UMass System Programs

Biomedical Engineering & Biotechnology Program

The Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell and Worcester campuses of the University of Massachusetts offer joint Master’s of Science in Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology.  

Admission Requirement
Transfer of Credits/Advanced Standing
Academic Program
General Program Requirements
Core Course Requirements
Specialization Course Requirements
Capstone Requirement
Earning the Master of Science Degree
Professional Science Master's Option
Combined Bachelors to Master's Degree Program

Admission Requirements

Applicants from many different science/engineering undergraduate programs are invited to apply. Because the degree brings together biomedical engineering with biotechnology, it is designed equally for students with life sciences or engineering/physical science backgrounds. One's specific background will be of less interest in determining qualification for entrance than will be one's personal and career goals, demonstrated ability an research potential and commitment to an interdisciplinary, team-work approach.

Applicants will be accepted from individuals holding appropriate bachelor's degrees or master's degrees (or the US baccalaureate equivalents from a foreign institution). Applicants should have a background in life science, physical science or engineering. All applicants must have taken a full year (two semester or three quarter sequence) of calculus and the successful applicants will normally have had undergraduate coursework in statistics/experimental design and in life science/biomedical science.

Applicants are encouraged to contact participating faculty to explore how they might fit into a specific specialization option before submitting their application and to report on the results of those contacts in their Statement of Purpose (see below). A personal interview with the applicant by the campus Advising/Admissions/Curriculum Committee (AACC) may be recommended but is not required.

Applicants submit the following and are expected to meet the standards indicated:

  • Generally students with an overall undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher will considered for admission. Applicants must present official undergraduate and graduate transcripts from all schools attended.

  • Applicants accepted into the program should present a minimum Graduate Record Exam (GRE) combined verbal and quantitative score of 300 (1100 for tests taken prior to August 1, 2011). The AACC will also pay particular attention to the applicant's score on the GRE analytical writing section of the general examination because of the emphasis placed on strong writing skills in this program. Only official GRE scores form Educational Testing Service will be considered acceptable.

  • Applicants must have a minimum of two semesters of calculus and have strong quantitative skills.

  • International applicants should present a minimum Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of 79 (internet version), 213 (computer version) or 550 (paper version). Only official TOEFL scores from Educational Testing Service will be considered acceptable.

  • Three Letters of recommendation, from individuals familiar with the applicants academic ability and potential to conduct original research at the doctoral level, will be required.

  • Applicants will also be required to submit a Statement of Purpose (personal essay). This statement is an important element in the application packet. It has two related topics: 

        1) Indication of an applicants qualifications an motivation for the program. Applicants should indicate their qualifications for and motivation to undertake this program as well as their personal and career goals. Specifically, the statement should indicate the applicant's background, research credentials and career plans as they relate to the multidisciplinary nature of the doctorate and discuss your research experience (academic, industrial) and include an publications and grants/patents, and 

        2) Indication of how an applicant will fit into the program. Applicants should indicate their specific areas of interest within Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology, so that a fit between their interests and qualifications and the specific specialization options that the program offers can be determined. If the applicant has a specific interest in working with one or more of the program's faculty, they should describe that specific interest and identify those faculty member(s). The Statement of Purpose should also exemplify the applicant's writing skills.

  • We invite applicants also to submit a personal resume.

Individual circumstances can be taken into account and extraordinary qualifications in some areas can be used to outweigh weaknesses in others.

Along with an admissions decision comes consideration of the appropriate program of courses for the applicant. The interdisciplinary nature of our program gives special importance to the advising relationship in forming a specific academic program to meet each student's specific goals. Applicants may be offered admission with a number of courses identified as conditional requirements that they will need to take to fill in for gaps in preparation or knowledge. Each admitted student is assigned to a faculty advisor, who is identified in the letter of admission. Acceptance into the program is subject to the availability of appropriate advisors.

Transfer of Credits/Advanced Standing

For students who have previously completed graduate course work, the admission committees on each campus may approve the transfer of graduate credits for courses from an accredited United States college or university that received a grade of B (not B-) or better if those courses were not already used in the degree requirements of another earned degree. The graduate school at each campus will govern the maximum number of credits that may be transferred into the program. The transfer credit may replace core or specialization course requirements. The project/directed studies, seminar and dissertation research credits will not be accepted for transfer from institutions outside of the UMass system.

Students may also have core courses waived without transfer of course credit. Students would still be responsible for the full credits required of each degree (31 credits for the MS and 63 credits for the Ph.D.), but would not have to take the waived course.

Students who join the program with an earned master's degree may receive Advanced Standing in the doctoral program. The number of credits required to complete the Ph.D. will be determined by the home campus AACC, but at a minimum 9 course (core or specialization) credits, the capstone project course (3 credits), doctoral seminar (taken twice, 1 credit each) and 30 dissertation research credits will e required. The capstone project may be waived for students who have completed a master's thesis or research project at one of the UMass campuses. These students will be required to complete a minimum of 12 course (core or specialization) credits. Students with Advanced Standing will be required to pass the Qualifying Examination before progressing to the dissertation stage. Doctoral students who enter the program with advanced standing will not earn the MS. To earn the MS, a student must complete or transfer in credit to meet the core (16 credits), specialization (12 credits) and capstone project course (3 credits) requirements.

Academic Program

The curriculum is organized around common experiences, including common core courses, a capstone project and intercampus graduate research presentations. The program makes some use of distance learning/on-line/faculty exchange for delivery of courses and seminars and the campuses are close enough to permit commuting between them. The program encourages a multidisciplinary team approach during the Instrumentation and Laboratory Experience & the capstone project. Industry representation occurs in the introductory core course, in the capstone project and from an outside advisory group. In addition, each student pursues a sequence of courses and then completes a capstone project in a specialization option.

Biomedical Engineering Specialization Options

  • Biomaterials: Tissue Engineering, Polymer/Plastics, Fibers/Textiles, Nanotechnolgy
  • Biomedical Information Systems: Bioinformatics, Cheminformatics, Genomics, Proteomics
  • Biomedical Instrumentation: Sensors, Signal Processing, Clinical Sciences
  • Biomechanics: Joint/Muscle Mechanics
  • Integrative Physiology: Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Modeling
  • Medical Imaging: Optics, NMR, MRI, Acoustics, Cell Imaging
  • Medical Physics: Radiation Therapy, Nuclear Medicine, Diagnostic Imaging, Nuclear Instrumentation

Biotechnology Specialization Options

  • Agricultural and Marine Biotechnology: Therapeutics, Pharmacology, Nutritional Biochemistry, Food Science Technology
  • Bioprocessing/Applied Microbiology: Bioremediation, Fermentation, Biocatalysis, Applied Genetic Engineering, Biopharmaceutical Sciences
  • Molecular Biotechnology: Clinical Sciences, Biochemical Applications, Diagnostics, Therapeutics

General Program Requirements

The program of courses includes a core requirement, specialization requirement and capstone requirement. As students advance, they will have to meet requirements in addition to satisfactory completion of courses, lab experience and capstone project.

The Master of Science requires completion or transfer of at least 31 total credits. Students must meet the specific requirements of their "home campus" for such matters as grade averages, documentation of completion of requirements and registration for program continuation if needed. No courses receiving a grade below C (2.0) can receive credit. Grades earned below C are still calculated in the student's grade point average.

Students are limited in the number of Directed or Independent Study courses credits that they can apply toward their program. No more than 6 credits of coursework below the level of dissertation registrations may be in the form of Directed or Independent Study. All courses must be conducted at the graduate level.

Students must pursue and complete a program of study approved by their assigned advisor. The interdisciplinary nature of this program makes close contact between each student and his or her advisor important

Core Course Requirements (16 credits)

The core courses provide a common foundation for all students, either from life science or physical science/engineering backgrounds. Proposed core courses must be approved by the IACC.

1) Introduction to Biomedical Engineering & Biotechnology (3 credits)

This course should be taken in a students first semester in the program if possible. Team-taught introductory course that emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach to current topics in the range of academic discipines and gives students their first exposure to faculty research areas. The course, as much as possible, will involve faculty from all participating campuses. We will also invite outside industry speakers to present topics of contemporary importance and offer joint lectures from guest speakers.

Approved UMass Lowell course: IB 500: Introduction to Biomedical Engineering & Biotechnology (3 credits)

2) Laboratory Experience (3 credits)

This course is designed to be a practical, hands-on lab rotation course and give students exposure to cutting-edge research methodology in a number of different areas, with a balance between biomedical engineering and biotechnology areas. A team approach will be encouraged as students employ various laboratory techniques to carry out short-term projects. Students will either rotate through a number of different experimental procedures within a single investigator's laboratory or rotate through multiple faculty laboratories, learning a particular type of methodology for with the laboratory may be noted and uses frequently. The course may also provide laboratory experiences/demonstrations at sister campuses and industrial sites where faculty members have affiliations.

Approved UMass Lowell course BMBT-5500 BMEBT Laboratory Experience (3 credits), Students must satisfactorily complete at least one lab=based course. This could be BMBT-5500 or a lab-based course within their specialization.

3) Advanced Mathematics (3 credits)

The core mathematics requirement offers two options:

    1) Advanced Numerical Methods, for those from a physical science, engineering or mathematics background, or

    2) Applied Mathematics for Life Scientists.
Advanced Numerical Methods uses differential equations and statistics to examine engineering problems with biomedical examples/applications. Applied Mathematics for Life Scientists provides an intense treatment of the subject matter designed to achieve applied math literacy for students with life science and related backgrounds. An on-line version of this course will be available to all campuses. 

Approved UMass Lowell courses:

  • CHEN.5390 Math Method for Engineers*
  • PLAS.5480 Numerical Methods in Plastics Processing
  • MATH.5300 Applied Mathematics I
  • MATH.5310 Applied Mathematics II
  • MATH.5550 Applied Math for Life Sciences+
  • RADI.5820 Numerical Methods in Radiological Sciences and Protection

* Recommended for students with a Biomedical Engineering specialization
+ Recommended for students with a Biotechnology specialization

    3) Quantitative Physiology (3 credits)
This course presents physiology at the organ system level with a quantitative approach. It helps integrate the curriculum for individuals with life science an engineering undergraduate backgrounds, permitting engineers and physical scientists a appreciation of how organisms function from the organ/system perspective and gives life scientists a more rigorous quantitative approach to physiology than is usual in undergraduate courses.

Approved UMass Lowell course: BMBT-5750 Quantitative Physiology (3 credits)

    4) Bioethics (1 credits)
Current ethical issues in biomedical research will be included, with a review of legal/regulatory (e.g. FDA) considerations in the development of biological products and bringing them to market. This course is offered in seminar format with multi-campus participation and biotechnology industry guest speakers. Equivalent courses on the campuses may be substituted, although these might have additional credits. An on-line version of this course will be available to all campuses.

Approved UMass Lowell course: BMBT-5200 Ethical Issues in Biomedical Research (1 credit)

    5) Advanced Cell and Molecular Biology (3 credits)
Rigorous treatment of topics in advanced cell and molecular biology, illustrating applied research through examples and presenting biochemistry concepts at the cell/molecular level.

Approved UMass Lowell course: BIOL-6660 Special Topics: Molecular and Cellular Biology (3 credits)

Specialization Course Requirements (12 credits)

Specialization courses will help the student attain depth in focused areas. Each specialization option represents an area in biotechnology or biomedical engineering, within which are found a selection of appropriate graduate courses.

Faculty involved in each specialization will see to an appropriate combination of depth and breath in the student's selection of specialization courses. They may announce some structure to the course selection allowed within the area. With the approval of their advisor, students will select 12 credits of course work (minimum) from within one or the specializations. Any graduate course approved by the advisor may be used to satisfy this requirement. Many specialization options will require more than 12 credits of additional course work.

Capstone Requirements (3 credits)

As students transition from coursework to some real time experience, they undertake a capstone project course. This is designed to be a culminating experience in which the student synthesizes course knowledge and experimental skills into a brief but detailed experimental study, which also involves cross-field interdisciplinary cooperation. Although in some cases this project may be done individually under the supervision of one faculty member, it is expected that students will join in a team-based, collaborative effort involving students from a number of different disciplines, post-doctoral fellow and industry representatives; with intercampus participation.

Approved UMass Lowell course: BMBT-6000 Capstone Project (3 credits)

Annually in May, a Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology Research Symposium will be held, rotating each year to a different campus, at which the students from all four campuses will present their projects in a poster session and/or orally. Participation in this non-credit activity is required.

Earning the Master of Science Degree

Following successful presentation of the capstone project and with a minimum of 31 credits completed or transferred in required an approved courses, the student will be awarded the Master of Science degree as a credential along the way toward the doctorate. Students must have at least a cumulative B average to receive the Master of Science degree and advance to the Qualifying Examination. (Students not working up to that level are subject to review for dismissal from the program. Specific standards are set for graduate students on each "home campus" for continuation in graduate programs.)

Abstracts International.

Professional Science Master's Option

The Professional Science Master's (PSM) option is a two-year program designed to enhance core science curricula with business fundamentals, communications, ethics and project management. Students put their skills and knowledge into practice during a required internship. (Students who are employed full-time may be able to substitute a project for the required internship.) The program provides its graduates with the following knowledge, skills and abilities:

  • Competency in cutting-edge technical/laboratory/computer skills related to a wide range of instrumentation/procedures;
  • The application of research in solving current biomedical/health problems especially in relationship to new discoveries in nanoscience and technology;
  • The ability to function as interdisciplinary collaborators with strong critical thinking, inquiry-based analytical skills;
  • The ability to work on integrated problems in multidisciplinary research teams;
  • The development of written an oral presentation skills which will allow them to adapt highly scientific material to a variety of audiences;
  • The development of advance problem solving skills using a multidisciplinary approach;
  • Appreciation of the challenges of conducting/publishing research associated with contemporary biomedical ethical issues;
  • Grantsmanship skills that will allow them to collaborate with researcher to obtain extramural private/federal research funding;
  • Knowledge about intellectual property/patents/regulatory issues;
  • The understanding of how theory/concepts are related to applied research
  • The understanding of how applied research is conducted in an industrial setting;
  • The understanding of how industry applies experimental research to equipment design/manufacturing/product development;
As well as the skills listed above, the Ph.D. program aims to provide its doctoral recipients with the following additional knowledge, skills and abilities:
  • The ability to formulate/test multiple, original scientific hypotheses related to their dissertation research based on careful observations and a comprehensive review of past and current literature in their field;
  • The ability to design/carry out detailed experiments or develop theoretical models/numerical simulations;
  • The application of their research in solving current biomedical/health problems especially in relationship to new discoveries in nanoscience and technology;
  • The ability to function as independent researchers with strong critical thinking, inquiry-based analytical skills;
  • The ability to critically interpret their research results, synthesizing findings from other investigators/previous studies, that will serve as the basis for developing new hypotheses;
  • Written/Oral presentation skills resulting in publication of their findings and presentation of results at professional research conferences; and
  • Grantsmanship skills that will allow them to obtain pre-doctoral and post-doctoral extramural private/federal research funding.

Combined Bachelor's and Master's Degree Program

The program participates in the University's effort to encourage outstanding graduate students to begin study toward an advanced degree while still undergraduates. Arrangements are possible for joint programs, that combine a bachelor's degree in one of the other departments in the University with a master's degree in the Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology program. Such arrangements are made for eligible students after discusssions with graduate coordinators in both departments (see eligibility requirements).