University of Wisconsin Madison College of Engineering
Student writing on a glass wall in a tutoring area of Engineering Hall.

Student writing on a glass wall in a study area of Engineering Hall. Photo: David Nevala.

The biomedical engineering program offers graduate sequences leading to master’s and PhD degrees in biomedical engineering. The Department of Biomedical Engineering participates in the UW-Madison Medical Scientist Training Program, which leads to a combined MD/PhD degree. The BME graduate program should be of interest to students who wish to practice engineering or engage in research in an engineering specialization in medicine and biology. The MS degree option allows students to specialize in areas of particular interest and provides excellent training for those aiming toward industrial employment or students who might be interested in later considering a PhD. The PhD program provides in-depth research training in a specific area. The MD/PhD provides in-depth research for medical students. Our graduates find employment in industry, government labs, universities and industrial research establishments.


Through its world-class engineering, biological sciences, medical and clinical science facilities, the UW-Madison campus brings together preeminent faculty in a rich research environment. Participation of affiliated faculty from engineering and the biological and medical sciences stimulates new multidisciplinary research in this unique area.


Master’s program


The MS graduate program offers both a 30-credit option to students who come to the program from a traditional field, such as electrical, mechanical or chemical engineering, to make up for deficiencies in their biological science background and to students in the life-sciences to make up for deficiencies in engineering.


Students who complete their BS degree in BME at UW-Madison, with an overall GPA of at least 3.0 or a GPA of 3.25 for the final 60 credits, are eligible to apply for the MS degree and can complete it in only 24-credits, which is intended primarily for students not planning to pursue a PhD. Those interested in obtaining a PhD should take the 30-credit MS option.


Specific course selection is very flexible and draws upon a variety of courses. The required coursework is designed to complement each student's interests and background in biomedical engineering.


The MS program requirements include:


  • At least 15 credits in one area of specialization
  • At least 15 credits of graduate level course work
  • Up to 6 credits of independent study project experience or master's thesis research in the student's area of specialization (a master's thesis is recommended for students interested in a PhD
  • At least 12 credits of engineering courses, 400-level or above
  • At least one course in bioscience (for non UW-BME BS students)
  • Two semesters of Seminar in Biomedical Engineering (BME 701)


PhD program


The BME PhD program provides excellent opportunities for interdisciplinary research. Course requirements for the PhD include 30 credits beyond the BME MS degree. These credits are flexible but must satisfy Graduate School requirements for a minor area of specialization or interdisciplinary requirement. Students entering the PhD program without an MS degree in BME must first satisfy the MS degree requirements. These include courses to:


1. Prepare for the PhD qualifying exam
2. Add depth of knowledge in the student's chosen area of specialization
3. Provide research experience.


Because of the diverse technical requirements for various specialties, the PhD is administered on a degree-by-committee basis. A PhD in BME requires passing a qualifying examination as well as a preliminary examination. The PhD qualifying examination consists of five 30-minute one-on-one oral tests with five BME faculty. Students take two tests in their chosen core area of specialization. Two tests evaluate two additional biomedical engineering core areas chosen by the student and a fifth exam concentrates on testing the student's knowledge of engineering physiology or cell biology.

Within 12 months of passing the PhD qualifying exam, a doctoral student must submit a written preliminary report describing his or her proposed dissertation research. The student defends this proposal in an oral preliminary examination and is expected to demonstrate initiative, imagination and a high level of professional ability. Finally, the student defends his or her PhD thesis in an oral exam. Most students can complete the program in five years or less.


MD/PhD program


The MD/PhD program requires 28 credits (beyond the BME MS degree; the minor area of specialization is automatically satisfied by medical school courses). These credits are flexible and chosen to:


1. Prepare for the qualifying exam
2. Add depth of knowledge to the student's specialization
3. Provide research credits for thesis activity. Additional requirements are similar to the BME PhD program.


Applications must be received annually by January 1 to be fully considered for a UW or BME fellowship.
MD/PhD students can submit the MCAT exam results in lieu of the GRE exam.