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141 Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall
Warren College

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice. Updates may be found on the Academic Senate website:

The Graduate Program

Admission to the MEng, MS, and PhD, as well as to the PhD with specializations in bioinformatics, computational neuroscience, multiscale biology, and quantitative biology are in accordance with the general requirements of the Graduate Division. Applicants are required to have completed a BS and/or MS degree by time of admission in a branch of engineering, natural sciences, mathematics, or quantitative life sciences. MS and PhD applicants must have a GPA of 3.4 or better in technical courses. MEng applicants should have competitive grades (greater than a 3.2 GPA). All applicants must submit GRE General Test scores, as well as three letters of recommendation from individuals who can attest to their academic or professional competence and to the depth of their interest in pursuing graduate study. Attention will be paid to the background and statement of purpose to ensure that they are consistent with the goals of the program. For example, whereas undergraduate research experience and the intention to pursue a research career or advanced studies are qualifications and interests typically well suited to the MS program, industrial experience and the intention to pursue a professional career are better suited to the MEng program.

A minimum score of 80 (Internet based) on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or a band 7 on the IELTS is required of all international applicants whose native language is not English and whose undergraduate education was conducted in a language other than English. There is a minimum requirement score of 23 on the speaking portion for the TOEFL. Students who score below 100 on the TOEFL examination are strongly encouraged to enroll in an English as a Second Language program before beginning graduate work. (UC San Diego Extension offers an English language program during the summer as well as the academic year.) Admission to the MS or PhD degree program is designated when the applicants are judged to be appropriately qualified to pursue the degree requested at the time of application. Applicants are considered for admission for the fall quarter only.

Nonmatriculated students are welcome to seek enrollment in bioengineering courses via UC San Diego Extension’s Concurrent Enrollment program. However, such enrollment in a bioengineering graduate course must be approved by the instructor.

Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Program

An integrated program leading to a bachelor of science and a master of science degree in bioengineering is offered to undergraduate students who are enrolled in any of the major programs offered by the Department of Bioengineering. Students interested in obtaining the MS within one year following completion of the BS may apply to the department for admission to the program during spring quarter prior to the receipt of the BS. The program is open only to UC San Diego undergraduates.

To be eligible, students must have completed the first two quarters of their junior year in residence at UC San Diego and have an upper-division GPA of 3.5 or better and a 3.0 overall UC GPA. Twelve units of bioengineering graduate-level courses must be completed during the student’s senior undergraduate year, in addition to the requirements for the bachelor’s degree; these twelve units will count toward the requirements for the master’s degree only and must be taken for a letter grade. It is the responsibility of the prospective BS/MS student to select a bioengineering faculty member who is willing to serve as the student’s adviser. The student will also arrange (with their faculty adviser’s approval) a schedule of courses for the senior year that will fulfill the requirements for the BS while also serving the program planned for the MS. Students are expected to meet the requirements for the MS in one year (three consecutive academic quarters) from the date of the receipt of the BS.

Master of Science Degree Programs

The master of science (MS) program is intended to extend and broaden an undergraduate background and equip the graduates with fundamental knowledge in bioengineering. It is intended for those students wishing to gain experience in academic research, especially those considering continuing graduate studies at the doctoral level. The MS may be terminal or may be obtained while pursuing a doctorate. Doctoral degree students wishing to obtain the MS should refer to Obtaining an MS Degree under the section, Doctoral Degree Program.”

Thesis or Comprehensive Exam

The degree can be pursued under either the Thesis Plan I or the Comprehensive Examination Plan II. For full-time students, all the requirements can be completed within one to two years. Students must register for a minimum of three quarters for residency requirements. To maintain good academic standing, students must be making timely and satisfactory progress toward completion of degree requirements and must maintain a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 at UC San Diego.

Course Requirements

A total of forty-eight units of credit are required:

Plan I Thesis Option

Thirty-six units of course work. Nine courses, of which six are core courses in Engineering Physics and Life Science and three are elective courses to be selected from approved graduate-level course offerings in bioengineering, other engineering/science departments, and the School of Medicine (see below). The faculty adviser must approve courses outside the department. The core courses and the elective courses must be taken for a letter grade.

Required Core Graduate Courses—Engineering Physics (2 + 1 four-unit courses)

Plus one of the following courses:

Required Core Graduate Courses—Biological Sciences (2 + 1 four-unit courses)

Plus one of the following courses:

Twelve units in research (S/U grading only).
Plan II: Comprehensive Examination

Forty-eight units in course work. Six core courses (see above) and six elective courses.
Under this plan, the student completes the six core courses and six electives. The student must complete an oral comprehensive examination designed to evaluate the student’s ability to integrate knowledge and understanding.

Elective Graduate Courses for the MS Degree:

All graduate-level courses offered in the Department of Bioengineering may be used. Courses are for letter grade. In addition, graduate-level engineering/science courses offered in other departments (e.g., BIOL, ECE, MAE, SOM) for elective credit with prior faculty adviser approval. Courses are for letter grade.

Up to two undergraduate (four units with a letter grade) courses for prerequisites can be counted as electives (with permission from the adviser or Graduate Studies Committee).

Seminars (required)

Restrictions to course work requirements are as follows:

  1. Units obtained in BENG 281, 282, 299, or 501 may not be applied toward the course work requirement.
  2. No more than a total of eight units of BENG 296 and 298 may be applied toward the course work requirement.

Students must maintain at least a B average in the courses taken to fulfill the degree requirements.

Master’s Time Limit Policy

Full-time MS students are permitted seven quarters in which to complete all requirements. While there are no written time limits for part-time students, the department has the right to set individual deadlines if necessary.

A strong effort is made to schedule MS-level course offerings so that students may obtain their MS in one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study (see regulations on part-time study under “Graduate Division”). Entering students who do not meet the prerequisites of these core courses may have to take some basic courses to make up the deficiency.

A candidate admitted for the MS who wishes to transfer to the PhD program must consult the Student Affairs Office concerning the transfer before completion of the MS program.

Change of Degree Aim

Upon completion of the requirements for the MS, students are not automatically eligible for admission to the PhD program.

MS candidates who wish to pursue a doctorate must submit an application for a change in status to the Graduate Studies Committee. The application is made available each spring by the Student Affairs Office. The application must be approved and signed by a bioengineering faculty member who expects to serve as the student’s PhD adviser. Applications will be reviewed by an ad hoc faculty committee. 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 an oral examination equivalent to the PhD Departmental Qualifying Examination. At the time of that exam, an assessment will be made concerning admission to the PhD program.

A change of status from a master’s program to the doctoral program requires that the student meet the minimal grade point average required by the department of doctoral candidates.

Master of Engineering Degree Program

The department offers a master of engineering (MEng) degree. The purpose of this degree is to prepare design and project engineers for careers in the medical and biological engineering industries within the framework of the graduate program of the Department of Bioengineering. It is a terminal professional degree in engineering, which includes recognition of the importance of breadth in technical knowledge and sufficient electives to address job-specific interests and professional skills such as economics, management, and business. It is intended for students who are primarily interested in engineering design, development, manufacturing, and management within an industrial setting.

Students who may be interested in continuing to the PhD program should apply to the MS program and not the terminal MEng program.

The MEng program is a flexible, course-intensive terminal professional degree, designed to be completed in one academic year of full-time study. It does not require a comprehensive exam. However, students must enroll for technical elective credit in BENG 295, Bioengineering Design Project and Industrial Training, under the direction of a faculty instructor. This is done by participating in the Graduate Industrial Training Program, which allows students to work in an industrial setting on bioengineering projects in order to gain practical experience. (See Industrial Internship Program and “Graduate Industrial Training Programsections of this catalog.) BENG 295 course requirements include a written technical report.

In addition to enrolling in one to two quarters (four to eight units) of BENG 295, Bioengineering Design Project and Industrial Training, students must select six courses from the approved core areas, one to two courses from the approved technical elective course list, and three courses from the approved general elective course list. Such core courses and technical and general electives are described below. In selecting breadth courses, students must be mindful of the prerequisite requirements for some of the courses listed. The lists below are based on the current graduate course offerings of the bioengineering and other engineering departments. The Graduate Studies Committee will review the MEng course lists annually and update them as course offerings change. MEng students are required to complete course requirements with a grade of B or better.

Students must also enroll in BENG 291, Senior Seminar I: Professional Issues in Bioengineering. This course instills skills for personal and organizational development during lifelong learning. Students prepare portfolios and a model NIH small business research grant.

Required Courses for MEng Program

Core Courses (total of six required)
Engineering Physics
Life Science
Tissue Engineering
Technical Elective Courses for the MEng
(three required, one of which must be BENG 295)

Core courses may be taken for technical elective credit.

General Elective Courses (three required)

For other courses that address job-specific interests and professional skills such as economics, management, and business, consult with the Student Affairs Office.

Seminar (required)

BENG 291. Professional Issues in Bioengineering

Sample MEng Schedule

Core Core Core
Core Core Core
BENG 225 (GE) BENG 295 (TE) BENG 295 (TE)
Tech. Elec. Gen. Elec. Gen. Elec.
BENG 291 (Seminar)  

Doctoral Degree Program

The bioengineering PhD program is intended to prepare students for a variety of careers in research and teaching. Therefore, depending on the student’s background and ability, research is initiated as soon as possible. Bioengineering students have specific course requirements and must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.4 in these courses. Students, in consultation with their advisers, develop course programs that will prepare them for the Departmental Qualifying Examination and for their dissertation research. These programs of study and research must be planned to meet the time limits established to advance to candidacy and to complete the requirements for the degree. Doctoral students who have passed the Departmental Qualifying Examination may take any course for an S/U grade with the exception of courses required by the Departmental or Senate Qualifying Examination Committee. It is recommended that all bioengineering graduate students take a minimum of two courses (other than research) per academic year after passing the Departmental Qualifying Examination. Details can be obtained from the Student Affairs Office.

Doctoral Examinations

A bioengineering PhD student is required to pass three examinations. The first is a Departmental Qualifying Examination, which must be taken after spring quarter of the first year of study. The exam is designed to ensure that all successful candidates possess a firm command of the engineering and life science subjects that form the foundations of bioengineering research and their integration at a level appropriate for the doctorate. It is administered by a committee designated by the department, consisting of departmental faculty members and, in some cases, other faculty members from a related academic department (e.g., MAE, ECE, SOM). The scope of the oral examination includes the two broad areas that form the core first-year PhD curriculum, namely Engineering Physics and Life Science. The purpose of the exam is not merely to recapitulate the content of first-year courses, but rather to establish that students are able to synthesize this knowledge and apply it to solve problems in contemporary bioengineering research.

Curriculum for PhD Students

Each incoming student will be assigned a bioengineering faculty adviser who will serve as a graduate adviser until the student chooses a thesis adviser. This assignment is noted in the departmental offer letter.

First-Year Requirements

All bioengineering students in their first year of study are expected to enroll in the six required core courses in the Engineering Physics and Life Science tracks listed below. First-year students are also required to take both one-credit seminars: BENG 281 (all three quarters) and BENG 282 (F); one quarter of BENG 501. Teaching Experience (W or S) and an ethics course are also required.

Core Courses (total of six required)

All core courses must be taken for letter grade.

Required Core Graduate Courses—Engineering Physics (2 + 1 four-unit courses)

Plus one of the following courses:

Required Core Graduate Courses—Biological Sciences (2 + 1 four-unit courses)

Plus one of the following courses:

Elective Courses (four required)

Doctoral students are required to complete a total of four approved elective courses by the end of their third year of study. All graduate-level courses offered in the Department of Bioengineering (other than the six core courses) may be used to fulfill the elective course requirement. Students may also take graduate-level engineering/science courses offered in other departments (e.g., MAE, ECE, SOM) for elective credit with prior faculty adviser approval. Courses taken in fulfillment of the elective course requirement must be taken for a letter grade.

Up to two undergraduate (four-unit letter grade) courses for prerequisites can be counted as electives (with permission from the adviser/GSC).

Teaching Experience (three quarters required)
Ethics Course (one)
Two BENG Seminars

The Senate Qualifying Examination is the second examination required of bioengineering PhD students. In preparation for this examination, students must have completed the Departmental Qualifying Examination, the departmental teaching experience requirement, all required course work (six core and four approved elective courses), obtained a faculty research adviser, identified a topic for their dissertation research, and made initial progress. At the time of application for advancement to candidacy, a doctoral committee responsible for the remainder of the student’s graduate program is appointed by the Graduate Council. The committee conducts the Senate Qualifying Examination, during which students must demonstrate the ability to engage in thesis research. This involves the presentation and defense of a plan for the thesis research project. Upon successful completion of this examination, students are advanced to candidacy and are awarded the Candidate in Philosophy degree (see “Graduate Division” section in this catalog).

The Dissertation Defense is the final PhD 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 completion of at least three quarters from 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 PhD.

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.

Obtaining an MS

PhD students may obtain the MS by completing the course work requirements and by passing the PhD departmental qualifying examination. Course work requirements include successful completion of a total of forty-eight units of credit comprising Engineering Physics, Life Science and five approved elective courses (see details on course work requirements in the section “Doctoral Degree Program). Students should consult with the Student Affairs Office in advance of their second year of study concerning required paperwork and deadlines for conferral of the MS.

PhD Time Limit Policy

Precandidacy 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.


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.

PhD in Bioengineering with Specialization in Bioinformatics

A specialization in Bioinformatics spanning four divisions—Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Jacobs School of Engineering, and Health Sciences. Intended for students who have an interdisciplinary persuasion to work across computers, biology, medicine, and engineering. Candidates will be admitted into participating graduate programs (bioengineering, biology, biomedical sciences, chemistry and biochemistry, computer science and engineering, mathematics, and physics) and work toward degrees in their home departments with a specialization in Bioinformatics. The specialization will serve to educate future generations of Bioinformatics researchers. Understanding how genomes work requires sophisticated computer-based information handling tools (bioinformatics), and new high throughput technologies for understanding the function of genes on a genome-wide scale (functional genomics). 

PhD in Bioengineering with Specialization in Computational Neuroscience

The Neuroscience Graduate Program, Department of Physics, and Department of Bioengineering offer a specialization in computational neuroscience. Students from these departments and program who pursue the computational neuroscience specialization are trained in the broad range of scientific and technical skills essential to understand the computational and theoretical basis of neural systems. Students in this specialization will be required to fulfill all of the academic requirements for a PhD in their home department or program, and must successfully complete a set of three core computational courses, any other course work as directed by the Computational Neuroscience Committee, and successfully defend a thesis on an approved topic.

PhD in Bioengineering with Specialization in Multiscale Biology

A specialization in Multiscale Biology spanning four divisions—Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Jacobs School of Engineering, and Health Sciences—is available to doctoral candidates in bioengineering. The PhD specialization is designed to allow students to obtain standard basic training in their chosen field within the biological sciences, physical sciences, engineering, and health sciences with training in integrative and quantitative analysis across multiple scales of biological organization from molecule to organism in health and disease into their graduate studies. For more information, students should contact the Student Affairs Office.

PhD in Bioengineering with Specialization in Quantitative Biology

A specialization in Quantitative Biology spanning four divisions—Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Jacobs School of Engineering, and Health Sciences—is available to doctoral candidates in bioengineering. This PhD specialization is designed to train students to develop and apply quantitative theoretical and experimental approaches to studying fundamental principles of living systems. The core of this specialization comprises one year of theory courses and one year of lab courses, most of which can be counted toward satisfying the bioengineering elective requirement. For more information, students should contact the Student Affairs Office.