Analysis & Synthesis

MIT Biological Engineering Department Illustrative Graphic

We define biological engineering as an analogous sibling to the main, well-established engineering disciplines in being recognizably focused on creating new technologies for a spectrum of application fields based on an identifiable basic science foundation — all using the two “wings” of engineering:” ‘analysis’ and ‘synthesis.’ For all engineering disciplines, analysis represents work to understand the basic science adequately for ascertaining design principles, so that the results of synthesis work can by as predictive as feasible. For mechanical engineering and electrical engineering different branches of physics form the respective foundations, for chemical engineering and materials engineering different branches of chemistry do likewise. For biological engineering, our basic science foundation is molecular life sciences in its most quantitative and ‘omics form.

Revolutions in Bioscience
Biological engineering builds on two major revolutions in bioscience in the late 20th century: molecular biology and genomic biology. These two revolutions made it possible to identify and manipulate the mechanistic components of living systems and to accelerate the rate of analysis. Molecular and cellular components, properties and mechanisms can now be addressed in terms of quantitative measurement, integrative modeling and systematic manipulation, enabling the powerful engineering paradigm of “measure, model, manipulate, and make.”

Research and Education
With a goal of developing effective biology-based technologies for application across a broad spectrum of society’s needs, including prominently, but not exclusively, human and environmental health, BE’s students learn within an exciting landscape of research opportunities. Students may pursue both undergraduate and graduate degrees in BE. The department also offers a range of joint degrees and programs with partners such as the Program in Polymers and Soft Matter (PPSM) and the departments of Biology, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, and Civil & Environmental Engineering. More than one-third of the BE’s faculty hold membership in one or more of the major US academies; it is their visionary guidance that empowers BE’s graduates to become world leaders in the biotechnology industry and academia.

Research areas in which BE faculty are recognized as pioneering leaders include:

The Objectives of the MIT Department of Biological Engineering:

  • To define, establish, and lead the emerging discipline of biological engineering – fusing engineering with modern (molecular-to-’omic) biology – for revolutionary address of societal challenges and opportunities.
  • To pioneer “creation of useful things from biological components and mechanisms.”
  • To prepare the next generation(s) of leaders to advance bioscience and biotechnology via quantitative, integrative, design-oriented analysis & synthesis paradigm on molecular/cell biological mechanisms.