Prospective Graduate

Overview of the Biological Engineering (BE) PhD Program

MIT Biological Engineering’s mission is to generate and communicate new knowledge in the application of engineering principles in biological systems and to educate leaders in our discipline. We focus at the interface of engineering and biology by combining quantitative, physical, and integrative engineering principles with modern life sciences research to lead the field in the positive impacts of our research and effectiveness of our training programs. MIT BE offers a graduate PhD degree, and only accepts PhD applications through the annual Departmental process for admission fall term of the following year. Our program is an excellent match for ambitious applicants with extraordinary qualifications who want to advance the intellectual boundaries of biological engineering and make positive impacts on society through the creative and rigorous application of research in biological engineering.

PhD-level training in BE prepares students to conduct research that will:

  • Explain how biological systems function in terms of biological/chemical/physical mechanisms, and how they respond when perturbed by endogenous, environmental, and therapeutic factors
  • Engineer innovative technologies based on this understanding and apply technologies to address societal needs across all sectors including, but not limited to, biomedicine
  • Establish new biology-based paradigms for solving problems in areas of science and engineering that have not historically been impacted by biological approaches

In addition, PhD-level training in BE prepares students to translate this research for positive impact in the world by developing skills to:

  • Explain technical subject matter clearly, accurately, and in a compelling and contextual manner for a range of audiences
  • Engage collaboratively in diverse teams to contribute biological engineering expertise needed for multidisciplinary projects
  • Exercise intellectual and operational leadership to advance on goals in technically and organizationally complex scenarios
  • Exhibit integrity and ethical judgment in the design of research and the application of research results

Degree Requirements

BE PhD students complete two core courses in the first year, supplemented with four additional electives (Course Requirements). Individual students pace their own progress through elective coursework in consultation with their academic advisor.

In addition to the course requirements, students perform a qualifying exam with written and oral components and submit a thesis proposal to be completed by the end of the fall term in their third year.

BE PhD students complete research rotations in the fall and winter of their first year and select a BE Faculty member as a research and thesis advisor. Students carry out thesis research with the guidance and support of their faculty advisor and a thesis committee formed by the student. Technical communication is an important part of the BE PhD curriculum. Students gain and practice scientific communication skills through one or more terms of teaching experience at the graduate or undergraduate level and research-focused activities including poster and oral presentations at Departmental events including our retreat, the Bioengineering and Toxicology Seminar (BATS) series, and culminating in delivery of a written PhD thesis and oral defense of their thesis work.

For More Information

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