Graduate Programs

The graduate curriculum in biomedical engineering is track-free at the master’s level while at the doctoral level, it consists of three tracks: biomechanics, cell and tissue engineering, and biosignals and biomedical imaging. Initial graduate study in biomedical engineering is designed to expand the student’s undergraduate preparation in the direction of the concentration of interest. In addition, sufficient knowledge is acquired in other areas to facilitate broad appreciation of problems and effective collaboration with specialists from other scientific, medical, and engineering disciplines. The Department of Biomedical Engineering offers a graduate program leading to the Master of Science degree (M.S.), the Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.), and the Doctor of Engineering Science degree (Eng.Sc.D.). Applicants who have a Master of Science degree or equivalent may apply directly to the doctoral degree program. All applicants are expected to have earned the bachelor’s degree in engineering or in a cognate scientific program. The Graduate Record Examination (General Test only) is required of all applicants. Students whose bachelor’s degree was not earned in a country where English is the dominant spoken language are required to take the TOEFL test. In addition, for the doctoral program, the individual tracks require applicants to have taken the following foundation courses:

  • Biomechanics: One year of biology and/or physiology, solid mechanics, statics and dynamics, fluid mechanics, ordinary differential equations.
  • Cell and Tissue Engineering: One year of biology and/or physiology, one year of organic chemistry or biochemistry with laboratory, fluid mechanics, rate processes, ordinary differential equations.
  • Biosignals and Biomedical Imaging: One year of biology and/or physiology and/or biochemistry. Linear algebra, ordinary differential equations, Fourier analysis, digital signal processing.

Applicants lacking some of these courses may be considered for admission with stipulated deficiencies that must be satisfied in addition to the requirements of the degree program. Columbia Engineering does not admit students holding the bachelor’s degree directly to doctoral studies; admission is offered either to the M.S. program or to the M.S. program/doctoral track. The Department of Biomedical Engineering also admits students into the 4-2 program, which provides the opportunity for students holding a bachelor’s degree from certain physical sciences to receive the M.S. degree after two years of study at Columbia.


Master’s Degree

In consultation with an appointed faculty adviser, M.S. students should select a program of 30 points of credit of graduate courses (4000 level or above) appropriate to their career goals. This program must include the course in computational modeling of physiological systems (BMEN E6003); two semesters of BMEN E9700: Biomedical engineering seminar; at least four other biomedical engineering courses; and at least one graduate-level mathematics course (excluding statistics). Up to 6 credits of Master’s Research BMEN E9100 may be taken to fulfill degree requirements. Students with deficiency in physiology course work are required to take the BMEN E4001-E4002 sequence before taking BMEN E6003. Candidates must achieve a minimum grade-point average of 2.5. A thesis based on experimental, computational, or analytical research is optional and may be counted in lieu of 6 points of course work. Students wishing to pursue the Master’s Thesis option should register for BMEN E9100 Master’s Research and consult with their BME faculty adviser.

Doctoral Degree

Doctoral students must complete a program of 30 points of credit beyond the M.S. degree. The core course requirements (9 credits) for the doctoral program include the course in computational modeling of physiological systems (BMEN E6003), plus at least two graduate mathematics courses. If BMEN E6003 or a graduate level mathematics course has already been taken for the master’s degree, a technical elective can be used to complete the core course requirements. Students must register for BMEN E9700: Biomedical engineering seminar and for research credits during the first two semesters of doctoral study. Remaining courses should be selected in consultation with the student’s faculty adviser to prepare for the doctoral qualifying examination and to develop expertise in a clearly identified area of biomedical engineering.

All graduate students admitted to the doctoral degree program must satisfy the equivalent of two semesters’ experience in teaching (one semester for M.D./Ph.D. students). This may include supervising and assisting undergraduate students in laboratory experiments, grading, and preparing lecture materials to support the teaching mission of the department. The Department of Biomedical Engineering is the only engineering department that offers Ph.D. training to M.D./Ph.D. students. These candidates are expected to complete their Ph.D. program within 3.5 years, with otherwise the same requirements as those outlined for the Doctoral Degree program.    

Doctoral Qualifying Examination

Doctoral candidates are required to pass a qualifying examination. This examination is given once a year, and it should be taken after the student has completed 30 points of graduate study. The qualifying examination consists of an oral exam during which the student presents an analysis of assigned scientific papers, as well as answers to questions in topics covering applied mathematics, quantitative biology and physiology, and track-specific material. A written analysis of the assigned scientific papers must be submitted prior to the oral exam. A minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.2 is required to register for this examination.

Doctoral Committee and Thesis

Students who pass the qualifying examination choose a faculty member to serve as their research adviser. Each student is expected to submit a research proposal and present it to a committee that consists of three BME faculty members. The committee considers the scope of the proposed research, its suitability for doctoral research and the appropriateness of the research plan. The committee may approve the proposal without reservation or may recommend modifications. In general, the student is expected to submit his/her research proposal after five semesters of doctoral studies. In accordance with regulations of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, each student is expected to submit a thesis and defend it before a committee of five faculty, one of whom holds primary appointment in another department or school or university. Every doctoral candidate is required to have had accepted at least one first-author full-length paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal prior to recommendation for award of the degree.