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DEGREE Biomedical Engineering, PhD

Doctoral degree in biomedical engineering

As a PhD student in biomedical engineering, you’ll work alongside world-class faculty mentors and lead research that solves critical challenges in biology and medicine. You’ll also enhance your skills in using advanced engineering methods of analysis and design.

At a glance

Biomedical engineering department

12
AIMBE fellows
8
undergraduate ranking among public universities
9
graduate ranking among public universities

Learn more about what information you need to apply.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline October 1
Summer Deadline December 1
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/requirements/#english-proficiency).
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in engineering (biomedical, chemical, electrical, industrial, mechanical, etc.) or science (biology, biochemistry, chemistry, genetics, immunology, physics, etc.). Each application is judged on the basis of:

All applicants must satisfy requirements that are set forth by the Graduate School. Students admitted to the program may be required to make up deficiency course requirements.

To apply to the BME program, complete applications, including supportive materials, must be submitted as described below and received by the following deadline dates:

  • Fall Semester—December 1 
  • Spring Semester—October 1 
  • Summer Session1—December 1 

1Please note that summer admissions are generally limited to continuing BME students at UW–Madison or applicants who have research assistantships already arranged with UW faculty.

Official Academic Transcript

Electronically submit one copy of your transcript of all undergraduate and previous graduate work in your online application to the Graduate School. Unofficial copies of transcripts will be accepted for review. Official copies are required after an applicant is recommended for admission. Please do not send transcripts or any other application materials to the Graduate School or the BME department unless requested. If you have questions, please contact bmegradadmission@engr.wisc.edu.

English proficiency test scores (if applicable)

An applicant whose TOEFL (iBT) score is below 92; TOEFL (PBT) score is below 580; or IELTS score is below 7 must take an English assessment test upon arrival. Depending on the result, an applicant may need to register for recommended English as a Second Language (ESL) courses in the first semester of enrollment.

All BME PhD students will hold teaching assistantships (TA) at least once during their graduate degree. International students whose native language is not English must take the SPEAK test during their first semester on campus, unless they have achieved a score greater than 26 on the speaking section of the iBT TOEFL (8.0 for the IELTS). Any recommended ESL coursework must be completed during the first year.

Three Letters of Recommendation

These letters are required from people who can accurately judge the applicant’s academic or research performance. Letters of recommendation are submitted electronically to graduate programs through the online application. Applicants should not send any more than three letters (if more than three are sent, only the first three will be considered). See the Graduate School for FAQs regarding letters of recommendation.

Statement of Purpose

In this document, applicants should explain why they want to pursue further education in BME and discuss which UW faculty members they would be interested in doing research with during their graduate study. See the Graduate School for more advice on how to structure a personal statement.

Resume 

Upload your resume in your application.

Application Fee

Submission must be accompanied by the one-time application fee. It is non-refundable and can be paid by credit card (Master Card or Visa) or debit/ATM. This fee cannot be waived or deferred. Fee grants are available through the Graduate School under certain conditions.

Tuition

Tuition and segregated fee rates are always listed per semester (not for Fall and Spring combined).

View tuition rates

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Students admitted to the BME PhD program are guaranteed financial support from the department in the form of research assistantships, teaching assistantships and fellowships. Support will continue as long as the student maintains satisfactory progress toward their degree.

Biomedical engineering is multidisciplinary, bringing together expertise in engineering, physics, materials science, computation, biology and medicine to increase our understanding of diseases, improve diagnosis, and develop treatments that benefit human health. Our researchers are pushing the boundaries of science and technology, developing new tools and techniques to help solve some of the most challenging problems in medicine and healthcare.

View our research

Minimum graduate school requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Minimum Credit Requirement 60 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 30 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1244).
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
This program follows the Graduate School’s GPA Requirement policy
(https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1203).
Other Grade Requirements n/a
Assessments and Examinations PhD candidates are required to pass a comprehensive qualifying examination, preliminary examination, and final oral defense. Deposit of the doctoral dissertation to the Graduate School is required.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
Breadth Requirement Breadth is provided via interdisciplinary training. The central aim of biomedical engineers is to unravel gaps in biological knowledge through the use of engineering principles. Thus, the doctoral program is inherently interdisciplinary. Prior to obtaining a Ph.D. warrant, students will prepare a summary of their effort in interdisciplinary coursework and training. The purpose of the summary will be to document the effort to meet the spirit of the minor requirement. The summary must be approved by the student’s thesis committee and filed with the department. Students may elect to pursue a doctoral minor or Graduate/Professional certificate.

REQUIRED COURSES 

General Requirements
Research Credits (B M E 790, 890, 990)at least 30
Coursework, including:at least 28
2 semesters of B M E 7012
B M E 703 Responsible Conduct of Research for Biomedical Engineers2
B M E 602 Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering (Professional Development Skills in Biomedical Engineering)3
One set of Ph.D. track requirements (credits vary; see below).18-27
Total Credits60

Students who follow the Ph.D. coursework guidelines should fulfill the Biomedical Engineering: Research, M.S. requirements. They may file for that degree prior to their preliminary examination.

Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering Pathway1

Biomaterials and tissue engineering employ a diverse range of approaches to develop methods to diagnose and treat diseases, create living tissue environments that may be used to restore the function of a damaged organ, and uncover biological mechanisms related to tissue development and disease. Graduate students trained in biomaterials and tissue engineering are expected to gain a detailed understanding of cellular and molecular biology, materials science, and engineering methods relevant to their research focus. 

Biology Requirement3
Fundamentals of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology
Molecular and Cellular Organogenesis
Immunology
Introduction to Experimental Oncology
Cell Biology
Cellular Signal Transduction Mechanisms
Data Analysis Requirement3-4
Introduction to Biostatistics
Advanced Bioinformatics
Data Visualization
Statistical Methods for Bioscience I
Statistical Methods for Molecular Biology
Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering Requirement6
Biological Interactions with Materials
Introduction to Tissue Engineering
Tissue Engineering Laboratory
Stem Cell Bioengineering
Engineering Extracellular Matrices
Introduction to Biological and Medical Microsystems
Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering (Advanced Stem Cell Engineering)
Polymer Science and Technology
Special Topics in Chemical Engineering (Cellular Biomanufacturing)
Synthetic Organic Materials in Biology and Medicine
Biological Engineering: Molecules, Cells & Systems
Materials Chemistry of Polymers
Advanced Polymeric Materials
Elective Requirement6
To provide breadth, at least 6 credits of electives must be chosen from courses that are not listed above.
Systems Biology: Mammalian Signaling Networks
Biochemical Engineering
Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering (Advanced Topics in Biomanufacturing Entrepreneurship)
Microscopy of Life
Biological Optical Microscopy
Modeling Biological Systems
Design of Biological Molecules
Polymeric Drug Delivery
Total Credits18-19
1

 These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Biomedical Imaging & Optics Pathway1

Biomedical imaging and optics research develops and utilizes new experimental and computational tools to characterize tissue structure across multiple size scales. A particular focus is on human health, especially with respect to achieving superior diagnostic/prognostic tools for a spectrum of diseased states. Graduate students trained in this track are expected to gain a detailed understanding of mathematics, biology and engineering both optical and/or physical methods relevant to their research focus.

Mathematics Requirement 23
Applied Linear Algebra
Biology Requirement3-5
Physiology
Introduction to Biochemistry
Cell Biology
Data Analysis3
Medical Image Analysis
Programming II
Data Science Programming II
Matrix Methods in Machine Learning
Computer Vision
Computational Methods for Medical Image Analysis
Image Processing
Introduction to Artificial Neural Networks
Medical Image Science: Mathematical and Conceptual Foundations
Imaging Requirement9
Medical Imaging Systems
Medical Image Science: Mathematical and Conceptual Foundations
Imaging in Medicine: Applications
Non-Ionizing Diagnostic Imaging
Methods in Quantitative Biology
Microscopy of Life
Advances in Medical Magnetic Resonance
Biological Optical Microscopy
Biomedical Optics and Biophotonics
Radiation Physics and Dosimetry
The Physics of Medical Imaging with Ionizing Radiation
Principles of X-ray Computed Tomography
Elective Requirement3
To provide breadth, at least 6 credits of electives must be taken from courses that are not listed above.
Total Credits21-23
1

These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

2

The math requirement can be waived by a B- or better in the equivalent course in undergraduate. To request this waiver, please e-mail the Associate Chair of the PhD Degree a copy of your unofficial transcript and indicate the course you are proposing to use. The credits do not transfer; you will instead be able to take a math course of your choice or have a free elective, depending on the track.

Biomechanics Pathway1

Biomechanists use experiments and computational tools to investigate the mechanical aspects of biological systems at levels ranging from whole organisms to organs, tissues, and cells. Graduate students trained in biomechanics are expected to gain a detailed understanding of mechanics, mathematics, biology, and engineering relevant to their research focus.

Mechanics 12
To provide depth, 6 credits of Biomechanics courses are required. The remaining 6 credits may be selected from either the Advanced Mechanics or Biomechanics lists.
Biomechanics
Orthopaedic Biomechanics – Design of Orthopaedic Implants
Biomechanics of Human Movement
Biofluidics
Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering (Advanced Tissue Mechanics)
Special Advanced Topics in Mechanical Engineering
Topics in Bio-Medical Engineering (FE for Biomechanics; Image-Based Biomechanics)
Tissue Mechanics
Advanced Mechanics
Intermediate Vibrations
Composite Materials
Experimental Vibration and Dynamic System Analysis
Intermediate Fluid Dynamics
Experimental Mechanics
Computational Fluid Dynamics
Advanced Mechanics of Materials I
Fracture Mechanics
Heterogeneous and Multiphase Materials
Mechanical Vibrations
Introduction to Finite Elements
Micro- and Nanoscale Mechanics
Mechanics of Continua
Viscoelastic Solids
Theory of Elasticity
Biosciences3-5
Physiology
Fundamentals of Human Physiology
Biology of Heart Disease and Regeneration
Cardiorespiratory Adaptions to Environment and Exercise
Cell Biology
Elective Requirement 6
To provide breadth, electives must be courses that are not listed above. Some recommendations are below.
Medical Instrumentation
Medical Imaging Systems
Microscopy of Life
Learning a Programming Language (note that there are multiple 1 credit options, including R, C++, and Matlab)
Applied Linear Algebra
Ordinary Differential Equations
Analysis of Partial Differential Equations
Introduction to Robotics
Matrix Methods in Machine Learning
Statistical Experimental Design
Introduction to Biostatistics
Total Credits21-23
1

 These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

Medical & Microdevices Pathway1

Medical and mircodevices involve the use of electronic and computational tools to develop devices used in diagnosis and treatment of disease ranging from the systemic to the cellular and molecular levels

Mathematics Requirement 23
Applied Linear Algebra
Ordinary Differential Equations
Analysis of Partial Differential Equations
Biology Requirement 3-5
Physiology
Introduction to Biochemistry
Prokaryotic Molecular Biology
Eukaryotic Molecular Biology
Cellular and Molecular Biology/Pathology
Neurobiology
Cell Biology
Cellular Signal Transduction Mechanisms
Data Analysis 3-4
Programming II
Data Science Programming II
Learning a Programming Language (note that there are multiple 1 credit options, including R, C++, and Matlab)
All of Signal Processing
Medical & Microdevices 6
Medical Instrumentation
Therapeutic Medical Devices
Introduction to Energy-Tissue Interactions
Introduction to Biological and Medical Microsystems
Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering (Medical Device Ecosystem; Introduction to Neuroengineering; Biophotonics Laboratory)
Biological Optical Microscopy
Elective Requirement 6
To provide breadth, 6 credits of electives must be from courses that are not listed above. An example of possible courses are listed below.
Computers in Medicine
Imaging in Medicine: Applications
Total Credits21-24
1

These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

2

The math requirement can be waived by a B- or better in the equivalent course in undergraduate. To request this waiver, please e-mail the Associate Chair of the PhD Degree a copy of your unofficial transcript and indicate the course you are proposing to use. The credits do not transfer; you will instead be able to take a math course of your choice or have a free elective, depending on the track.

Neuroengineering Pathway1

Neuroengineering is the convergence of neuroscience, computation, device development, and mathematics to improve human health. Neuroengineering brings together state-of-the-art technologies for the development of devices and algorithms to assist those with neural disorders. It is also used to reverse engineer living neural systems via new algorithms, technologies and robotics. Students pursing this track are involved in all of these endeavors so as the next generation of engineers, they will transcend the traditional boundaries of neuroscience, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

Mathematics Requirement 23
Applied Linear Algebra
Data Analysis3-4
Data Science Programming II
Learning a Programming Language (note that there are multiple 1 credit options, including R, C++, and Matlab)
All of Signal Processing
Engineering Requirement 39-12
Therapeutic Medical Devices
Introduction to Biological and Medical Microsystems
Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering (Introduction to Neuroengineering; Medical Device Ecosystem)
Medical Instrumentation
Computers in Medicine
Neurobiology Requirement 33-6
Stem Cell Bioengineering
Neural Basis for Movement
Principles of Motor Control and Learning
Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Systems Neuroscience
Neuronal Mechanisms for Sensation and Memory in Cerebral Cortex
Neurobiology of Disease
Design and Analysis of Psychological Experiments I
Perceptual and Cognitive Sciences
Development of the Nervous System
Electives 6
To provide breadth, 6 credits of electives must be from courses that are not listed above. Recommendations include:
Physiology
Medical Image Analysis
Computer Vision
Computational Methods for Medical Image Analysis
Introduction to Optimization
Image Processing
Introduction to Artificial Neural Networks
Ethical and Regulatory Issues in Clinical Investigation
Methods for Neuroimaging Research
Total Credits 27-31
1

These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

2

The math requirement can be waived by a B- or better in the equivalent course in undergraduate. To request this waiver, please e-mail the Associate Chair of the PhD Degree a copy of your unofficial transcript and indicate the course you are proposing to use. The credits do not transfer; you will instead be able to take a math course of your choice or have a free elective, depending on the track.

3

Engineering and Neurobiology courses must total at least 15 credits.

Systems & Synthetic Biology Pathway1

Systems and synthetic biology utilizes experimental and computational tools in an iterative fashion to analyze and regulate biological systems.

Students interested in earning a doctoral minor in Quantitative Biology: enrollment in B M E 780 Methods in Quantitative Biology is a requirement. Additionally, students will need to take one additional 3-credit course in quantitative science, biology, or integrated biology/quantitative science from the approved list of courses in the doctoral minor (this course counts toward the elective credits for this track).

Mathematics Requirement 23
Intermediate Problems in Chemical Engineering
Applied Linear Algebra
Ordinary Differential Equations
Analysis of Partial Differential Equations
Biology Requirement3
Introduction to Biochemistry
Prokaryotic Molecular Biology
Eukaryotic Molecular Biology
Immunology
Cell Biology
Cellular Signal Transduction Mechanisms
Data Analysis Requirement1-3
Introduction to Biostatistics
Introduction to Bioinformatics
Learning a Programming Language (note that there are multiple 1 credit options, including R, C++, and Matlab)
Systems & Synthetic Biology Requirement6
Computational Modeling of Biological Systems
Synthetic Biology Seminar
Systems Biology: Mammalian Signaling Networks
Methods in Quantitative Biology
Computational Network Biology
Biochemical Engineering
Biological Engineering: Molecules, Cells & Systems
Modeling Biological Systems
Electives Requirement6
To provide breadth, 6 credits of electives must be from courses that are not listed above.
Total Credits19-21
1

These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

2

The math requirement can be waived by a B- or better in the equivalent course in undergraduate. To request this waiver, please e-mail the Associate Chair of the PhD Degree a copy of your unofficial transcript and indicate the course you are proposing to use. The credits do not transfer; you will instead be able to take a math course of your choice or have a free elective, depending on the track.

 Guidelines for students who earned a master’s degree in another field at UW-Madison

  1. Students who have earned a master’s degree in another field at UW-Madison should contact the Associate Chair of the PhD Degree to understand remaining course requirements. A maximum of 7 credits can be counted from a separate MS degree, in compliance with the Graduate School’s Double Degrees policy.
  2. Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more years lose all degree credits earned before their absence. 
  3. All students with a prior master’s degree will need to complete the Qualifying Exams and Preliminary Exam requirements even if coursework requirements have been met. Please discuss your specific plan with the Associate Chair of the PhD Degree.

Graduate Student Services
bmegradadmission@engr.wisc.edu
3180 Mechanical Engineering
1513 University Ave., Madison, WI 53706

Pam Kreeger, Associate Chair, Graduate Advising
kreeger@wisc.edu

View the Graduate Guide for program-specific information on admission, coursework, policies, rules and regulations.

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