measured by successful completion of coursework and the qualifying examination.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to obtain, analyze, and synthesize quantitative data and generate hypotheses pertaining to biological systems.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to perform and effectively communicate original scientific research in biomedical engineering as measured by conference presentations, peer-reviewed and other publications, and the completion of a novel doctoral thesis.

Course Requirements

Post-bachelor’s PhD students must complete a minimum of 64 credits (formal courses plus research credits) prior to graduation, earning at least 56 credits at BU. 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 (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 also be BE electives) (8 cr)
  • Math course from approved list (4 cr)
  • A minimum of 12 research credits of ENG BE 900 (pre-prospectus)/991 (post-prospectus)

Post-master’s PhD students must enroll for a minimum of 32 credits and must take six approved structured courses, including ENG BE 605, BE 606, BE 790, BE 791, BE 792, BE 801, BE 802, the math requirement, and two graduate-level technical electives (at least one BE). Each post-MS student consults individually with the Associate Chair for Graduate Programs to determine overlap of prior coursework with PhD curriculum requirements. Students must complete a minimum of 4 research credits of ENG BE 900.


All graduate students are assigned an academic advisor who is a full-time faculty member in the department. Once a student joins a lab, their research advisor also becomes the student’s academic advisor, or a co-advisor is chosen in the case of a research advisor who is not in the Biomedical Engineering department.

Oral Qualifying Examination

The Biomedical Engineering oral qualifying examination is taken at the end of the first academic year. Upon successfully passing the exam and satisfying the math requirement, the student officially becomes a PhD candidate.

Prospectus Defense

Within six semesters of matriculation, the student is required to present an oral defense of their prospectus to their 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.

Progress Reports

Following the prospectus defense, the student must meet at least once every 12 months with his/her dissertation committee to provide a progress report, allowing the committee to assess progress toward program milestones. Starting at the prospectus defense, the student’s dissertation committee must indicate expected milestones for the next dissertation committee meeting. These 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 detailing progress toward milestones and the next planned steps at least one week before each meeting.

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

Dissertation Defense

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 five members, must include at least two primary BME faculty members and one member from a different department or institution. Frequently, scholars from other colleges within the University, as well as outside the University, serve on dissertation committees. A Special Appointment in Engineering request form is available from the Biomedical Engineering department for this purpose.

MD/PhD Combined Degree Program

The combined degree program is conducted under the joint auspices of the BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine and the College of Engineering and is intended for 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 degrees.

The applicant must meet the requirements for admission to both the Chobanian & Avedisian 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 Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, then transfers to the Biomedical Engineering department for approximately four years of coursework and research, culminating in the dissertation 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 Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine website.