The 20 Best Doctor of Biomedical Engineering Graduate Schools in 2022

biomedical engineering

Biomedical Engineering (BME) is a burgeoning STEM field that combines engineering, medicine, biology, information systems, and other engineering and life sciences disciplines. As a degree, it studies how advanced engineering techniques such as:

  • computational and statistical modeling, 
  • machining, design, materials study, 
  • electronics signal processing, 
  • mechanics
  • spectroscopy
  • and other manufacturing techniques, such as 3D printing and modeling

It can be applied to the study of (but not limited to):

  • molecular and cell biology, resulting in the subfield of molecular and cell tissue engineering (MCTE), or sometimes simplified as CTE,
  • human anatomy and physiology, as it relates to preventive and rehabilitative medicine, by understanding muscle mechanics, or biomechanics (also sometimes referred to as mechanobiology),
  • medical technology, a broad subfield that includes medical diagnostics, monitoring systems, imaging techniques, and other medical processes that rely on technology. One of the more advanced upshots of the researches in this subfield includes innovations on exterior medical wearables, such as signal devices that monitor basal body changes like temperature and pulse rate, and improved orthograde and bio-grade implant materials and prostheses,
  • neural science, and medicine, as it relates to neurology and behavioral science. Advanced engineering studies in neurology have sprung into another BME subfield: neuro-engineering,
  • diseases, and drug development and delivery. The application of engineering techniques into pharmacology and immunology studies has also birthed other subfields like immuno-engineering, gene therapy, and translational medicine.
Doctor of Biomedical Engineering

This term and sub-discipline, translational medicine, is also one of the more important products of BME that have come out over the last three decades.

By definition, translational medicine is the translation or conversion of theoretical research into tangible applications in medicine and the life sciences as a whole – “from bench to bedside,” as experts would coin it. It sums up the overall objective of biomedical engineering, which is to turn ideas into sound, validated theories through advanced mathematics and statistics.

Then apply these theories in the real world, through engineering-based simulations and manufacturing, in the hopes of creating clinically sound evidence and answers that provide tangible and practical solutions to understand better biologic processes and human physiology and pathology in an attempt to resolve some of medicine’s unresolved dilemmas. 

This is also the whole idea behind the prestigious and generous Coulter Translational Partnership Research Grant from the Coulter Foundation enjoyed by several BME programs. The Coulter Foundation and the Whitaker Foundation are two of the biggest benefactors of the BME field.

Grants from these two foundations, as well as from federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Human Genome Research Institute Home (NHGRI), and many more have helped universities formally launch their BME programs through the decades, and subsequently house these programs into its department that are independent of say, the schools of engineering or medicine of these universities.

This transformation through generous financial support helps the field of BME to become a discipline in its own right, that while it is indeed a collaborative and integrative discipline, becoming a division or department of its own in educational institutions would also mean more research centers, research groups and more streamlined funding for advanced equipment and facilities, which, of course, bodes well for research and advancement.

And when research is well-funded and well-equipped, this also translates to improved student enrollment, retention, and graduation, which is what this research-intensive discipline needs to stay continually relevant and thriving. 

This is important because while the discipline is still young, it is indeed thriving and burgeoning. In FY 2019, the fields of BME and bioengineering (BIOE) were among the top five engineering fields that have received the highest federal funding for R&D, edging aerospace, aeronautical, and astronautical engineering by $50K  – and this is just federal funding, private funding for the BME field is just as generous, if not more. 


METHODOLOGY

The programs included in the list were based on the following criteria:  

  • The breadth of research done by the department, 
  • The breadth of research areas or fields, 
  • The existence of in-house research centers, institutes or facilities centers,
  • The department’s affiliation with outside relevant research facilities which should include engineering facilities (machining, sectioning, imaging, spectroscopy, etc.) and medical facilities (hospitals, research centers, school of medicine, etc.),
  • Program funding, plus points if it has received grants from the Coulter Foundation or the Whitaker Foundation, and other federal grants (NSF, NIH, etc.)
  • Faculty pedigree, plus points for faculty that have been elected as fellows into professional societies and board memberships,
  • Existence of other initiatives such as entrepreneurship, design studio, and industry partnership initiatives, plus points for startups established within the university or with a  BME faculty, fellow, or student at the helm,
  • Distinct program offerings include emphases, concentrations, or dual doctoral degree pathways  (M.D./D.V.M./J.D./D.D.M. + Ph.D.).

20 BEST DOCTOR OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING GRADUATE SCHOOLS

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Biological Engineering Department

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

: 21 Ames St, 56-651Cambridge, MA 02139
: 617-324-2800

Ph.D. in Biological Engineering

The Biological Engineering Department is one of the newer academic divisions of MIT’s School of Engineering. Its foundation has been largely motivated by genomics and molecular biology, two of the great biological discoveries of the 20th century. 

  • The program’s flexible curriculum only has two required courses: Analysis of Biological Networks and Principles of Molecular Bioengineering. The remaining units can be fulfilled through electives under these categories:
    • Biological Engineering 
    • Engineering/Science
    • Biological Science
  • For doctoral candidacy admission, students must pass a written exam and the oral exam, equivalent to the dissertation proposal presentation.
  • Of the department’s 56 professors, 36 are affiliated with 11 research centers currently conducting studies on 23 research areas. Some of the highest research activities are in the fields of:
  • Students interested in biomedical engineering and technology may contact Prof. Alan Grodzinsky of the Center for Biomedical Engineering (CBE), one of the department’s eleven research centers. 

Standout Features of the Program:

CBE is an interschool collaboration – in partnership with Harvard University, the Cleveland Clinic, and Colorado State University – that studies mechanobiology, biomaterials, cell and tissue engineering, regenerative medicine and technology, and other related subfields through in vitro and in vivo simulations and atomic force microscopy (AFM). BE doctorates interested in post-grad research in this field can apply for open post-doctoral positions through its director, Prof. Grodzinsky. 

Did you know?

In 2019, MIT received the highest funding for biomedical engineering research, at $118,310. Of this figure, 65% was federally financed, also the highest federal BME funding among all U.S. universities. 

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Harvard University

John A. Paulson School of Engineering & Applied Sciences – SEAS

Harvard University

: Science and Engineering Complex, Room 1.101, 150 Western Avenue, Boston, MA 02134
: (617) 496-9567

Ph.D. in Bioengineering 

One of the innovative features of Harvard’s SEAS is that it does not have departments.  All subfields and disciplines are communal, not centralized, collaborative, not concentrated.

This is reflected in the school’s eight research areas and 30+ research institutes and initiatives, where science, engineering, IT, and public policy integrate.

  • The Ph.D. in Bioengineering program observes the following general requirements:
    • Of the 16 courses required, ten must be graduate, letter-graded SEAS courses
    • Campus residency of at least two years is required
    • Second-year students must be teaching fellow for one semester
    • An oral doctoral qualifying exam and a final exam or the dissertation defense are required.
  • A program plan is also required from all students, subject to approval. It should, at least, combine courses on applied math, applied science, computing science, engineering, physiology, and biology.
  • Students can also opt for a secondary degree, such as a  Ph.D. minor in  Computational Science and Engineering or Data Science, or earn a certificate in Teaching
  • For research, students can deep dive into Bioengineering while dabbling into other subfields like robotics, biomechanics, biomaterials, and cell and tissue engineering. Otherwise, they can also do collaborative research in other SEAS fields like engineering, applied mathematics, physics, and science.

Standout Features of the Program:

Students can also cross-enroll into graduate courses from MIT’s Health Sciences and Technology program.

Did you know?

The SEAS also offers Ph.D. degrees in other disciplines like Applied Mathematics, Applied Physics, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Science & Engineering, Material Science & Mechanical Engineering, and, Quantum Science & Engineering.

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University of California San Diego (UCSD)

Department of Bioengineering

University of California San Diego

: 9500 Gilman Drive MC 0412, La Jolla, CA 92093-0412
: (858) 822-1604

Ph.D. in Bioengineering

The UCSD Department of Bioengineering offers interdisciplinary degrees in partnership with the different Engineering departments (Electrical, Structural, Computer Science, Mechanical and Aerospace), the School of Medicine, and other departments like Economics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biochemistry, and  Physics. 

  • The Ph.D. in Bioengineering program has the following requirements:
    • First-year students should enroll in three engineering and three life sciences courses from this list
    • A one-term teaching assistantship is also required.
    • The first year culminates with the Departmental Exam.
    • Second-year students can take electives to prepare them for research with department approval. This is followed by the Senate Examination or the doctoral candidacy exam. Only three years are allotted for pre-candidacy requirements. The dissertation and its defense should be completed by the seventh year or sooner.
  • University funding is only up to the sixth year. 
  • The department is home to 50+ faculty members, all of whom (with a few exceptions) lead their research groups or are affiliated with related research centers. For example, department chair Kun Zhang spearheads the Laboratory of Integrative Genomics, while adjunct professor Andrew Bartko is affiliated with the Center for Microbiome Innovation.

Standout Features of the Program:

The program accepts second-year UCSD School of Medicine students who intend to pursue a dual doctorate (Ph.D./M.D.) through the Medical Scientist Training Program, a grant awarded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) to qualified institutions, UCSD being one. 

Did you know?

The department has close to 30 research groups which include studies on Stem Cell Biology and Bioengineering, Bioinformatics and Systems Biology, and Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine, to name a few. These are helmed by department faculty.

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John Hopkins University 

Whiting School of Engineering

Johns Hopkins University

: 3400 N. Charles Street, Wyman Park Building, Suite 400 West, Baltimore, MD 21218
: (410) 516-8120

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering 

The BME programs at JHU are pioneers in the country. These innovative programs boast of faculty from both engineering and medical disciplines, highly specialized and integrative curricula, and the renowned BME Design program, teaching design thinking principles to BME students for twenty years.

  • The basic requirements for the Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering program are:
    • Completion of 30 coursework credits, two BME seminar courses, and two ethics courses,
    • A customized and approved annual program plan, teaching assistantship, and campus residency of at least one academic year,
    • A dissertation proposal (oral exam) and the oral defense. Students must graduate within nine years or less.
  • There are seven research areas and ten research institutes that focus on integrating data science, computational science, genomics, imaging, systems biology, immuno-engineering, neuro-engineering, and its application in medicine, therapeutics, rehabilitation, and medical devices. 
  • The areas with the highest research activity are Biomedical Data Science, Genomics, and Systems Biology. The institutes with the greatest BME faculty involvement are the Institute of Computational Medicine (ICM), the Institute of Basic Biomedical Science, and the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute.

Standout Features of the Program:

Students interested in pursuing medicine and engineering may apply to the highly selective Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Unlike other institutions which offer the same M.D./Ph.D. pathway, applicants need not apply to separate departments but only to the JHU School of Medicine.

Did you know?

The demographic of the BME Ph.D. program is diverse, with female enrollees making up about half of the enrollees. Also, a quarter of the enrollees are LGBTQ-oriented, and a fifth of the enrollees identify as ethnic minorities.

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Georgia Institute of Technology – Emory University School of Medicine

Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

Georgia Institute of Technology – Emory University School of Medicine

: 313 Ferst Drive,  Atlanta, GA 30332
: 404-385-0124 (GA Tech)

: 1760 Haygood Drive, Suite W. 200, Atlanta, Georgia 30322
: 404-727-9874 (Emory Univ.)

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

The joint Biomedical Engineering program from Georgia Tech and Emory University was made possible by the Whitaker Foundation, which awarded the BME Program Development Grant in 1993. 

Standout Features of the Program:

The degree can be earned via other pathways such as the M.D./Ph.D. in BME dual degree pathway and the trilateral Ph.D. in BME offering from Emory, GA Tech, and Peking University, which offers a unique global perspective to this already innovative program.

As for collaborative research, GA Tech and Emory’s proximity to federal health agencies and renowned private health institutions, such as the headquarters of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The American Cancer Society, indicate high research activity and output in this area. Both establishments are less than two miles away from Emory and a mere 15-minute drive from GA Tech.

Did you know?

In 2020, GA Tech conferred the highest number of BME doctorates, with 35 students completing the Ph.D. program.

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Duke University Pratt School of Engineering

Department of Biomedical Engineering

Duke University Pratt School of Engineering

: 101 Science Drive, Campus Box 90281, Durham, NC 27708-0281
: (919) 660-5131

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

The BME training and research at Duke University is helmed by a world-renowned faculty of researchers and professors, many of whom are fellows of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), American Association for the Advancement of Science or AAAS, NSF, NIH, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and many more.

Standout Features of the Program:

All Duke BME students are encouraged to participate in the New Duke Startup Challenge. At stake are prizes ranging from $500 to $50K. The challenge encourages collaboration between departments, and a competing group with a 20% BME student leadership will receive an additional $10K prize from the BME department.

Did you know?

Duke BME also offers Ph.D. level certificate courses in Nanoscience, Photonics, and  Biomolecular and Tissue Engineering (BTE). It also offers training fellowships in BTE, Bioinformatics and Engineering Microbes, and Medical Imaging. The Medical Scientist Training Program also provides a dual degree pathway (M.D./Ph.D.).

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Stanford University Schools of Engineering and Medicine

Department of  Bioengineering

Stanford University Schools of Engineering and Medicine

: Shriram Center, 443 Via Ortega, Rm 119, Stanford, CA 94305
: (650) 498-3224

Ph.D. in Bioengineering

“With engineering as our paintbrush and biology as our canvass…”, these words on the Stanford BioE page say everything one needs to know about its programs – the aim to create backed by knowledge of the empirical and medical sciences. 

  • The Ph.D. program in Bioengineering requires first-year students to do a laboratory rotation before selecting a research advisor. TA work for at least two courses is also required. A dissertation proposal and defense are required for program completion.
  • Students from any academic background and attainment (bachelor’s or master’s) can apply to the program. Applicants with a solid background in physics, mathematics, and biology have a competitive edge, especially those with prior research experience in these fields.
  • The department boasts of 29 faculty-helmed labs, affiliations with 30+ research centers, and 20 research areas, including studies on the microbiome, protein engineering, metabolic engineering, and synthetic biology. 
  • The Coulter Foundation and Stanford partnership help fund other applied BME projects by faculty and students. It grants an average of $800K of funding annually. Proposals are accepted yearly, and those chosen will receive a maximum of $100K worth of a year’s funding for the project execution. 

Standout Features of the Program:

Students also can earn a second doctorate along with a Ph.D. in Bioengineering, such as Medicine (through the Medical Scientist Training Program, or MSTP) or Law (through the School of Law).

Did you know?

The Future of Everything is a Stanford podcast hosted by Prof. Russ Altman (of the Helix Research Group), which talks about the real-world integrative applications of science (physical, environmental, geophysical, astronomical, chemical, computational, life), engineering, and medicine. 

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Rice University

Department of Bioengineering

Rice University

: 6100 Main St., Houston, TX 77005-1827
: 713-348-0000

Ph.D. in Bioengineering

Rice University’s Department of  Bioengineering is comprised of nearly 30 faculty members whose expertise range from bioengineering and biosciences, biochemistry, tissue engineering, biomolecular engineering, to electrical and computer engineering, and its integrative applications in the various facets of medicine, like cancer research and global health, to name a few.

  • The Ph.D. program in Bioengineering requires the following:
    • Completion of 15 units of Bioengineering courses. The rest can be completed as electives or 12 units of transfer credits and three electives that will support research work. 
    • Render 2.5 semesters-long of teaching assistantship, and, 
    • Present a dissertation proposal and defense.
  • Additionally, applicants must show proof of completing the following courses (or their equivalent): Systems Physiology, Statistics, and Cell Biology.
  • The department researches in four areas: 
    • Biomaterials and Mechanobiology
    • Biomedical Imaging and Bioinstrumentation
    • Bioengineering and Biophysics, and, 
    • Cellular, Molecular, and Genome Engineering & Synthetic Biology have the highest faculty involvement. 
  • It is also affiliated with 14 research institutes that, aside from bioengineering, are also involved in other research fields such as biological physics, global health, technology entrepreneurship, and engineering leadership

Standout Features of the Program:

The Department of Bioengineering is located within the halls of the Texas Medical Center via the BioScience Research Collaborative. This unique location of the department provides Bioengineering students access to medical facilities and professional insights for research proposals and executions. 

Did you know?

The Department of Bioengineering also offers an M.D./Ph.D. pathway, the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP),  through a partnership with Baylor College of Medicine  (BCM). Applicants should submit their applications through the BCM admissions office. 

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Boston University

Department of Biomedical Engineering

Boston University

: 44 Cummington Mall, Room 403, Boston, MA 02215
: 617.353.2805

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Boston University’s  Department of BME is the first to offer an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering. Today, the program offers not just undergraduate and graduate programs but also related concentrations that can complement any BME degree and minor degrees.

Standout Features of the Program:

Students and faculty can engage with the 10+ research centers and facilities the department is affiliated with or involved with. Among these is the Bioengineering Technology & Entrepreneurship Center (BTEC), which aims to create bioengineers, and engineers as a whole, with a deep sense of social awareness and responsibility.

Did you know?

The department receives generous funding from renowned BME benefactors like the Whitaker Foundation  (through the Whitaker Foundation Leadership Award) and the Coulter Foundation (through the Coulter Translational Partnership Award).

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University of Washington

Department of Bioengineering

University of Washington - Seattle

: William H. Foege Building, 3720 15th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98195-5061
: (206) 685-2000

Ph.D. in Bioengineering

UW’s Bioengineering program stands out not only because of its curriculum and research involvement, but also because of the entrepreneurial spirit that envelopes each student and faculty  – from pending patents to marketable inventions, leading to innovative startups that go back to the ingenuity, brilliance, and acumen of the Bioengineering folks at UW. 

  • The Ph.D. in Bioengineering program requires first-year students to rotate between laboratories to choose a research adviser. 
  • There are three examinations to be completed: the qualifying exam to test for students’ theoretical knowledge; the general examination to serve as the dissertation proposal; and the final examination, which is the dissertation public defense. 
  • The program is taught by a long list of academics from various engineering, medical, IT, and other STEM disciplines.
  • There are 15 research centers that include studies on ultrasound-based technologies, audio technologies, stem cell therapy, and neurotechnology. Two of these centers are funded by the NIH: the National ESCA and Surface Analysis Center for Biomedical Problems (NESAC-BIO) and the National Simulation Resource, the application arm of the Physiome Project.

Standout Features of the Program:

Students are encouraged to participate in the UW initiative BioEngage, which bridges UW Bioengineering students with relevant companies in the industry for job placements, internships, immersions, project sponsorships, grants or collaborations, and mutual consultations. Some of the partner companies include Philips, NanoString, Fuji Film, and Bristol Myers Squibb, to name a few.

Did you know?

The department leads UW in terms of patents and innovations. As of 2020, the Department of Bioengineering has more than 1700 submitted patents, close to 100 patent licenses, and nearly a thousand inventions, all of which have led to more than 40 UW-connected startups. 

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University of Florida

J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering

University of Florida

: 1275 Center Drive, Biomedical Sciences Building JG56, Gainesville, FL 32611-6131
: 352.273.9222

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

The University of Florida – Biomedical Engineering Department, instituted in 2002, is one of the newest additions to the UF family, particularly the College of Engineering. Its foundation is largely attributed to the Whitaker Foundation. In 2006, Dr. Pruitt and his family doled a significant contribution to the department, making it one of the biggest contributions UF has received.

  • The Ph.D. program in BME allows for a flexible approach, with up to 18 credits allotted for BME and specialized electives. Students must also complete nine credits of required BME courses and four credits of TA work. A dissertation proposal and defense are required, as well. 
  • To aid in research, the department’s facilities include three Zeiss microscopes, a high-speed and ultra-speed centrifuge, a microtome, several types of imaging systems, and other types of instrumentation and state-of-the-art equipment.
  • UF facilities also include an advanced MRI and spectrometer, instrumentations for cell and tissue analysis, gene therapy, particle analysis, and other engineering-related processes.
  • UF is also home to several bioengineering research centers such as the Genetics Institute, the  Institute on Aging, and the Nanoscience Institute for Medical and Engineering Technology (NIMET).

Standout Features of the Program:

Students can fulfill their elective requirements through the courses offered by the Engineering Innovation Institute (EII). Twelve available courses focus on engineering entrepreneurship, innovation, design thinking, sales, policy, ethics, leadership, and project management.

Did you know?

Aside from courses, students can also enroll in EII’s non-degree Engineering Innovation Certificate to augment their credentials. The non-degree program is also available as a minor degree

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University of Minnesota 

Department of Biomedical Engineering

University of Minnesota

: 312 Church St. SE, 7-105 Nils Hasselmo Hall, Minneapolis, MN 55455
: 612-624-4507

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

The BME program at UMN invests heavily in research founded on an integrative approach. The department’s more renowned research work is bioengineering oncology, neurology, and cardiology.

  • The Ph.D. program in BME can be completed within three to five years, depending on whether the student has earned a master’s degree coming into the program. Two exams are required, the dossier or the dissertation proposal, both in written and oral format, and the dissertation defense. 
  • The program allows for 21 elective credits, a combination of free science, technical and biology courses. For program completion, 30 credits must be completed. 
  • There are eight research areas with heavy involvement from the 80+ faculty (including adjunct faculty) of the department. 
  • The department’s Tissue Mechanics Laboratory houses sophisticated instrumentation such as a microprobe system and testing systems for studies involving biomechanics and other related disciplines. 

Standout Features of the Program:

First and second-year Ph.D. students are eligible to be selected to partake in the Cardiovascular Engineering Training program (CET), which focuses on the potential innovations relevant to cardiovascular diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. 

Did you know?

Of the nearly 180 Ph.D. students of the BME  program, nearly 50% are female enrollees. Additionally, UMN has strong support for research-based entrepreneurship, that also nearly 50% of faculty research has resulted in successful startups. 

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University of Pennsylvania

Department of Bioengineering

University of Pennsylvania

: 210 South 33rd Street, Suite 240 Skirkanich Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6321
: 215-898-8501

Ph.D. in Bioengineering

The University of Pennsylvania was the first educational institution to confer the Doctorate or Ph.D. in Bioengineering degree in 1953.

  • The Ph.D. program requires students to rotate through different labs in preparation for research work, which should begin on the summer term of their first year.
  • Applicants with an undergraduate or master’s degree in any field are welcome to apply. Those with a background in STEM disciplines and research work have a competitive edge. 
  • There are 16 research areas, with Molecular Engineering and Cellular Engineering having the highest faculty involvement. Other research fields of note also include Computational and Experimental Neuro-engineering. 
  • There are also 20 research groups helmed by the faculty, which seamlessly integrate the disciplines of STEM, medicine, and the life sciences. An example includes the Kording Lab, which studies how data science and machine learning may help understand neural data processing and analysis. 

Standout Features of the Program:

The School of Engineering & Applied Science or SEAS, with which the Department of Bioengineering is connected, is affiliated with nearly 30 research institutes in and outside the SEAS. Some of the notable institutes include the Penn Cardiovascular Institute, and the Penn Center for Molecular Discovery, to name a few.

Did you know?

The department faculty has a long history of collaborating with industry leaders and startups, resulting in innovations with extensive applications in medicine, particularly cardiology. These include new treatment approaches for congestive heart failure, biocompatible implants that help predict heart attacks and seizures, and new types of vascular graft that can be used for arterial bypass procedures.

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University of California Davis

Department of Biomedical Engineering

University of California Davis

: One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616
: 530-752-1011

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

UC Davis’ Department of Biomedical Engineering has a long and inspiring history from 1965 when the first consideration for a BME program or research group was made. From being known as the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Group (BMEGG) in 1970, to the Division of BME in 1999, and then finally as the Department of BME in 2001, the department has then expanded its research focus from musculoskeletal biomechanics to medical imaging, MCE, and biophotonics, to name a few.

  • This Ph.D. program requires 64 to 96 course credits, which should include the following courses:
    • Physiology for Engineers
    • Statistical Design of Experiments or Mathematical Methods for Biomedical Engineers
    • Cell/Molecular Biology for Engineers, and,
    • Acquisition and Analysis of Biomedical Signals
  • Research conferences, seminars, teaching assistantships, a dissertation proposal (pending a qualifying exam), and defense are required.
  • Students can choose from any of the six major research areas the department is involved in. The most active research areas are MCTE, mechanobiology, and neuro-engineering.
  • Students may also specialize in Biophotonics and Bioimaging as an added credential to their Ph.D. degree (emphasis). 

Standout Features of the Program:

The department is home to  65+ faculty members from different and yet relevant disciplines to BME, such as engineering, medicine, pharmacology, neurobiology, mathematics, behavioral science, physiology, and information systems. A third of the faculty is also connected to the School of Medicine. 

Did you know?

UC Davis’ unique location between downtown Sacramento and  Lake Tahoe affords the ideal balance of intensive academics and research within school grounds while basking in the natural beauty of the school’s exteriors. 

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Texas A&M University

Department of Biomedical Engineering

Texas A&M University

: 101 Bizzell Street, College Station, TX 77843 
: (979) 845-7200

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Texas A&M University is a research powerhouse, and its Department of BME is no exception. Its researches have resulted in 65 patents and 11 startup companies, to name a few. Students are also in good hands as the department’s faculty are fellows in related professional societies and have helmed peer-reviewed publications and board memberships. 

  • The Ph.D. program accepts bachelor’s and master’s degree holders, with the required coursework varying depending on the degree attained. 
  • A residency of one academic year and satisfactory completion of the required coursework and the pre-candidacy exam are the basic requirements for doctoral candidacy admission.
  • There are 26 faculty-led research groups, as well as 44 shared equipment and instrumentations for imaging, sectioning, microscopy, sample preparation and separation, spectrometry, particle analysis, testing, measuring, machining, and other experimental processes.
  • Aside from the aforementioned, the department is home to four research areas that focus on bio-instrumentation, bioimaging, development of medical devices, and regenerative medicine. 

Standout Features of the Program:

Aside from research and innovation, Texas A&M encourages its students to harness their entrepreneurial drive through the BME Design Studio, located in the aptly named Emerging Technologies Building. Once fully equipped (fundraising for the studio is in the process), students will be exposed to research and the application or the development of medical technologies and other biomedical innovations from start to finish.

Did you know?

Researchers from the BME Department have recently developed a 3D model of blood vessels that can closely simulate with almost perfect precision actual human vascular anatomy. This is a significant leap in cardiovascular disease and drug therapy studies, deemed stagnant over the last two decades. 

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University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Biomedical Engineering Joint Department (College of Engineering and School of Medicine)

University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

: 1107 Carl A. Gerstacker Building, 2200 Bonisteel, Blvd., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2099: (734) 647-6109

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

The Department of BME is co-managed by the College of Engineering and School of Medicine. The department’s faculty comprises engineers, medical doctors, and other experts in related fields like information science, biology, neuroscience, radiology, oncology, genetics, pharmacology, and even dental medicine.

  • Ph.D. in BME students can choose from any of the concentrations below:
    • Biomechanics and Bio-transport
    • Biomedical Imaging and Ultrasonics
    • Bio-electrics and Neural Engineering
    • Medical Product Development
    • Biotechnology and Systems Biology
    • Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine
  • Michigan BME is extensively involved in several research areas, from biomechanics imaging, MCTE, gene therapy, drug delivery, systems biology, 3D-culture, and systems engineering. Among this long list of research areas, studies in regenerative medicine and computation & modeling have the highest faculty involvement. 
  • BME researchers can also utilize the facilities housed by the various institutes and centers in the College of Engineering & School of Medicine. These include the Bio-interfaces Institute at the CoE and SoM’s Center for Arrhythmia Research.

Standout Features of the Program:

Aside from research and innovation, Michigan BME also strongly advocates for entrepreneurship. Its Center for Entrepreneurship and the Ross School of Business and are good starting points for BME researchers to learn how to market their innovations or inventions. To date, six startups are either pioneered or are connected to Michigan BME (faculty and or fellow leadership or involvement).

Did you know?

There is no shortage of ideas from Michigan BME researchers. Some of its recent innovations include finger-controlled prostheses, a new methodology for predicting one’s vaccine response (or lack thereof), and medical warning wearables for hospitalized cancer patients

BEST DOCTOR OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING GRADUATE SCHOOLS - Divider

Columbia University

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science (SEAS)

Columbia University

: 500 W. 120th Street #351, New York, NY 10027 
: (212) 854-4460

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical Engineering is a collaboration between various Columbia departments. While it calls the SEAS home, it also offers core courses from the Faculty of Medicine, College of Dental Medicine, Mailman School of Public Health, and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (science departments).

  • Ph.D. students who already have a master’s degree are only required to complete 30 credits of coursework, which should include the following courses:
    • Computational Modeling of Physiological Systems
    • Any two graduate-level mathematics courses
  • They are also required to work as teaching assistants for at least two terms.
  • The program researches Biomechanics, Bio-signals and Biomedical Imaging, Cell and Tissue Engineering (CTE), and Neuro-engineering.
  • The program also offers a dual degree M.D./Ph.D. pathway.

Standout Features of the Program:

The department is helmed by 60+ faculty members hailing from various disciplines. Faculty research involvement is significant in biology, biomechanics, imaging, and medicine.

Did you know?

SEAS’  BME program collaborates with several other Columbia departments and schools, such as the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Department of Biomedical Informatics, the Irving Medical Center, and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.

BEST DOCTOR OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING GRADUATE SCHOOLS - Divider

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & Wake Forest University

Department of Biomedical Engineering and  Mechanics (BEAM)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & Wake Forest University

: 317 Kelly Hall, 325 Stanger Street, Blacksburg, VA 24061
: (540) 231-8191

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Virginia Tech partners with Wake Forest University  (WFU) to form the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences (SBES), which houses the Biomedical Engineering program. The program is available from the undergraduate to graduate (master’s and doctorate) levels. 

  • Undergraduates can apply straight to the Ph.D. in BME program. Once accepted, the required coursework is 90 credit hours.
  • The curriculum requires the completion of courses in BME, life sciences, mathematics, ethics/diversity, and six semesters of seminars. 
  • There are three exams to be completed: a qualifying exam at the end of the second year, a preliminary exam before doctoral candidacy, and the final exam or the dissertation defense.
  • The 100+ faculty members hail from Virginia Tech and WFU, and most of them are involved in at least one of the 12 active research areas housed by BEAM. To date, the most active research area of the department is in the study of biomechanics, based on faculty involvement.
  • BEAM is also affiliated with five research centers, one of which is the Center for Injury Biomechanics.

Standout Features of the Program:

A clinical rotation is required for second-year Ph.D. students, which is waived for Ph.D. in BME students under the dual-degree M.D./Ph.D. or D.V.M./Ph.D. pathway. Students are expected to gain insights into medical processes like image interpretation, administration of treatment modalities, and the operation and maintenance of medical devices and equipment. 

Did you know?

BEAM also offers a Ph.D. degree in Engineering Mechanics with the following options for emphasis or concentrations: solid mechanics, applied mathematics, dynamics, control and vibrations, biomechanics, and fluid mechanics.

BEST DOCTOR OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING GRADUATE SCHOOLS - Divider

Purdue University

Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering

Purdue University

: 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN, 47907
: 765-494-4600

Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

Purdue’s BME programs are housed within the Martin C. Jischke Hall of Biomedical Engineering, home to advanced engineering and science facilities that can aid in research and top-notch BME education.

  • Ph.D. in BME students are required to submit a plan of study to their thesis advisers. They are also required to attend seminar courses for literature analysis.
  • The preliminary exam equates to the doctoral candidacy admission exam and will require a thesis proposal presentation. 
  • The department focuses research on four areas:
    • Imaging
    • Instrumentation
    • Computational Biomedicine
    • Engineered Biomaterials and Biomechanics
    • All four research areas have equal faculty involvement
  • As of writing, there are 13 research opportunities, which focus on microbiome studies, neuroscience, translational medicine, medical wearables, and imaging. 

Standout Features of the Program:

Students can partake in the BIOMEDSHIP joint program, which integrates faculty from the Weldon School of BME, the Indiana University School of Medicine, and the Krannert School of Management to train students on how to capitalize, market, and monetize their work as BME researchers and innovators. 

Did you know?

For students with no engineering background but still wish to pursue research and a doctorate in the applied biomedicine field, Purdue also offers a Ph.D. program in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences degree with the College of Veterinary Medicine.

BEST DOCTOR OF BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING GRADUATE SCHOOLS - Divider

University of Maryland College Park

Fischell Department of Bioengineering

University of Maryland

: 3102 A. James Clark Hall, 8278 Paint Branch Drive, College Park, MD 20742
: 301-405-8268

Ph.D. in Bioengineering

UM’s Bioengineering program is ahead in many ways. It is home to the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices and the BioWorkshop, the department’s facility and equipment center. The BioWorkshop is home to microscopes, particle analyzers, scanners, cytometers, imaging and instrumentation tools, and other research aids and equipment. 

  • The Ph.D. in BIOE program requires students to complete anywhere from 2 courses to as many as 12 courses, depending on their educational attainment coming into the program. For those with a master’s degree in BIOE, the coursework may be reduced to 2 courses, while those with a master’s degree in engineering or other STEM fields may be reduced to 5 courses.
  • There are three required courses:
    • Transport Phenomena in Bioengineering Systems
    • Rate Processes in Biological Systems
    • Physiological Evaluation of Bioengineering Designs
  • A dual doctoral degree pathway (M.D./Ph.D) is also offered.
  • The department  is currently involved  in the following research areas:
    • Bio-computation
    • Bio-molecular Engineering
    • Biomaterials
    • Biomechanics & Mechanobiology
    • Drug Delivery
    • Medical Devices
    • Optical Technologies & Imaging
    • Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine
  • There are currently 18 research labs helmed by BIOE faculty and post-docs that focus on biomolecular studies, optics, biophotonics, and drug delivery studies, to name a few.

Standout Features of the Program:

UM’s BIOE program is one of the few Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grant recipients. The $1M grant birthed the Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI), which modernizes regulatory methods and bases in reviewing medical therapeutics and devices.

Did you know?

Some of UM’s latest published works in the field of BME are in cancer research, drug delivery, specifically gene therapy, and the application of nanotechnology in tissue engineering.  


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why pursue a Ph.D. in  Biomedical  Engineering? 

While a bachelor’s degree would usually suffice as an entry-level requirement, it would only get the graduate so far in the field. In terms of salary, 2020 BLS data reports a median salary of $92K annually for biomedical engineers and bioengineers with only a bachelor’s degree. From this perspective, it will indeed suffice. 

There are a few who pursue a Ph.D. in BME or BIOE, and the numbers are even way less than those who pursue a Ph.D. in the biological and biomedical sciences (yes, these fields are different, and we’ll get to that later). In 2020, the NCES reported that biological and biomedical sciences conferred the most doctorate degrees over all other science and engineering fields. It edged BME and BIOE by a factor of 8. So, what does this tell us?

One, we need more Ph.D. in BME and BIOE students because this would mean more people in research, and two, based on the latest BLS data, if biomedical engineers and bioengineers with only a bachelor’s degree can nearly break the $100K mark, those with a Ph.D. can reasonably command a six-figure salary.

Why? Simple. Their extensive experience in research, both as a collaborator and as the lead author (at the very least, they are the lead author of their dissertation), which is what the doctorate is all about, will speak volumes about their marketability and value.

Which brings us back to the question, why pursue a Ph.D. in BME or BIOE? The answer is also simple, and it is not for the salary, at least not primarily, but for the passion for research and innovation, which is a primary requirement for admission to any BME program in the country.

Any doctorate program will require students to be engaged in research from the moment they are admitted until they graduate, but the pressure is even more so in a BME or BIOE program, which is why these programs are highly selective. 

Biomedical, Bioengineering, Biomedical Science… what’s the difference?

Simply put, bioengineering is more encompassing, and in many ways, it could subsume the field of BME. Bioengineering is broader and focuses on a theory using advanced mathematics and computational or statistical modeling. In contrast, BME has a greater focus on applying and integrating practical engineering principles and techniques, especially in the varying fields of medicine. 

But the lines between these two are quite blurry that they tend to crossover. And in terms of programs, schools may treat these two fields synonymously, especially when the programs’ faculty’s research areas are also identical.

For example, whether you are enrolled in a Ph.D. program in BIOE or BME, you might see the following research areas in both programs: neuro-engineering, systems biology, computational modeling, bio-imaging, and bio-mechanics/mechanobiology, and regenerative medicine, to name a few. 

On the other hand, Biomedical science differs from the two as it has a more theoretical approach and less engineering approach. Research and application are also required, but it is more intensive in BME and BIOE. 

Who can apply to the program?

Undergraduates with a bachelor’s degree can apply even without a master’s degree, even if the undergraduate degree is a non-STEM degree. Most BME/BIOE programs will require many mathematics, statistics, calculus, physics, and elementary engineering courses. If the undergraduate applicant lacks these, they can take these courses on a remedial basis to complete the requirement. 

Of course, those with a master’s degree can apply and will have the advantage of completing less coursework than those with just a  bachelor’s degree. 

Are GRE scores required? 

GRE scores are optional for AY 2022 unless withdrawn by the school. Best to check with the school’s admissions committee. 

What are the usual degree requirements? 

All BME/BIOE programs require an original and publicly defended dissertation accepted or deemed satisfactory by the dissertation committee. But before that, students must first complete the required coursework plus TA work, usually for two terms.

They must also pass the qualifying exams, one usually before the third year and the second for doctoral candidacy admission. Many programs also require an on-campus residency of at least one year.

Dr. Jared Goff
Chief Editor