Major Degree Requirements

The Course 20 Undergraduate Course of Study is designed to give students a foundation and a knowledge base necessary for a biological engineer. The following resources may be useful in understanding the undergraduate experience:

Communication Intensive courses in the Major:

Communication is a vital skill for work in any field, especially in a burgeoning, groundbreaking field such as Biological Engineering. Course 20 offers three courses that will satisfy the CI-M requirement:

  • 20.109 Laboratory Fundamentals in Biological Engineering - or - 
  • 20.129J Biological Circuit Engineering Laboratory

- and -

  • 20.380 Biological Engineering Design 

By taking 20.380 AND either 20.109 or 20.129J, you will successfully complete the CI-M portion of the communication requirement.

BE is fortunate to have its own Communication Lab.  You can use this lab to help you learn to communicate effectively. Staffed by BE graduate student fellows, the BE Communication Lab offers individual and group coaching.  If you are in BE or you are taking BE courses, you can take advantage of this free program.   

Course 20 Curriculum

The BE SB Degree comprises four thematic areas:

  • Science and Mathematics Core
  • Biological Engineering Core
  • Laboratory Subjects
  • Restricted Electives & Design

In addition to first-year undergraduate chemistry, physics, calculus, and biology, the curriculum includes: 

  • 5.07 -or- 7.05 Biochemistry
  • 5.12 Organic Chemistry
  • 18.03 Differential Equations
  • 7.03 Genetics
  • 7.06 Cell Biology
  • 20.109* Laboratory Fundamentals in Biological Engineering
  • 20.110J/2.772J Thermodynamics of Biomolecular Systems
  • 6.100A Intro to Computer Science Programming in Python -and- 6.100B Intro to Computational Thinking and Data Science
  • 20.320 Analysis of Biomolecular & Cellular Systems
  • 20.330/2.793J/6.023J Fields, Forces and Flows in Biological Systems
  • 20.309 Instrumentation and Measurement for Biological Systems
  • 20.380 Biological Engineering Design

             *20.129 or 7.002/3 also accepted 
               †20.260 may substitute for 6.100B

Plus three BE Restricted Electives from the following thematic areas:

(33-36 units, may be taken in one or more area)

  • Biological Chemistry
  • Biomechanics
  • Biomolecular and Biomaterial Design
  • Cancer Biology
  • Computational Systems Biology
  • Environmental and Toxicological Studies
  • Immunoengineering
  • Instrumentation and Measurement
  • Microbiome Engineering and Infectious Disease
  • Neurobiology
  • Physical Biology
  • Synthetic Biology
  • Tissue Engineering

BE requires a minimum grade of "C" in core prerequisite subjects.

For a simple description of the BE path to graduation, please look at the BE Flowchart.

The required core curriculum includes a strong foundation in biological and biochemical sciences integrated with engineering throughout the entire core. In the first year, students should complete first-year undergraduate biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus. In the sophomore year, students should complete their science foundation courses: Genetics, Thermodynamics, Organic Chemistry, Differential Equations, Computer Science & Programming, and an Introductory Biological Engineering Lab.

Students who wish to pursue the BE SB should plan to complete the subject 20.110J/2.772J Thermodynamics of Biomolecular Systems in the fall of sophomore year. Students should also take Differential Equations by the end of sophomore year, and complete the required programming subject. The curriculum for spring term of sophomore year also includes an introductory biological engineering laboratory subject that provides context for the lecture subjects and provides a strong foundation for undergraduate research in biological engineering through UROP or summer internships.

The advanced subjects required in sophomore, junior and senior years introduce additional engineering skills in lecture and laboratory subjects and culminate in a senior design project. All subjects have a theme of molecular-to-systems level analysis, design, and synthesis and include a strong integration with biology fundamentals.

Advanced subjects also include a range of restricted electives that allow students to develop more advanced expertise in the various thematic areas. Many of the advanced subjects are jointly taught with other departments in the School of Engineering or School of Science and may fulfill degree requirements in other programs.