Biomedical engineering (BME) seeks to advance and integrate life science knowledge with engineering methods and innovations that contribute to improvements in human health and well-being. Our vision is that lasting knowledge of biomedical systems and paradigm-shifting engineering technology will arise from integrating engineering concepts and basic science knowledge from the molecular level to the whole-body level. We believe that those taught to work across multiple disciplines and to integrate modeling and experimental systems approaches will be uniquely positioned to advance and generate new disciplines in biomedical engineering.
With this vision in mind, we are committed to educating the next generation of biomedical engineers. We have leveraged our interdisciplinary strengths in engineering and clinical and life sciences to build a biomedical engineering department around research programs of excellence and translational potential: Biomedical & Biological Imaging; Cancer Technologies; Cardiovascular Engineering; Molecular & Cellular Systems Engineering; Neural Engineering; Orthopedic Engineering; and Regenerative Engineering in Medicine. These areas provide exciting opportunities for students with a variety of backgrounds and interests.
Students seeking the PhD in Biomedical Engineering may choose to study in one of seven multidisciplinary research programs that represent frontiers in biomedical engineering. Our core faculty work collaboratively with more than 90 affiliated faculty to offer students the opportunity to learn in a diverse and rich spectrum of BME research areas. Students graduating with the PhD in Biomedical Engineering are prepared to pursue paths in research and development in academic and industry settings, and they are also ready to contribute to teaching and research translation. The MD/PhD in Biomedical Engineering, which is offered jointly with the top-ranked School of Medicine, gives students in-depth training in modern biomedical research and clinical medicine. The typical MD/PhD career combines patient care and biomedical research but leans toward research.
PhD and Combined MD/PhD in Biomedical Engineering
The department offers programs that lead to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biomedical Engineering as well as combined MD/PhD degrees. The latter degrees are conferred jointly with the School of Medicine.
The doctoral degree requires a minimum of 72 credits beyond the bachelor's level, with a minimum of 36 being course credits (including the core curriculum) and a minimum of 24 credits of doctoral dissertation research.
The core curriculum that must be satisfied by all PhD students consists of the following:
- One graduate-level course in life science from an approved list
- One graduate-level course in mathematics from an approved list
- One graduate-level course in computer science from an approved list or exemption by proficiency
- Four BME courses from an approved list
Please visit the Biomedical Engineering (BME) website for a comprehensive list of the approved courses.
Up to 9 credits of BME 601C Research Rotation and/or BME 501C Graduate Seminar may be counted toward the 36 credits of graduate courses required for the PhD, so a total of 27 additional credits (usually nine courses, including the core curriculum) are required for the PhD. Up to two 400-level courses may be counted toward the nine courses required for the PhD (not including independent study courses, journal clubs or seminar-based courses). Graduate courses may be transferred in (up to 24 credits) but must be evaluated and approved by the director of doctoral studies. The evaluation and approval may occur at any time, but course transfer does not become official until after one year in residence at Washington University.
Students seeking the PhD in Biomedical Engineering enroll in two to three courses each semester and participate in one or two laboratory rotations during the first year. Ten months after they enroll in the program, students take their oral qualifying exam, which consists of a presentation of their research done to date in the mentor's laboratory followed by an oral exam addressing any issues directly related to their rotation report or their oral presentation. Upon successfully passing the qualifying examination, they advance to candidacy and complete the balance of their requirements. During the second and third years, students complete their remaining courses, participate in one semester of a mentored teaching experience, and begin their thesis research. By the end of the third year, students must complete their thesis proposal. Students must also complete one accepted and one submitted first-author publication and complete a dissertation.
Students pursuing the combined MD/PhD in Biomedical Engineering must complete the degree requirements in both schools. MD/PhD students typically complete the first two years of the medical school preclinical curriculum while also performing one or more research rotations, then the remaining requirements for the doctoral degree, and finally the clinical training years of the medical degree. The department generally gives graduate course credits for some of the medical school courses toward fulfillment of course requirements for the PhD degree. This is arranged on an individual basis between the student, their academic adviser and the director of doctoral studies.