UC San Diego’s Department of Bioengineering has three main areas representing different levels of biological hierarchy, each with a specific focus. In each focus area, a coordinated program has been implemented that combines experimentation and theoretical modeling so that the information generated from experimental investigations can be integrated and synthesized by the application of engineering concepts and techniques. The choice of these areas was based on our existing strengths, the potential for development, and the relevance of the field to important medical problems.
- Multiscale Bioengineering
- Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine
- Systems Biology and Medicine
M.Eng., M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees
The graduate program offers the M.Eng., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees, and the curriculum is oriented toward a biomedical engineering career and leadership in academia or industry. Every student is expected to study both physical and life sciences. Weekly seminars offer students an opportunity to become acquainted with the range of bioengineering research here and at other institutions.
- Integrated Five-Year Bachelor's/Master's (B.S./M.S.) Degree Program
The Department of Bioengineering offers an integrated program leading to a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in bioengineering. The program is available to undergraduate students who are enrolled in one of the majors offered by the Department of Bioengineering at UC San Diego, and is only open to UC San Diego undergraduates. The purpose of the B.S./M.S. program is to allow interested students to obtain the M.S. degree within one year following completion of the B.S. degree.
More detailed information about this program, including the admission requirements and application process can be found on our website: Undergrad Degree Programs / Five-Year BS/MS Program.
- Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) Degree
The purpose of the Masters of Engineering (M.Eng.) degree is to prepare design and project engineers for careers in the medical and biological engineering industries. This program addresses both the technical and professional needs of today's engineers and is intended for students who are primarily interested in engineering design, development, manufacturing and management within an industrial or professional setting. This terminal professional degree is course-intensive and designed to be completed in one academic year of full-time study. The M.Eng. degree does not require a thesis and is designed for maximal flexibility to allow for a wide variety of professional career goals.
The M.Eng. degree is considered a terminal, professional degree, and can be completed in as little as three to four quarters of full-time study. Students who may be interested in continuing to the Ph.D. program should consider applying to the M.S. Plan I- Thesis program and not the terminal M.Eng. degree as students in the M.Eng. program are not eligible to transition to our Ph.D. program.
BENG 295. Bioengineering Design Project and Industrial Training
M.Eng. students participate in a M.Eng. Graduate Industrial Training Project. The individualized project serves to significantly enhance the professional development of M.Eng. students in preparation for leadership in the medical and biological engineering industries. It is the student's responsibility to secure the training position, develop a graduate level project, and complete a technical report that is satisfactory to industry officials and faculty advisors. As M.Eng. student pursuits are individual, students must meet with the M.Eng. faculty advisor a minimum of one quarter prior to their desired start date to discuss their interests and possible projects. The Department of Bioengineering does not have projects lined up for M.Eng. students, but can assist once a student has declared an area of interest for a potential project. Once a student project is defined and academic credit is approved, the M.Eng. students will enroll in BENG 295.
At the completion of their project M.Eng. students will submit a paper which displays mastery of the principles acquired during the M.Eng. program. A presentation will be given to both the Faculty and Industry Advisor. All Intellectual Property (IP) remains the property of the Industry.
- Master of Engineering with a Specialization in Medical Device Engineering (M.Eng. M.D.E.) Degree
The master of engineering with a specialization in medical device engineering (M.Eng. M.D.E.) is designed for those who wish to develop skills and obtain fundamental knowledge needed for jobs in the medical device industry. This program addresses both the technical and professional needs of creating new medical devices and is intended for students who are primarily interested in engineering design, development, manufacturing, and management within an industrial or professional setting. This degree prepares students through a curriculum which incorporates biotechnological and medical device business affairs as well as a capstone project to further specific interests in the field.
The M.Eng. M.D.E. is considered a terminal, professional degree, and can be completed in as little as three to four quarters of full time study. Students who may be interested in continuing to the Ph.D. program should consider applying to the M.S. Plan I- Thesis program and not the terminal M.Eng. M.D.E. degree as students in the M.Eng. M.D.E. program are not eligible to transition to our Ph.D. program.
- Masters of Science (M.S.) Degree
The M.S. program is intended to extend and broaden an undergraduate background and equip the graduates with fundamental knowledge in bioengineering. The Department of Bioengineering offers two M.S. options: the M.S. Plan I- Thesis Degree and the M.S. Plan II- Comprehensive Exam Degree.
The M.S. Plan I- Thesis degree involves a combination of coursework and original research. A total of forty-eight units of credit are required: thirty-six units (nine courses) of coursework and twelve units of Bioengineering Research (BENG 299).
The M.S. Plan I is considered an academic degree, and is intended for students interested in going into research or pursuing a PhD later on. It requires students to complete coursework, research, and write/ defend a master's thesis. This degree is typically completed in six quarters, and has a seven-quarter time limit.
The M.S. Plan II- Comprehensive Exam degree involves completion of forty-eight units of coursework and the passing of a Comprehensive Examination. The comprehensive examination will be prepared and administered by a faculty committee selected by the Graduate Studies Committee. The student will be provided with an exam that is oral, written, or a combination of both, designated by the Exam Committee, with the objective to strengthen the student’s knowledge in selected areas that can best prepare the student for their professional career. The examination will cover a broad range of topics chosen from courses taken during the MS Plan II program. After the examination, the Exam Committee will issue a passing or failing grade. If a student fails in the first attempt, they may retake the examination at the next scheduled comprehensive examination period. No more than two attempts to pass the exam are allowed. The MS Plan II comprehensive examination may be held at the end of any quarters throughout the year.
The M.S. Plan II is considered a terminal, academic degree, and can be completed in as little as three to four quarters of full time study. There is a seven-quarter time limit. Students who may be interested in continuing to the Ph.D. program should consider applying to the M.S. Plan I- Thesis program and not the terminal M.S. Plan II degree as students in the M.S. Plan II program are not eligible to transition to our Ph.D. program.
On To Ph.D. (for M.S. Plan I- Thesis students only; not open to MS Plan II students)
M.S. candidates who wish to pursue a doctorate must submit an petition packet for a change in status to the Graduate Studies Committee during the petition period. The application must be approved and signed by a Bioengineering faculty member who expects to serve as the student’s Ph.D. advisor. The Graduate Studies Committee will review petitions. If the committee recommends that the student has good potential for success in the doctoral program, the student will be given the opportunity to take the Ph.D. Departmental Qualifying Examination. At the time of that exam, an assessment will be made on admission to the Ph.D. program. A change of status from the M.S. Plan I to the Ph.D. program requires that the student meet the minimum grade point average required by the department of doctoral candidates. Please see the “MS to PhD Petition Process'' section of the Graduate Student Handbook on our Current Students page for more detailed information about the process.
- Master of Science in Bioengineering with a Medical Specialization (M.S. Med) Degree
The Master of Science in Bioengineering with a Medical Specialization (M.S. Med) emphasizes the intersection between medical science/practice and engineering. It prepares bioengineering students for studies leading to professional degrees in medical specialties such as medicine (MD), osteopathy (DO), dentistry (DDS), physical therapy (DPT), occupational therapy (OTD), and pharmacy (PharmD). Students who pursue the M.S. Med may also choose to develop a career directly related to the practice of medicine and patient care related work and clinical environment.
The medical specialization within the MS in the bioengineering program is attained by completing a minimum of forty-eight units of upper-division and graduate-level courses and successful completion of a comprehensive examination.
The M.S. Med is considered a terminal, academic degree, and can be completed in as little as three to four quarters of full time study. Students who may be interested in continuing to the Ph.D. program should consider applying to the M.S. Plan I- Thesis program and not M.S. Med degree as students in the M.S. Med program are not eligible to transition to our Ph.D. program.
The comprehensive examination will be prepared and administered by a faculty committee selected by the Graduate Studies Committee. The student will be provided with an exam that is oral, written, or a combination of both, designated by the Exam Committee, with the objective to strengthen the student’s knowledge in selected areas that can best prepare the student for their professional career. The examination will cover a broad range of topics chosen from upper-division undergraduate courses, and graduate courses taken during the MS Med program (including BENG 294A, 294B, and/or 294C). After the examination, the Exam Committee will issue a passing or failing grade. If a student fails in the first attempt, they may retake the examination at the next scheduled comprehensive examination period. No more than two attempts to pass the exam are allowed. The MS Med comprehensive examination may be held at the end of any quarters throughout the year.
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree
Studies for the Ph.D. degree generally include one year of core courses leading to the completion of a Departmental Ph.D. Qualifying Examination. Elective courses are selected in the first and second year to complement research interests. The candidate then identifies a topic for original dissertation research, completes a Senate Qualification Examination, and carries out this work under the direction of a dissertation advisor, culminating in a Dissertation Defense Examination. There is also a requirement for three quarters (at 25% time or the equivalent) of teaching experience as a Graduate Instructional Assistant (GIA) or “TA.” The average time for completion of a Ph.D. has been 5 years. Graduates typically pursue careers in research and/or teaching in academia or research institutions, or careers in the medical device or other bioengineering-related industry.
Each student will be assigned an initial faculty advisor at the time of admission to develop an appropriate plan of study. This interim faculty advisor assignment can be found in the student's departmental admit letter. Later, as the student becomes more familiar with the faculty members and their research activities, they may transfer to another advisor with more compatible research interests. All students, in consultation with their advisors, develop course programs that will prepare them for the Departmental Qualifying Examination and for their dissertation research. The student is encouraged to engage in research early and no later than at the end of the first academic year. These programs of study and research should be planned to meet certain time limits as outlined in the “Ph.D. Exams” and “Policies” sections below.
Teaching Experience is required of all bioengineering Ph.D. students. The teaching requirement must be completed prior to taking the Senate Qualifying Exam. Teaching experience is defined as service as a Graduate Instructional Assistant (GIA) or “TA” in a course designated by the department. The total teaching requirement for new Ph.D. students is three quarters at 25% effort (10 hours per week) or one quarter at 50% effort (20 hours per week) and one quarter of 25% effort. At least one quarter of teaching experience is required during the first year, normally during the Winter or Spring Quarter (prior to the Departmental Qualifying Examination). The teaching experience should be taken as a course for academic credit (BENG 501). New students should discuss enrolling in BENG 501 with their faculty advisor and must contact the Bioengineering Graduate Student Affairs Office to plan for completion of this requirement. Please see the “PhD Teaching Requirement'' section on our Teaching Resources page for more information about the teaching requirement.
A bioengineering Ph.D. student is required to pass three examinations:
- The Departmental Qualifying Examination must be taken immediately following the candidate's first academic year of enrollment and is usually scheduled in the Summer between the first and second year. The exam is designed to ensure that all successful candidates possess a strong command of the engineering and life science subjects that form the foundations of bioengineering research at a level appropriate for the doctorate. The exam format is proposal-based and includes oral and presentation components. It is administered by a committee designated by the department, consisting of departmental faculty members.
- The Senate Examination (or University Qualifying Exam) is the second examination required of bioengineering Ph.D. students and is typically taken in the third year. In preparation for this examination, students must have completed the Departmental Qualifying Examination, the departmental teaching requirement, all required coursework, obtained a faculty research advisor, and identified a topic for their dissertation research and made initial progress. At the time of application for advancement to candidacy, the student and their faculty advisor assembles a Doctoral Committee of five faculty members that are appointed by the Dean of the Division of Graduate Education & Postdoctoral Affairs on behalf of the Graduate Council in the Academic Senate. The committee conducts the Senate Examination, during which students must demonstrate the ability to engage in thesis research. This involves the presentation of a plan for the thesis research project. The committee may ask questions directly or indirectly related to the project and general questions that it determines to be relevant. The students’ knowledge of a thesis area and the research plan will be thoroughly examined by this committee. Upon successful completion of this examination, students are advanced to candidacy and are awarded the Candidate in Philosophy degree. Please see the “Senate Exam Process'' section of the Graduate Student Handbook on our Current Students page for more detailed information about the administrative process for the exam
- The Dissertation Defense is the final Ph.D. examination. Upon completion of the dissertation research project, the student writes a dissertation that must be successfully defended in a public presentation and oral examination conducted by the Doctoral Committee. A complete copy of the student’s dissertation must be submitted to each member of the Doctoral Committee approximately four weeks before the defense. It is understood that this copy of the dissertation given to committee members will not be the final copy, and that the committee members may suggest changes in the text at the time of the defense. This examination must be conducted after at least three quarters of the date of advancement to doctoral candidacy. Acceptance of the dissertation by the Graduate Division and the university librarian represents the final step in completion of all requirements for the Ph.D. Please see the “Dissertation Defense Process” section of the Graduate Student Handbook on our Current Students page for more detailed information about the administrative process for the defense.
There is no formal foreign language requirement for doctoral candidates. Students are expected to master whatever language is needed for the pursuit of their own research.
Ph.D. Time Limit Policy: Pre-candidacy status is limited to three years. Doctoral students are eligible for university support for six years. The defense and submission of the doctoral dissertation must be within seven years. Please see the “PhD Time Limits” section of the Graduate Student Handbook on our Current Students page for more detailed information about time limits.
Spring Evaluations: In the spring of each year, the faculty evaluates each doctoral student’s overall performance in course work, research, and prospects for financial support for future years. A written assessment is given to the student after the evaluation. If a student’s work is found to be inadequate, the faculty may determine that the student cannot continue in the graduate program. Information about the Spring Evaluation process and deadlines is announced every Spring quarter to all PhD students via email.
- Combined M.D./ P.h.D. Degree Program
The School of Medicine and the Division of Graduate Education & Postdoctoral Affairs have developed a joint M.D./Ph.D. program. The candidate must be admitted independently to both the UC San Diego School of Medicine and the Department of Bioengineering via the Medical Scientist Training Program (M.S.T.P). Candidates are accepted into UC San Diego's Medical School first and apply to the Bioengineering Ph.D. degree during their second year of medical school study. Additional information on the program and contact information for the program coordinators can be found at UC San Diego Medical Scientist Training Program.
Degree Aim Changes Within Bioengineering
The below diagram illustrates which degree aim changes are allowed within the graduate programs in the Department of Bioengineering. The arrows show the direction of the allowed degree aim change. For example, an arrow points from “PhD” to “MS Plan II- Comp Exam” but does not point in the other direction, indicating that only PhDs can switch to the MS Plan II, but the MS Plan II cannot switch to the PhD. For questions about the specific petition process for each degree aim change, please speak with the Bioengineering Student Affairs Office.