Interdisciplinary Studies: Specialization in Translational Bioengineering (PhD)

Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies, specialization in Translational Bioengineering
Unit: Graduate School (GI)
Program Webpage 
Academic Plan Code(s): IS_PHDTBE

Program Information

The Interdisciplinary Studies in Translational Bioengineering (ISSTBE) PhD program is designed to provide multidisciplinary training in translational bioengineering preparing students to lead research and development in academia, industry and governmental agencies and/or to advance bioengineering technologies through start-up companies as entrepreneurs or within established biomedical companies. This program is a collaborative effort between J.B. Speed School of Engineering, the School of Medicine, the School of Dentistry, and the College of Business.

In this PhD program, students will have the opportunity to pursue graduate-level training in one of three tracks:

  • Traditional Bioengineering Research
  • Clinical Translational Research
  • Advancement of Bioengineering Technologies through Entrepreneurship

Students must also choose one of the following concentration areas:

  • Bioelectronics and Biomedical Devices
  • Bioimaging and Biocomputational Modeling
  • Biomechanics and Rehabilitation
  • Molecular and Tissue Engineering

Students will initially be assigned an advisor to aid in course selection, to identify a primary research mentor and to choose a laboratory where they will conduct their research. Dissertation committee members will be assembled from participating faculty in the Schools of Engineering, Dentistry or Medicine, or the College of Business, representing opportunities to conduct research within a broad range of bioengineering topics and/or develop technology for a wide variety of clinical applications. Students who successfully complete the program will demonstrate excellence in designing and conducting research leading to an intellectual contribution to the field, demonstrate in-depth knowledge of their concentration area and associated scientific literature, have an understanding of the clinical relevance and ethical implications of their research, have the ability to critically analyze, evaluate and interpret research methods and findings, and have the ability to effectively communicate knowledge of their concentration area.

Admission Requirements

The Graduate School has rigorous standards for admission into doctoral programs, and those standards apply to the ISSTBE PhD program as well. Applicants must meet Graduate School admission requirements along with additional program requirements.

Applicants must, as a minimum, have completed a bachelor’s degree in Engineering or Medical Physics from an accredited program with a 3.25 cumulative grade point average to be considered for admission. The ideal applicant will have completed a master’s degree in engineering (MS or MEng) at the time of application.

Applicants must submit an online application, including the following:

  1. Official transcripts of all college-level courses
  2. Three letters of recommendation
  3. A written statement by the applicant describing previous experience related to bioengineering
  4. A statement as to how the PhD ISSTBE will allow them to fulfill their career goals as identified by their focus area of interest
  5. Official Graduate Record Exam (GRE) verbal, quantitative, and writing assessment-analytical scores. Competitive scores on the verbal and quantitative sections will be required for admission.
  6. Students whose native language is non-English or degree is from a non-US accredited institution are required to submit TOEFL scores (administered by the Educational Testing Service). A minimum TOEFL score of 79 or higher on the internet-based test or 550 or higher on the paper-based test is required. Alternatively, a minimum of 6.5 on the International English Language Testing System will be accepted.

Program Requirements

To earn the Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization in Translational Bioengineering (ISSTBE), students are required to successfully complete the following:

  • 47 credit hours of course work beyond their bachelor’s degree (18 Core credit hours, nine (9) Concentration credit hours, 20 Specialization credit hours)
  • Participate in the Bioengineering Seminar Series (75 percent attendance rate and 1 presentation/term as a Doctoral Candidate)
  • Pass the Comprehensive Examination
  • Successfully defend a dissertation (15 credit hours)
  • Submit two or more peer-reviewed journal papers representing their original dissertation research


Core Requirements18
Bioengineering Doctoral Seminar
Bioengineering Research Ethics
Advanced Physiology for Engineers
Bioengineering Research Design & Methods
Advanced Engineering Mathematics I
Concentration Area - 9 credit hours in one of the following areas9
Molecular and Tissue Engineering
Gene and Drug Delivery
Nanoscale Bioengineering: Application and Methodology of Nanobiomaterials in Bioengineering
Introduction to Tissue Engineering
Tissue & Molecular Biology Techniques Laboratory
Advanced Biomaterials
Advanced Techniques in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Biomolecular Interactions
Bioimaging and Biocomputational Modeling
Medical Image Computing
Machine Learning in Medicine
Modeling of Biological Phenomena
Computational Methods for Medical Image Analysis
Simulation and Modeling of Discrete Systems
Digital Image Processing
Bioelectrical and Biomedical Devices
LabVIEW for Bioengineers
Advanced Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing for Bioengineers
Cardiovascular Dynamics
Advanced Biomaterials
Artificial Organs
Fundamentals of Microfabrication and MEMS
Optimum Design Methods
Advanced Design Methods
Biomechanics and Rehabilitation
Biomechanical Computer Modeling and Simulation of Human Movement
Kinematics and Kinetics of Human Movement
Cardiovascular Dynamics
Injury Biomechanics
Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology
Biofluid Mechanics
Advanced Human Biodynamics
Computational Methods in Fluid Flow and Heat Transfer
Specialization Area Elective Coursework (see below)20
Minimum Total Hours47

Specialization Area Guided Electives

Courses in Specialization must be unique from those taken to fulfill the Concentration Requirement, and must follow either Track A, B or C below. Students must work with their advisor to establish a Plan of Study for Specialization Courses. All Specialization courses must be approved by the student's advisor prior to registration.

Track A
Traditional Bioengineering Research PhD: 18 credit hours from those listed below with a minimum of six (6) credit hours in engineering courses + Teaching Practicum (two (2) credit hours)

Track B
Clinical-Translation Research PhD: 12 credit hours from list below designated as BIOC, ASNB, PSYC, BIOL, MBIO, OBIO, OBIO or EXP; remaining six (6) credit hours from BE, CECS, ECE, IE, or ME + Clinical Practicum (two (2) credit hours).

Track C
Advancing Bioengineering Technologies through Entrepreneurship PhD: 12 credit hours from list below designated as ENTR or IMBA; remaining six (6) credit hours from BE, CECS, ECE, IE, ME + Teaching Practicum (two (2) credit hours).

Guided Electives20
ASNB 614Molecular Neuroscience4
BE 522Biomedical Acoustics3
BE 540Machine Learning in Medicine3
BE 551Gene and Drug Delivery3
BE 552Introduction to Tissue Engineering3
BE 553Nanoscale Bioengineering: Application and Methodology of Nanobiomaterials in Bioengineering3
BE 542Medical Image Computing3
ASNB 602Fundamentals of Neuroscience4
BE 524LabVIEW for Bioengineers3
BE 581Advanced Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing for Bioengineers3
BE 630Biomechanical Computer Modeling and Simulation of Human Movement3
ASNB 617Seminar on Developmental Neurobiology3
BE 600Advanced Topics in Bioengineering1-6
BE 605Tissue & Molecular Biology Techniques Laboratory3
BE 611Cardiovascular Dynamics3
BE 639Injury Biomechanics3
BE 640Computational Methods for Medical Image Analysis3
BE 650Advanced Biomaterials3
OBIO 617Advanced Oral Pathology1
BE 658Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology3
BE 680Bio-Micro3
BE 683Artificial Organs3
BE 692Bioengineering Clinical Rotation2
BE 693Independent Study in Bioengineering1-6
BIOC 611Advanced Techniques in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology4
BIOC 645Advanced Biochemistry I4
BIOC 668Molecular Biology and Genetics4
BIOC 680Biomolecular Interactions2
CECS 622Simulation and Modeling of Discrete Systems3
CECS 627Digital Image Processing3
CECS 628Computer Graphics3
CECS 633Computer Vision3
CECS 660Introduction to Bioinformatics3
ECE 520Digital Signal Processing3
ECE 521Digital Signal Processing Laboratory1
ECE 523Introduction to Biometrics3
ECE 543Fundamentals of Microfabrication and MEMS3
ECE 544Microfabrications/MEMS Laboratory1
ECE 564Fundamentals of Autonomous Robots3
ECE 565Fundamentals of Autonomous Robots Lab1
ECE 614Deep Learning3
ECE 661Sampled-Data Control Systems3
ECE 662Introduction to Optimum Control3
ECE 676Foundations of Polymer MEMS3
ENTR 600Introduction to Entrepreneurship3
IE 563Experimental Design in Engineering3
IMBA 652Venture Accelerator I3
IMBA 654Venture Accelerator II3
IMBA 664Venture Accelerator III3
MBIO 601Molecular Microbiology2
MBIO 602Immunology3
MBIO 610Methods and Analysis in the Biomedical Sciences2
MBIO 618Topics in Advanced Microbiology1-3
ME 566Advanced Engineering Mathematics II3
ME 638Computational Methods in Fluid Flow and Heat Transfer3
ME 640Optimum Design Methods3
ME 647Advanced Design Methods3
ME 650Biofluid Mechanics3
ME 651Kinematics and Kinetics of Human Movement3
ME 652Advanced Human Biodynamics3
ME 566Advanced Engineering Mathematics II3
ME 671Advanced Fluid Mechanics3
OBIO 611Craniofacial Osteology1-3
OBIO 612Craniomaxillofacial Diagnostic Imaging2-4
OBIO 617Advanced Oral Pathology1
OIID 604Oral Microbiology3

Dissertation Committee

By the end of the first semester, it is expected that the student has identified their Dissertation Chair.  After the first year of study, the student (under the guidance of his or her advisor) must select a Dissertation Committee of five or more persons, for approval by the Program Director. The committee must consist of the student's advisor from the Department of Bioengineering (who will act as the Dissertation Committee Chair), at least two additional faculty members from within the Department of Bioengineering, at least one faculty member from a partnering School or College, and at least one additional faculty member from outside the Department of Bioengineering.

Qualifying Examination

The PhD Qualifying Examination will be offered once per year and is to be taken by students upon completion of Core courses (with the exception of Bioengineering Seminar credits) and Concentration Area courses. The Qualifying Examination includes written and oral components. The written portion of the exam gauges student competency in fundamental bioengineering topics covered in their courses. ISSTBE affiliated faculty will submit and grade questions in their respective areas of expertise for the written portion of the Qualifying Examination. The oral portion of the examination is a formal presentation comprised of the student’s critique of a peer-reviewed journal paper selected from the student’s area of concentration, delivered to the ISSTBE Program Director and a subset of faculty with expertise in the respective concentration having Graduate Faculty status. Students are allowed no more than two opportunities to take the Qualifying Examination (oral or written components). 

Comprehensive Examination

To qualify for candidacy, students must pass the Qualifying Examination, maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 and pass the Comprehensive Examination. The Comprehensive Examination requires the student to prepare a written dissertation research proposal (following an external funding agency format) that is presented, defended and approved by their Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee approval constitutes passing both the written and oral portions of the Comprehensive Examination. The written portion is comprised of the student’s dissertation document and the oral portion consists of the student’s presentation and defense of their dissertation, including response to questions posed by their Dissertation Committee and public attendees. The Dissertation Committee will evaluate written and oral performance on the Comprehensive Examination separately as a Pass, Conditional Pass, or Fail. Students receiving a Conditional Pass must satisfactorily meet conditions set forth by the Dissertation Committee in order to Pass. Students failing  either or both portions of the Comprehensive Examination will be permitted to repeat the respective portion(s) once.

Students must meet with their Dissertation Committee at least once per year during the remainder of their PhD program, culminating in the Dissertation Defense.