2017-2018 General Catalog 
    May 26, 2018  
2017-2018 General Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Bioengineering, MS

Graduate Requirements for Bioengineering

Department of Bioengineering

Minimum Master Hours: 30 semester credit hours (at 5000 level or above)
Minimum Doctorate Hours: 90-120 hours beyond Baccalaureate level

The Department of Bioengineering accepts to its graduate program students with bachelor’s degrees or the equivalent in engineering, life sciences, or physical sciences. Individual graduate programs are planned to prepare each student for a career in the application of science and engineering to problems in medicine and biology. Faculty have joint appointments in other departments in the College of Engineering and in the School of Medicine and College of Pharmacy. Career opportunities exist in clinical engineering (hospitals), biomedical engineering (industry and government), and research and teaching (universities, research groups).

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have received, prior to commencing graduate study, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institute, college, or university. While no single field of undergraduate specialization is required, applicants are expected to have mastered basic material in the following areas:

  • mathematics (calculus through differential equations)
  • physics (college physics with calculus, including mechanics and electronics)
  • chemistry (organic and/or biochemistry)
  • materials science (introductory course or strength of materials)
  • statistics
  • biology (introductory cell biology, human physiology).

Completed applications are considered for Fall semester only. Application deadline is January 15.

Each applicant must submit the following:

  • completed Application for Admission to Graduate School form
  • appropriate fee
  • official transcripts
  • scores from the General Test of the GRE
  • three letters of reference
  • one-or two-page personal essay outlining the applicant’s background, interests, goals, and reasons for applying to the department.

International students must also submit scores from the TOEFL: a minimum score of 575 is required for admission; students with scores below 600 may be required to enroll in English courses.

Course Requirements

After satisfactorily completing the core curriculum, students who plan to pursue an M.S. and/or Ph.D. degree enroll in advanced courses designed to enhance their knowledge in specific research areas. To help students select suitable courses, model program of studies have been developed which represent research strength in the following research tracks:

Degree Requirements

  • M.S./Thesis Option: A minimum of 21 hours of course work and 9 hours in research is required.  A publicly defended MS Thesis is required.
  • M.S./Course Option: 30 hours of course work and oral exam or passed PhD written qualifying exam.
  • Ph.D.: Ph.D. A graduate bioengineering core curriculum (17 credit hours of core courses or approved substitutes) and at least 15 credit hours of graduate level science and engineering courses for a total of 32 course credit hours beyond the baccalaureate level are required.
  • The Ph.D. degree must be completed within seven years from the date of acceptance into the program.
  • Students must pass a written qualifying examination and thesis proposal to become Ph.D. candidates.

Graduation Requirements

Students may not count more than 6 credit hours of nonmatriculated graduate work toward any graduate degree without prior approval. Candidates for graduate degrees are required to maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA with no grade below B- accepted for credit toward degrees. For more detailed information, see the Graduate Information  section of this catalog.

Research Assistantships

See the department website for details.

Combined/Dual Degrees

See the department website for details.

Core Requirements

The following core curriculum is required for students entering the graduate program in Fall Semester with an undergraduate degree in a physical science or a traditional engineering discipline and who have not had training in the life sciences and/or biomedical engineering. Students who have taken substantially similar courses as undergraduates, students with BS degrees in Biomedical Engineering for example, must select approved alternate courses to fulfill these requirements. Substitute courses must be chosen with the guidance and approval of the departmental track advisor. The plan of study must ultimately be approved by the research supervisory committee and the director of graduate studies. General guidelines for core course substitutions are provided below.

Bioengineering Fundamentals

(Complete 6 hours)

Scientific Presentations

(M.S. complete 1 credit hour, Ph.D. complete 5 credit hours.)

Mandatory for all first year graduate students

Mandatory for second year PhD graduate students

MS Requirements

Research supervisory committee

All M.S. students form a supervisory committee consisting of at least three University of Utah faculty members. The chair of the committee must have a faculty appointment in the Department of Bioengineering and at least two of the committee members must be tenure-track members of the Bioengineering faculty. The advisor and committee must be approved by the Bioengineering Associate Chair for Graduate Studies.

Thesis Option M.S.

The thesis-option M.S. requires 9 credit hours of thesis research (BIOEN 6970) and submission of a Master of Science Thesis to the Graduate School in the required format. MS students defend their thesis research in a public forum. The public defense is followed by an oral comprehensive examination administered by the thesis committee. Copies of the thesis must be given to the advisor, each member of the supervisory committee and to the bioengineering graduate program coordinator at least two weeks prior to the defense. The committee can pass the candidate, pass the candidate contingent upon the candidate’s successfully responding to issues raised at the defense, or fail the candidate. M.S. candidates are given two opportunities to pass the defense and to pass the oral comprehensive exam.

Course Option M.S.

The course-option M.S. requires completion of at least 9 credit hours of advanced courses within a Bioengineering track specialization (in lieu of a thesis). To demonstrate depth of knowledge within the field, the course-option M.S. also requires students to pass an oral exam administered by the M.S. supervisory committee or the written portion of the Ph.D. qualifying examination. For the course-option M.S., the chair of the supervisory committee is the Bioengineering track specialization advisor and the other two committee members are tenure-track Bioengineering faculty members.

PhD Requirements

Research supervisory committee

All Ph.D. students form a research supervisory committee consisting of at least 5 University of Utah faculty members. The committee must include at least 3 faculty members with tenure-track appointments in Bioengineering. An external reviewer is optional (see below).

Ph.D. research

Ph.D. students must complete independent research and advance the state of knowledge in the field. Completion of the research requirement is demonstrated by publishing three (or more) peer-reviewed publications as first author, as approved by the research supervisory committee.

Credit hour requirements

A Bioengineering Ph.D. program of study typically includes 90-120 total credit hours beyond the baccalaureate level. Course work should include at least 6 credit hours of advanced (7000) level courses. Completion of significant, peer-reviewed, original research is the primary requirement of the Ph.D. program and usually requires at least 60 credit hours of dedicated research (Bioen 7970). The research supervisory committee may require students to take additional courses depending on the student’s performance on the qualifying exam, academic background, or other factors.

Qualifying exam

The Ph.D. qualifying exam in Bioengineering consists of two parts: a written exam in the student’s field of study and an oral proposal describing the student’s specific thesis research. The written exam should be taken no later than the fall of the third year and the oral proposal no later than the end of the fourth year.

Written Qualifying Exam

The Ph.D. written qualifying exam is administered by the Dept. of Bioengineering each year within the first two weeks of the fall semester. Students should inform the Director of Graduate Studies of their intent to take the exam and submit a proposed Plan of Study at least one semester prior to the exam date. The plan of study is a list of all courses to be completed by the student as part of the requirements for the Ph.D. The plan of study must be approved by the graduate advisor and the research supervisory committee. Students can choose to take the exam in any of the PhD program tracks. Please consult with the Director of Graduate Studies or your research supervisory committee to select the most appropriate exam. The exams are prepared and graded by a committee of bioengineering faculty members with expertise in the exam area. Students may contact the chairperson of their exam committee to discuss the format of the exam. The exam committee chairpersons will be announced each spring. The format of the exams may vary somewhat from committee to committee, but will generally consist of a set of in-depth questions from the field of specialization and will include comprehensive questions from the bioengineering core. The exam will take 8 hours. Books and notes will not be allowed in the exam. The Director of Graduate Studies will inform the students of their exam outcomes. Students who fail will be given a second opportunity to pass the exam. The strengths and weaknesses of students that pass the exam will be noted by their exam committee in a written report that will be placed in the student’s file. The student’s supervisory committee will review this report before the oral qualifying exam and may direct their questions accordingly.

Research Proposal and Oral Qualifying Exam

The research proposal consists of a written and oral presentation of the proposed Ph.D. research. A strict adherence to the PhD timeline is required: a failure to deliver research proposal by the end of Fall Semester of Year 3 and take the oral qualifying exam by the end Spring Semester of Year 3 will result in a loss of RA support and associated tuition waiver. The written proposal of the research to be included into PhD dissertation should follow NIH required format (example of NIH R01 proposal can be found here). The written proposal must be delivered to the supervisory committee at least two weeks prior to the oral presentation. An announcement and abstract of the proposal presentation must be publicly posted at least one week prior to the presentation. The oral presentation is followed by questions from the audience. The supervisory committee then meets in a closed-door session to examine the student in the absence of their graduate research advisor. To pass the exam, the student must demonstrate adequate preparation to begin effective research: the student must be well versed in the fundamentals, have cogent familiarity with the primary literature in the proposed area of research, and demonstrate an ability to design and communicate a scientific research plan. In some cases, the committee may pass the student contingent upon successfully responding to issues raised during the oral qualifying exam. Students are given two opportunities to pass. A report of the research proposal and oral exam outcome must be signed by the supervisory committee and delivered to the department and to the graduate school .

Ph.D. candidacy

A student becomes a Ph.D. candidate after passing the written & oral qualifying exams and successfully presenting his or her research proposal.

Seminar presentation

Ph.D. students must present at least one oral podium presentation or seminar.

External reviewer

The review of Bioengineering PhD dissertation by an external reviewer is no longer required, but is optional. The PhD candidate and her/his supervisory committee should consider this option if deemed necessary. The external reviewer must hold an academic appointment at an institution outside the University of Utah and should submit a written evaluation of the dissertation to be read at the time of defense.


Preparation of the dissertation must adhere to University of Utah Graduate School requirements. The Dissertation typically includes three or more peer reviewed publications written by the candidate that have (or will) appear in supervisory committee-approved journals as well as introductory and concluding chapters. A draft copy must be delivered to the external reviewer as noted above. Copies of the dissertation must be given to the advisor, each member of the supervisory committee and to the bioengineering executive secretary at least two weeks prior to the defense. One copy will be placed in the Departmental office for public viewing.

Dissertation defense

The Ph.D. candidate must successfully defend his/her dissertation in a public forum in accordance with the rules of the Department of Bioengineering, the College of Engineering and the Graduate School. The location, date, and time of the defense must be announced at least 10 days in advance. The oral presentation is followed by general questions from the audience. If relevant, the external review of the dissertation is presented near the end of the public session. The review should be delivered by the external reviewer. In some cases an oral reading by the thesis advisor will suffice if the external reviewer is unable to attend the defense. Following the public defense the research supervisory committee further examine the candidate in a closed session (the external reviewer can be included in the closed session by committee invitation). To successfully defend the dissertation the candidate must effectively apply the scientific method, demonstrate the significance of his/her contributions to the field, and professionally communicate the results in both written and oral form. Following the defense, the supervisory committee and the external reviewer (if any) meet in private to discuss the candidate’s work and defense. The vote to pass the candidate is taken by the committee alone; the external reviewer does not have a vote. The committee can pass the candidate, pass the candidate contingent upon the candidate’s successfully responding to issues raised at the defense, or fail the candidate. Ph.D. candidates are given two opportunities to pass the defense. Changes and improvements to the dissertation, recommended or required by the reviewer and/or the committee members, are incorporated into the document prior to obtaining final reading approval from the committee chair and the department chair for submission to the thesis editor.