Bioengineering, PhD

Our interdisciplinary Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in bioengineering draws on faculty across the university and reflects the significant strengths of bioengineering research in multiple areas. Students accepted to the bioengineering program will undertake a rigorous core curriculum in basic bioengineering science followed by an immersion track curriculum. There are currently eight tracks from which to choose:

  • Track 1: Biomedical Imaging and Signal Processing
  • Track 2: Biomechanics and Mechanobiology
  • Track 3: BioMEMs/BioNANO
  • Track 4: Biochemical and Bioenvironmental Engineering
  • Track 5: Motor Control
  • Track 6: Biocomputing
  • Track 7: Cell and Tissue Engineering
  • Track 8: General Bioengineering Studies

Biology can inspire engineering. Increasingly, discoveries in the life sciences reveal processes, complexity, and control without analogy in the limited world of traditional engineering. Current methods of producing nanoscale control over molecules cannot reproduce the organization found in even the simplest organisms. Energy capture, robust control, remediation, and self-assembly are all employed with efficiency unparalleled by anything in today’s laboratories. At the same time, traditional engineering disciplines struggle to find new and complex challenges. The last fifty years of basic life science research have gradually peeled the layers of complexity from biological processes, unmasking the fundamental underpinnings on which biological systems are constructed. Bioinspired engineering has the potential to transform the technological landscape of the twenty-first century. Astonishingly, it represents merely one of the myriad opportunities presented at the interface of biology and engineering.

The field of bioengineering is broad and includes all research at the interface of engineering and biology—this includes bioprocesses, environmental microbiology, biomaterials and tissue engineering, bioelectricity, biomechanics, biomedical and biological imaging, nanotechnology in medicine and the environment, and engineering design for human interfacing. At Northeastern, bioengineering PhD students have an opportunity to be trained to appreciate advances in bioengineering across a wide range of disciplines while they perform highly focused and cutting-edge bioengineering research with one of our many core or affiliated faculty members.

Degree Requirements

Completion of the PhD degree requires students to successfully complete the following requirements:

  • Curriculum: The curriculum comprises a strong fundamental, broad core of courses that is then coupled with one of a series of available tracks for depth in a particular field of study. The detailed course requirements are outlined below.
  • Qualifying exam (written and oral): To qualify to continue in the PhD program, students must pass the bioengineering comprehensive qualifying examination, which comprises the synthesis of knowledge derived from the core curriculum and current literature presented in the form of an R21 NIH-style proposal. Successful oral defense of the proposal is required to pass the exam as well as satisfactory research progress and satisfactory academic standing. Details of the formal qualification exam procedure and timing are available in the bioengineering office and may be requested electronically from the graduate director. The qualifying examinations (written and oral) must be successfully completed within three years of entry.
  • Qualifying examination committee:  The qualifying examination committee is composed of a minimum of three members, two of whom must be selected from the list of bioengineering-affiliated faculty.  In addition, one of the two affiliated faculty must have a primary appointment in the College of Engineering. The student's primary advisor may not sit on the qualifying exam committee.
  • Dissertation committee: The dissertation committee is composed of a minimum of three members, two of whom must be selected from the list of bioengineering-affiliated faculty. In addition, one of the two affiliated faculty must have a primary appointment in the College of Engineering. The student's primary advisor should be a member of and chair the dissertation committee.
  • Area exam (dissertation proposal): PhD students must submit a “dissertation proposal” to their dissertation committee in the form of an R-21 NIH-style research plan and successfully defend the research plan in the form of an open presentation to their dissertation committee. The area exam should be completed as soon as is practical after successful completion of course work and qualifying exams. 
  • Dissertation: PhD candidates must satisfactorily complete and defend a dissertation describing original research in bioengineering in an open presentation to their dissertation committee.
  • Dissertation Course Requirements: After achieving PhD candidacy, the doctoral candidate, in consultation with his or her research advisor, must register in two consecutive semesters (may include full summer term) for Dissertation (BIOE 9990) . Upon completion of this sequence, the student must then register for Dissertation Continuation (BIOE 9996)  in every semester (in each fall and spring term and also in the summer term if summer is the student's last semester) until the dissertation is completed. Students may not register for Dissertation Continuation (BIOE 9996)  until they fulfill the two-semester sequence of Dissertation (BIOE 9990) .

    To meet the full-time registration requirement for PhD students who have completed the majority of their course work and not yet reached PhD candidacy, a zero-credit course, Exam Preparation—Doctoral (BIOE 8960) , can be taken if needed to fulfill the full-time course registration requirement. Exam Preparation—Doctoral (BIOE 8960)   is an individual instruction course, billed at one semester hour, and graded S or U. Exam Preparation—Doctoral (BIOE 8960)  does not have any course content, and students must register in a section for which their research advisor is listed as the “instructor."

For students possessing a Baccalaureate in a suitable quantitative or technical field, the required course distribution is shown in the table below.

Requirements Credits
Required core courses 24 SH
Required and elective track courses 24 SH
Advanced seminar 0 SH
Dissertation 0 SH
Minimum semester hours required 48 SH

The core emphasizes the breadth of topics that our graduates must appreciate as internationally competitive bioengineers. It utilizes existing courses within the College of Engineering as well as introducing new/external courses that are necessary and will be developed.

Track 1: Biomedical Imaging and Signal Processing

Track Managers: Dana Brooks and Deniz Erdogmus

The biomedical imaging and signal processing track reflects Northeastern University’s outstanding research profile in various aspects of biological and biomedical imaging and image processing and signal processing. This is evidenced by the Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems, the Center for Communications and Digital Signal Processing Research, and the strong externally funded active research groups and faculty whose interests lie at the intersection of imaging, signal processing technologies, and biological and medical applications.

The courses listed below concentrate largely on general mathematical methods for signal and image processing and image formation and on image acquisition modalities and applications. Research in this area takes place at the intersection of these technical streams, and students completing the track will have a sufficiently strong background in the component areas to be able to carry out high-quality research efforts. Bioengineering PhD candidates may complete this track by taking at least two of the restricted electives and sufficient unrestricted electives to meet course requirements as specified by their degree program in addition to their core bioengineering curriculum.

Track 2: Biomechanics and Mechanobiology

Track Managers: Sinan Muftu and Jeffrey Ruberti

Biomechanics and mechanobiology are linked by the biological response to applied forces and strains. To understand the overall effect of load on biological systems, it is important to consider not only the deformation and shear rates that result from force application but also the short- and long-term biological responses. The biomechanics and mechanobiology track reflects this understanding and leverages the strong faculty research at Northeastern, which is attempting to tie biomechanics to biological responses at multiple scales.

The biomechanics track is designed to capitalize on the substantial expertise in the mechanical and industrial engineering department, which has a strong fundamental research program in biomechanics. Faculty in the department perform investigations that comprise theoretical, computational, and experimental investigations. Students who select this track must take all of the restricted electives in addition to the bioengineering core curriculum and sufficient unrestricted electives to meet course requirements as specified by their degree program.

Track 3: BioMEMs/BioNANO

Track Managers: Edgar Goluch and Shashi Murthy

The bioMEMs/bioNANO track reflects Northeastern University’s strength as indicated by the NSF Center for High Rate Nanomanufacturing, the NSF/NCI Nanomedicine IGERT training grant, and the strong pharmaceutical sciences department. In addition, Northeastern also has a research presence in MEMs that, when combined with the bioengineering curriculum, presents significant interdisciplinary opportunities for students in the program. Students may choose to complete this track by taking three of the restricted electives in addition to their core bioengineering curriculum and sufficient unrestricted electives to meet course requirements of their degree program.

Track 4: Biochemical and Bioenvironmental

Track Managers: Rebecca Carrier and April Gu

The track reflects strengths in biochemical engineering and bioenvironmental engineering by active research programs focused in pharmaceutical bioprocessing, biomaterials, tissue engineering, drug delivery, environmental microbiology, biotreatment/bioremediation, and environmental modeling. Students wishing to pursue this track should take two of the restricted electives listed below in addition to the bioengineering core curriculum and sufficient unrestricted electives to meet the course requirements of their degree program.

Track 5: Motor Control

Track Managers: Rifat Sipahi and Dagmar Sternad

The motor control track is designed to capitalize on the collective expertise of cross-disciplinary collaborations between existing Northeastern faculty whose research lies at the intersection of sensorimotor control systems, neuroscience, and dynamical systems. Insights into learning and coordination of functional motor behavior provide the basis for a better understanding of neurological diseases of motor function such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and cerebral palsy. Insights will be the foundation for designing better therapy and rehabilitation.

Students who select this track must take four out of five restricted electives in addition to the bioengineering core curriculum and unrestricted elective courses to meet requirements of the track program.

Track 6: Biocomputing

Track Managers: Stefano Basagni and Miriam Leeser

The biocomputing track draws on strengths in computer engineering and computation applied to bioengineering applications. Bioengineering MS or PhD candidates may complete this track by taking both of the restricted electives and sufficient unrestricted electives to meet course requirements as specified by their degree program.

Track 7: Cell and Tissue Engineering

Track Managers: Anand Asthagiri and Erin Cram

Cell and tissue engineering is a major strength at Northeastern University with several research labs focused on understanding and engineering living cells and tissues. These labs are elucidating the quantitative principles that govern cell fate decisions and are developing design strategies to promote the assembly and patterning of multicellular systems into viable, functional tissues. Cells are remarkable physicochemical systems that sense, respond, and actively reshape their rich microenvironment. Parsing the dialogue between the microenvironment and cells and elucidating design strategies to engineer the dynamic cellular milieu has far-reaching implications for biomedicine, including applications such as tissue engineering and the development of novel therapeutic strategies.

This pioneering, multidisciplinary research is enabled by strengths at Northeastern in key foundational areas, such as biomolecular engineering, computational modeling, developmental biology, imaging, materials science, micro- and nanofluidics, mechanobiology, molecular cell biology, and systems biology.

Cell and tissue engineering is widely recognized as a core subfield of bioengineering. A formal track in this area offers our students a program of study that capitalizes on a major strength at Northeastern.

Track 8: General Bioengineering Studies

Track Manager: Jeffrey Ruberti

Complete all courses and requirements listed below unless otherwise indicated. 

Milestones

Annual review
Qualifying examination (within three years of entry)
Dissertation committee
Area examination (dissertation proposal)
Dissertation defense

General Requirements

Seminar
BIOE 7390Seminar0
Required Courses
BIOE 5100Medical Physiology4
BIOE 7000Principles of Bioengineering4
Additional Course Work
Complete 12 semester hours from the following:12
Biomaterials
Biochemical Engineering
Special Topics in Chemical Engineering
Biomedical Signal Processing
Solid Mechanics of Cells and Tissues
Dissertation Courses
BIOE 9990Dissertation (taken twice)0

Track Options

Complete one of the following tracks:

Biomedical Imaging and Signal Processing Track

Required Courses
EECE 7200Linear Systems Analysis4
EECE 7203Complex Variable Theory and Differential Equations4
EECE 7204Applied Probability and Stochastic Processes4
Complete 16 semester hours from the following:16
Advanced Biomedical Measurements and Instrumentation
Biomedical Imaging
Special Topics in Biomedical Imaging and Signal Processing
Comparative Neurobiology
Principles of Mass Spectrometry
Optical Methods of Analysis
Foundations of Spectroscopy
Biomedical Optics
Electromagnetic Theory 1
Computational Methods in Electromagnetics
Fourier and Binary Optics
Fourier Optics
Optical Properties of Matter
Modern Imaging
Modern Signal Processing
Two Dimensional Signal and Image Processing
Statistical and Adaptive Signal Processing
Pattern Recognition
Auditory Signal Processing
Numerical Optimization Methods
Information Theory
Imaging in Medicine and Drug Discovery
Biological Physics 2
Proseminar in Sensation
Proseminar in Perception
Seminar in Sensation
Seminar in Perception
Advanced Quantitative Analysis
Neuroscience
and Lab for PT 5138
Anatomy and Physiology of the Auditory System
Psychoacoustics
Speech Science

Biomechanics and Mechanobiology Track

Required Courses
CHME 5699Special Topics in Chemical Engineering4
ME 5665Musculoskeletal Biomechanics4
ME 7210Elasticity and Plasticity4
Mathematical Methods
Complete 4 semester hours from the following:4
Chemical Engineering Mathematics
Linear Systems Analysis
Complex Variable Theory and Differential Equations
Advanced Mathematical Methods for Mechanical Engineers
Electives
Complete 12 semester hours from the following:12
Molecular Bioengineering
Advanced Biomolecular Dynamics and Control
Special Topics in Biomechanics
Physiological Fluid Mechanics
Robotics and Automation Systems
Advanced Mechanics of Materials
Dynamics and Mechanical Vibration
Finite Element Method
Control Systems Engineering
Solid Mechanics of Cells and Tissues
Advanced Finite Element Method
Composite Materials
Fracture Mechanics and Failure Analysis
Continuum Mechanics
Essentials of Fluid Dynamics
Statistical Thermodynamics
Two Phase Flow
Kinesiology
and Lab for PT 5133
Motor Control
and Lab for PT 5170
Assistive Technology
and Lab for PT 6215

BioMEMs/BioNANO Track

Required Course Work
EECE 5606Micro- and Nanofabrication4
ME 6260Introduction to Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS)4
PHYS 5260Introduction to Nanoscience and Nanotechnology4
Mathematical Methods
Complete 4 semester hours from the following:4
Chemical Engineering Mathematics
Linear Systems Analysis
Complex Variable Theory and Differential Equations
Advanced Mathematical Methods for Mechanical Engineers
Electives
Complete 12 semester hours from the following:12
Optical Methods of Analysis
Molecular Modeling
Advances in Nanomaterials
Special Topics in Chemical Engineering
Micro- and Nanofabrication
Nanomanufacturing 1
Concepts in Pharmaceutical Science
Drug Design, Evaluation, and Development
Imaging in Medicine and Drug Discovery
Biological Physics 1
Advanced Physical Pharmacy
Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism
Advanced Drug Delivery System
Advanced Pharmacokinetics

Biochemical and Bioenvironmental Track

Required Course Work
Complete 8 semester hours from the following:8
Biochemistry
Biochemical Engineering
Chemical Engineering Kinetics
Transport Phenomena
Environmental Biological Processes
Mathematical Methods
Complete 4 semester hours from the following:4
Chemical Engineering Mathematics
Linear Systems Analysis
Complex Variable Theory and Differential Equations
Advanced Mathematical Methods for Mechanical Engineers
Electives
Complete 16 semester hours from the following:16
Biological Imaging
Molecular Cell Biology
Principles of Mass Spectrometry
Optical Methods of Analysis
Protein Chemistry
Principles of Chemical Biology for Chemists
Analytical Biochemistry
Fundamentals of Molecular Structure and Electronics
Analytical Biotechnology
Concepts in Pharmaceutical Science
Biomedical Chemical Analysis
Imaging in Medicine and Drug Discovery
Biophysical Methods in Drug Discovery
Biological Physics 1
Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism
Advanced Drug Delivery System
Advanced Pharmacokinetics

Motor Control Track

Required Course Work
BIOL 5601Multidisciplinary Approaches in Motor Control4
ME 5659Control Systems Engineering4
ME 5665Musculoskeletal Biomechanics4
Mathematical Methods
Complete 4 semester hours from the following:4
Chemical Engineering Mathematics
Linear Systems Analysis
Complex Variable Theory and Differential Equations
Advanced Mathematical Methods for Mechanical Engineers
Electives
Complete 12 semester hours from the following:12
Comparative Neurobiology
Robotic Science and Systems
and Lab for CS 5335
Linear Systems Analysis
Applied Probability and Stochastic Processes
System Identification and Adaptive Control
Optimal and Robust Control
Modern Signal Processing
Statistical Methods in Engineering
Human Factors Engineering
Dynamics and Mechanical Vibration
Mathematical Methods for Mechanical Engineers 1
Mathematical Methods for Mechanical Engineers 2
Graduate Seminar in Robotics
Classical Mechanics/Math Methods
Computational Physics
Nonlinear Dynamics
Biological Physics 2
Quantitative Methods 1
Quantitative Methods 2
Neuroscience
and Lab for PT 5138
Motor Control, Development, and Learning
and Lab for PT 5150

Biocomputing Track

Required Course Work
EECE 7205Fundamentals of Computer Engineering4
EECE 7360Combinatorial Optimization4
Mathematical Methods
Complete 4 semester hours from the following:4
Chemical Engineering Mathematics
Linear Systems Analysis
Complex Variable Theory and Differential Equations
Advanced Mathematical Methods for Mechanical Engineers
Electives
Complete 16 semester hours from the following:16
Biological Imaging
Comparative Neurobiology
Foundations of Artificial Intelligence
Database Management Systems
Computer Graphics
Digital Image Processing
Pattern Recognition and Computer Vision
Principles of Programming Language
Computer Systems
Algorithms
Knowledge-Based Systems
Machine Learning
Information Retrieval
Compilers
Parallel Computing
Distributed Algorithms
Linear Systems Analysis
Complex Variable Theory and Differential Equations
Applied Probability and Stochastic Processes
Pattern Recognition
Testing and Design for Testability
Software Engineering 1
Software Engineering 2
Computer Architecture
VLSI Design
VLSI Architecture
Fault-Tolerant Computers
Parallel Architecture for High-Performance Computing
Multiprocessor Architectures
Digital Hardware Synthesis
Mobile and Wireless Networking
Distributed Systems
Robotics and Automation Systems
High-Level Design of Hardware-Software Systems
Robot Vision and Sensors
Deterministic Operations Research
Probabilistic Operation Research

Cell and Tissue Track

Required Courses
BIOL 6401Research Methods and Critical Analysis in Molecular Cell Biology4
CHME 5699Special Topics in Chemical Engineering4
CHME 7340Chemical Engineering Kinetics4
Mathematical Methods
Complete 4 semester hours from the following:4
Chemical Engineering Mathematics
Linear Systems Analysis
Complex Variable Theory and Differential Equations
Advanced Mathematical Methods for Mechanical Engineers
Electives
Complete 12 semester hours from the following:12
Molecular Bioengineering
Advanced Biomolecular Dynamics and Control
Cellular Engineering
Principles and Applications of Tissue Engineering
Physiological Fluid Mechanics
Biological Electron Microscopy
BIOL 5577
Biological Imaging
Special Topics in Cell and Tissue Engineering
Transport Phenomena
Biomedical Optics
Solid Mechanics of Cells and Tissues
Biological Physics 2

General Bioengineering Studies Track

Mathematical Methods
Complete one of the following:4
Chemical Engineering Mathematics
Linear Systems Analysis
Complex Variable Theory and Differential Equations
Electives
Complete 24 semester hours from the following:24
Advanced Biomolecular Dynamics and Control
Cellular Engineering
Principles and Applications of Tissue Engineering
Biological Electron Microscopy
Design, Manufacture, and Evaluation of Medical Devices
Physiological Fluid Mechanics
Special Topics in Biomedical Imaging and Signal Processing
Special Topics in Biomechanics
Biology of Muscle: Molecules to Movements
BIOL 5577
Biological Imaging
Comparative Neurobiology
Multidisciplinary Approaches in Motor Control
Biochemistry
Molecular Cell Biology
Research Methods and Critical Analysis in Molecular Cell Biology
Bioinformatics Computational Methods 1
Bioinformatics Computational Methods 2
Bioinformatics Programming
Research, Evaluation, and Data Analysis
Principles of Mass Spectrometry
Optical Methods of Analysis
Protein Chemistry
Principles of Chemical Biology for Chemists
Foundations of Spectroscopy
Molecular Modeling
Analytical Biochemistry
Fundamentals of Molecular Structure and Electronics
Advances in Nanomaterials
Analytical Biotechnology
Biochemical Engineering
Special Topics in Chemical Engineering
Special Topics in Chemical Engineering
Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics
Chemical Engineering Kinetics
Transport Phenomena
Environmental Biological Processes
Foundations of Artificial Intelligence
Database Management Systems
Computer Graphics
Digital Image Processing
Pattern Recognition and Computer Vision
Robotic Science and Systems
Lab for CS 5335
Computer Systems
Algorithms
Knowledge-Based Systems
Machine Learning
Information Retrieval
Compilers
Parallel Computing
Distributed Algorithms
Micro- and Nanofabrication
Biomedical Optics
Linear Systems Analysis
Electromagnetic Theory 1
Complex Variable Theory and Differential Equations
Applied Probability and Stochastic Processes
Fundamentals of Computer Engineering
Nonlinear Control
System Identification and Adaptive Control
Optimal and Robust Control
Special Topics in Control
Computational Methods in Electromagnetics
Fourier and Binary Optics
Fourier Optics
Optical Properties of Matter
Modern Imaging
Modern Signal Processing
Two Dimensional Signal and Image Processing
Statistical and Adaptive Signal Processing
Pattern Recognition
Auditory Signal Processing
Numerical Optimization Methods
Detection and Estimation Theory
Information Theory
Testing and Design for Testability
Software Engineering 1
Software Engineering 2
Computer Architecture
VLSI Design
VLSI Architecture
Fault-Tolerant Computers
Parallel Architecture for High-Performance Computing
Multiprocessor Architectures
Combinatorial Optimization
Digital Hardware Synthesis
Mobile and Wireless Networking
Distributed Systems
Robotics and Automation Systems
High-Level Design of Hardware-Software Systems
Robot Vision and Sensors
Research Design and Methodology
Statistical Methods in Engineering
Human Factors Engineering
Advanced Mechanics of Materials
Dynamics and Mechanical Vibration
Finite Element Method
Control Systems Engineering
Musculoskeletal Biomechanics
Solid Mechanics of Cells and Tissues
Mathematical Methods for Mechanical Engineers 1
Mathematical Methods for Mechanical Engineers 2
Introduction to Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS)
Elasticity and Plasticity
Advanced Finite Element Method
Composite Materials
Fracture Mechanics and Failure Analysis
Continuum Mechanics
Nanomanufacturing 1
Essentials of Fluid Dynamics
Statistical Thermodynamics
Two Phase Flow
Deterministic Operations Research
Probabilistic Operation Research
Concepts in Pharmaceutical Science
Drug Design, Evaluation, and Development
Biomedical Chemical Analysis
Imaging in Medicine and Drug Discovery
Biophysical Methods in Drug Discovery
Introduction to Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
Classical Mechanics/Math Methods
Computational Physics
Biological Physics 1
Nonlinear Dynamics
Biological Physics 2
Advanced Physical Pharmacy
Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism
Advanced Drug Delivery System
Advanced Pharmacokinetics
Proseminar in Sensation
Proseminar in Perception
Quantitative Methods 1
Quantitative Methods 2
Seminar in Sensation
Seminar in Perception
Advanced Quantitative Analysis
Kinesiology
Lab for PT 5133
Neuroscience
Lab for PT 5138
Motor Control, Development, and Learning
Lab for PT 5150
Motor Control
Lab for PT 5170
Assistive Technology
Anatomy and Physiology of the Auditory System
Psychoacoustics
Speech Science

Program Credit/GPA Requirements

48 total semester hours required
Minimum 3.000 GPA required