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Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Engineering & Biotechnology

Biomedical Engineering & Biotechnology Doctoral Program

The Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell and Worcester campuses of the University of Massachusetts offer a joint Ph.D. degree program in Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology. Students in the Ph.D. program may elect to receive the MS degree along the way to the doctorate.

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 academic ability and research potential, and commitment to an interdisciplinary, team-work approach.

Applications 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 should have had undergraduate coursework in statistics/experimental design and life science/biomedical science, and meet the minimum requirements as stated below.

Applicants are encouraged to contact participating faculty to discuss potential research opportunities and to describe those discussions 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.

An application can be completed and submitted on-line. Applicants must submit the following and are expected to meet the standards indicated:

  • Students with an overall undergraduate (and graduate, if applicable) grade point average of 3.000 or higher will be considered for admission. Applicants must present official undergraduate and graduate transcripts from all schools attended.
  • For acceptance into the program, applicants should present a minimum Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score of 142 in verbal and 152 in quantitative tests (294 combined). The date of the GRE exam should not precede the date of application by more than three years. The AACC will also pay particular attention to the applicant’s score on the GRE analytical writing section. Only official GRE scores from the Educational Testing Service will be considered acceptable.
  • Applicants must have a minimum of two semesters or three quarters (equivalent of one academic year) of calculus, strong quantitative skills, and undergraduate coursework in statistics/experimental design and life science/biomedical science, as evidenced by their transcripts.
  • International applicants, whose native language is not English, 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 the Educational Testing Service will be considered acceptable. Students who have completed at least two academic semesters of full time college/university in the United States may request a waiver of this requirement. For further details please see the information on international graduate admissions.
  • Three letters of recommendation, from individuals familiar with the applicant’s 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 roles:
    1. Indication of an applicant’s qualifications and motivation for the program. Applicants should briefly describe 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 and career plans as they relate to the multidisciplinary nature of the BMEBT doctorate, and discuss their research experience (academic, industrial) and include any publications and grants or patents;
    2. Indication of how an applicant will fit into the program. Applicants should describe 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 résumé.

Admissibility will be determined by the AACC. The AACC may take into consideration individual circumstance. Extraordinary qualifications in some areas can be used to outweigh weaknesses in others. Admissibility to the Program does not guarantee funding. Final acceptance into the program depends on the applicant securing the support of a research advisor in the form of a Research Assistant (RA), or a department that has an available Teaching Assistant (TA) position relevant to the student's background, or a combination of these two. Other sources of funding, such as scholarships and self-support, are also possible. Applicants may be offered admission contingent upon the successful completion of remedial courses to fill gaps in preparation or knowledge.

Academic and Research Advisors

It is the responsibility of the applicant to identify a faculty research advisor with the assistance of the Program. The research advisor will serve as the chair of the student's dissertation committee. Academic advising is initially the responsibility of the AACC, and it pertains to the completion of the core courses (Requirement 1). The research advisor will also hold the responsibility of serving as academic advisor with respect to the selection of specialization courses (Requirement 2) that may be applicable to the student's research.

Transfer of Credits/Advanced Standing

For students who have previously completed graduate course work, the AACC may approve the transfer of graduate credits for courses from an accredited college or university in the United States or Canada that received a grade of B (3.000 on a 4.000 scale) or better if those courses were not required by 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. No project/directed studies, seminar or dissertation research credits will be accepted for transfer from institutions outside of the UMass system.

The AACC may also approve to waive courses without transfer of course credit. Students would still be responsible for the full 31 credits required for the MS and 63 credits required for the Ph.D., but would not have to take the waived course.

To earn the en-route MS degree, a student must complete or transfer in credit to meet the core requirements (19 credits) and specialization requirements (12 credits) for Requirement 1 and Requirement 2, respectively. Transfer credits are not to exceed 24 in total.

Students who join the doctoral program with an earned master’s degree may receive "Advanced Standing". For these students, the number of credits required to complete the Ph.D. will be determined by the AACC, but at a minimum 12 course  credits (core or specialization), doctoral seminar (taken twice, 1 credit each) and 30 dissertation research credits will be required. Students with Advanced Standing will be required to submit a Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and pass the Doctoral Qualifying Examination before progressing to the dissertation stage. As part of its academic advising roles, Advanced Standing is initiated by the AACC, but the formal request is filed by the student via completing an Academic Petition with attached supporting documentation, such as transcripts and course syllabi. The AACC can request information from the student pertaining to courses taken at the previous institution(s) and other relevant material prior to making a final decision on what courses the student will be required to take at UMass Lowell. The AACC will prepare an Advanced Standing Letter, summarizing the academic requirements, including courses the student will have to take.

Academic Program

The curriculum is organized around common experiences, including common core courses, elective courses and specialization options, and a research project. 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 a variety of courses, including the research project, and in the selection of the dissertation committee. In addition, each student then completes a focused research project leading to a doctoral dissertation. Industry representation may occur in the research project, doctoral seminar series, and via participation in the Doctoral Dissertation Committee.

General Program Requirements

The program of courses is based on the MS curriculum and it includes a core requirement, including a research project (Requirement 1), elective specialization requirement (Requirement 2), and two credits of doctoral seminar. As students advance, they will have to pass a qualifying examination, which is combined with the defense of the dissertation proposal, complete a dissertation project with a minimum of 30 credits of research, and pass the dissertation defense.

The Ph.D. degree requires completion or transfer of at least 63 total credits (or a minimum of 44 credits for students with advanced standing due to an existing MS degree). Students must meet the specific academic requirements of their "home campus" for such matters as grade point averages, documentation of completion of requirements, registration for program continuation if needed, and submitting the final dissertation to the library along with other documents required for graduation. No course receiving a grade below C (2.000 on a 4.000 scale) can receive credit to satisfy the minimum credit requirement. 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 course credits that they can apply toward their program. No more than 6 credits of coursework below the level of dissertation registration 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 academic advisor. The interdisciplinary nature of this program makes close contact between each student and his or her advisor important. Academic petitions pertaining to approval of core of elective specialization courses that are not listed in the approved course list should be routed through the academic and/or research advisors before being submitted to the AACC for review.

Core Course Requirements (Requirement 1)

The core courses follow the MS curriculum. They provide a common foundation for all students, either from life science or physical science/engineering backgrounds. A detailed list of courses in the MS curriculum is provided in the Appendix. Briefly, core requirements consist of three compulsory courses and four additional courses selected from four categories of approved courses.

Students shall complete the following three core courses:
BMBT.5000 Introduction to Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology (3 cr)
BMBT.5200 Bioethics (1 cr)
Research Project (3 cr) - Independent Study/Advanced Project / BMBT.7200 Independent Study

For the Research Project, students should register for an Independent Study or Advanced Project taken from the research Advisor's department. If the Research Advisor can't set up a number in their department, the student should register for the BMBT.7200 Independent Study with a section established for the Research Advisor. The Research Project course should be taken toward the end of the MS course requirements to help students prepare for Qualifier Exam/Proposal Defense.

Students shall take one course from each of the following four core categories. Students are encouraged to consult their research and/or academic advisors for the most appropriate selection from the approved courses in each of these categories. Upon recommendation by their advisors, and with adequate justification expressed on the academic petition, approved courses may be substituted by other courses that substantively relate to these respective categories.

Mathematics (3 cr)*
BMEN.5380 Computational Biomechanics
CHEN.5390 Math Methods for Engineers
CHEN.5480 Engineering Process Analytics
MATH.5300 Applied Math I
MATH.5760 Statistical Programming Using SAS
PHYS.5630 Computational Methods in Physics
PLAS.5480 Analytical and Numerical Methods in Plastics Processing
PUBH.5750 Epidemiology and Biostatistics
PUBH.5770 Biostatistics for Health Data
RADI.5820 Numerical Methods in Radiological Sciences
RADI.6060 Monte Carlo Simulation of Radiation Transport
XXXX.XXXX Other math course approved by the AACC

Physiology (3-4 cr)*
BIOL.5490L Biology of Muscle and Lab (4 cr)**
BIOL.5620/5630L Cardiovascular Physiology Lecture and Lab (4 cr)**
BIOL.5800/5810L Developmental Biology and Lab (4 cr)**
BIOL.5900 Human Neurobiology (3 cr)
HSCI.5510 Clinical Pathophysiology (3 cr)
XXXX.XXXX Other physiology course approved by the AACC

Laboratory (3-5 cr)*
BIOL.5190/5210L Biochemistry Techniques (5 cr)
BIOL.5290 Recombinant Protein Production Techniques (4 cr)
BIOL.5320/5340L Genomics and Lab (4 cr)
BIOL.5760 Cell Culture (4 cr)
BIOL.5950L Immunology Lecture and Lab (2 cr)
CHEN.5860 Biotech Processing Projects Lab (3 cr)
EECE.5600 Biomedical Instrumentation (3 cr)
MLSC.6100/6101L Clinical Toxicology and Lab (4 cr)
NUTR.5650 Lab Methods in Nutrition Assessment (3 cr)
PHRM.6400/6420L Pharmaceutical Analysis and Lab (4 cr)
RADI.5060 Nuclear Instrumentation with Lab (3 cr)
XXXX.XXXX Other lab course approved by the AACC

Advanced Cell and Molecular Biology (3 cr)*
BIOL.5420 Advanced Cell Biology (3 cr)
BIOL.5670 Molecular Biology (3 cr)
BIOL.5820 Cancer Biology (3 cr)
BIOL.6660 Selected Topics in Molecular and Cellular Biology (3 cr)
NUTR.5720 Nutrigenetics (3 cr)
RADI.5620 Radiation Biology (3 cr)
XXXX.XXXX Other advanced cell and molecular biology course approved by AACC

* Students may take additional courses from the Core categories as Elective Specialization courses

** Students who take this course, which includes a co-requisite lab, to satisfy the Physiology Core requirement may take a course from the Elective Specialization list (see Appendix) in place of the Lab core requirement. An academic petition will be required.

Elective Specialization Course Requirements (Requirement 2)

All students shall complete a minimum of 12 credits of elective specialization courses. Students may take courses from one specialization area, across specialization areas and/or from the list of additional course offerings. Please consult the Appendix for a list of approved elective courses.

Specialization courses will help the student attain depth in focused areas. Academic/research advisors involved in each specialization will see to an appropriate combination of depth and breadth in the student’s selection of these courses. They may announce some structure to the course selections allowed within the area. With the approval of their advisor, students will select a minimum of 12 credits of course work from within one of the specializations or from any combination of specializations, including the additional course offerings, as listed in the Appendix. Any graduate course approved by the AACC may be used to satisfy this requirement.

Earning the En-Route MS Degree

Following successful presentation of the research project and with a minimum of 31 credits completed or transferred in required and 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 en-route MS degree and advance to the Doctoral 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.) Doctoral students who enter the program with advanced standing will not earn the en-route MS degree.

Doctoral Dissertation Proposal

The Dissertation Proposal is written under the direct supervision of the research advisor. It must be completed before the Doctoral Qualifier Examination is scheduled. The Dissertation Proposal will follow the format established for NIH proposals, including the page limits, and will include a review of the literature on the student’s chosen topic, present original hypotheses, design experiments to test the hypotheses, document the appropriate methodology that will be used, project anticipated results, and indicate how such results might be interpreted. The proposal must show application to current biomedical/biotechnological problems.

Selection of the Doctoral Dissertation Committee

Students will select their Doctoral Dissertation Committee while they develop their Dissertation Proposal. The Committee must have at least three full-time faculty members from UMass Lowell, with the research advisor serving as the Chair. Participation of faculty outside the research group or outside the host research department is encouraged, and so is selection of one additional member of the Dissertation Committee from relevant and appropriate industry. Only one emeritus faculty is allowed.

Each student’s committee is approved by the campus AACC, which will also approve any changes to a previously approved committee.

Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination is combined with the Dissertation Proposal Defense. The two parts in combination are referred to as the Doctoral Qualifying Examination.

The Doctoral Qualifying Examination must be taken within one year after completion of the MS Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology requirements or within two years for students with advanced standing. It will consist of an oral presentation of the written dissertation proposal to an audience of peers and the Doctoral Dissertation Committee, followed by examination by the Committee.

At least two weeks prior to the date of the presentation of the dissertation proposal, an announcement must be submitted to the program graduate coordinator to be posted on UML Announcements. At the same time, the written copy of the proposal must be provided to the Dissertation Committee members.

The dissertation proposal’s presentation is open to the public. The presentation will outline the motivation for the research, give a summary of the related past work in the area and present the scope of the proposed dissertation research. The presentation should be no longer than 45 minutes. The presentation should clearly articulate the proposed contribution of the student to the knowledge base and how it differs from or complements past work. The examinee will be expected to answer questions from the audience to demonstrate his/her understanding of the proposed research, as well as his/her proficiency in the general research field related to the dissertation proposal.

Following the presentation, the Dissertation Committee’s examination will primarily focus on the subject of the proposal, but it may also include areas that may come up during the discussion, as appropriate.

After successfully defending the dissertation proposal and passing the concomitant examination, the student attains the designation “doctoral candidate”. If the student fails any part of the Doctoral Qualifier Examination, the Doctoral Dissertation Committee may recommend retaking it within one or two semesters, depending on the circumstances. Failure to pass the second Doctoral Qualifier Examination results in dismissal from the Ph.D. program.

Doctoral Credit Requirements

1. Doctoral Seminar - 2 credits minimum (credits for a seminar depends on host department)
Doctoral students should present research in progress in an appropriately selected doctoral seminar. The selection of the most appropriate seminar will be based on the suggestion of the student’s research advisor. The seminar will emphasize not only research, but also communication and writing. Students will write summaries of each presentation and submit it to the AACC/graduate coordinator as a progress report. Course is graded pass-fail or satisfactory-unsatisfactory (depending on grading system in use for each department).

2. Dissertation Research (variable credit each semester, 30 credits minimum)
Doctoral students will register for a minimum of 30 credits of doctoral research with their faculty advisor (dissertation chair). They will use these credits during preparation and defense of the dissertation proposal/qualifying examination, carrying out their dissertation research and preparation and defense of the doctoral dissertation.

BMBT.7590 Dissertation Research (1-9 credits)

Dissertation Defense

The Doctoral Dissertation should be of publishable quality in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal. Ideally, one or more journal papers are published or at least submitted for publication to a journal or conference before the dissertation defense. Students should submit proof of submittal, acceptance, or the published paper.

At least two weeks prior to the date of the dissertation defense, an announcement must be submitted to the program graduate coordinator to be posted in UML Announcements.

The doctoral candidate will defend his/her written dissertation before the Doctoral Dissertation Committee, the University, and the outside community. The specific format of the defense is usually decided by the committee chair, but a typical format consists of the Ph.D. candidate first presenting an overview of the thesis research, then answering specific questions asked by the committee members. Questions may test anything from knowledge of the existing literature, to scrutiny of the material and methods or experimental design, to the assumptions in the research, to the interpretation of the results, to recommendations for future work. It is common for the committee to ask that certain minor revisions be made to the written dissertation before final submission. Successful defense of the dissertation and submission of the finished work to the library will result in the awarding of the Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology. Dissertations must be filed with Dissertation Abstracts International.

Appendix – Elective Specialization Courses

EECE.5100 Digital Signal Processing
EECE.5110 Medical Diagnostic Imaging
EECE.5410 Introduction to Biosensors
EECE.5520 Microprocessor Systems II & Embedded Systems
EECE.6150 Medical Image Reconstruction
EECE.7100 Selected Topics: Biomedical Imaging and Data Science

CHEN.5340 Industrial Bioprocessing
CHEN.5350 Cell and Microbe Cultivation
CHEN.5380 Advanced Separations in Biotechnology
CHEN.5450 Isolation and Purification of Biotech Products
CHEN.5460 Biomaterial Science
CHEN.5500 Biomedical Applications of Nanotechnology
CHEN.5550 Biopharmaceutical Regulatory Compliance

MLSC.5120 Medical Bacteriology
MLSC.5500 Foundations in Biomedical Research
MLSC.5530 Emerging Topics in Clinical Chemistry
MLSC.5800 Clinical Applications of Molecular Genetics
MLSC.6130 Infectious Disease
MLSC.6150 Medical Mycology and Parasitology

CHEN.5550 Biopharmaceutical Regulatory Compliance
PLAS.5030 Mechanical Behavior of Polymers
PLAS.5180 Plastics Product Design
PLAS.5530 Medical Device Design I
PLAS.5540 Medical Device Design II
PLAS.5750 Biomaterials I
PLAS.5790 Problems in Biomaterials
PLAS.6020 Medical Device Development Regulation
PLAS.6750 Biomaterials II

BIOL.5410 Topics in Cell Biology
BIOL.5600 Stem Cell Biology
BIOL.5690L Molecular Techniques
CHEN.5350 Cell and Microbe Cultivation
CHEN.5450 Isolation and Purification

PHRM.6100 Principles of Pharmaceutical Sciences
PHRM.6410 Drug Delivery
PHRM.6600 Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism

BMEN.5300 Ergonomics and Work
BMEN.5310 Occupational Biomechanics
BMEN.5380 Computational Biomechanics
BMEN.5400 Occupational Safety Engineering
BMEN.6380 Methods in Work Analysis
PUBH.5061 Environmental Health
PUBH.5510 Work Environment Policy & Practice

h. Additional Course Offerings

Biological Sciences:
BIOL.5050L Bioinformatics
BIOL.5090 Photobiology
BIOL.5720 Virology
BIOL.5840 Comparative Vertebrate Embryology
BIOL.5930 Immunology
BIOL.5940 Advanced Topics in Immunology
BIOL.5062/5062L Bioinfomatic Tools in Sequence Analysis

Biomedical Engineering:
BMEN.5020 Biomaterials
BMEN.5030 Medical Device Design
BMEN.5035 Advanced Medical Device Development
BMEN.5040 Medical Device Development
BMEN.5110 Tissue Engineering
BMEN.5115 Advanced Tissue Engineering
BMEN.5130 Neural Engineering
BMEN.5305 Biomechanics
BMEN.5325 Biofluid Mechanics
BMEN.5350 Respiratory Dynamics Devices
BMEN.5380 Computational Biomechanics
BMEN.5390 Computer Aided Engineering Design and Analysis
BMEN.5410 Biomedical Optics
BMEN.5610 Drug Delivery

Chemical Engineering:
CHEN.5370 Nanomaterials Characterization I
CHEN.5410 Nanomaterials Characterization II

CHEM.5130 Spectroscopy
CHEM.5500 Biochemistry I
CHEM.5510 Biochemistry II
CHEM.5550L Lab in Modern Biochemistry and Biophysics
CHEM.5600 Advanced Physical Biochemistry
CHEM.5620 Biopharmaceutical Development
CHEM.5700 Protein Chemistry
CHEM.6310 Principles of Medicinal Chemistry I

Electrical and Computer Engineering:
EECE.5160 Biomedical Imaging and Data Sci
EECE.5440 Comp. Data-Driven Modeling I
EECE.5470 Comp. Data-Driven Modeling II
EECE.5560 Robotics
EECE.5590 Intro to Nanoelectronics
EECE.5680 Electro Optic Systems
EECE.5810 Comp Vision & Dig Image Proc
EECE.5950 Solid State Electronics
EECE.6690 Opto Electronic Devices

Mechanical Engineering:
MECH.5710 Quality Engineering
MECH.5750 Industrial Design of Experiments
MECH.5760 Engineering Project Management
MECH.5960 Mechanics of Composite Materials

Medical Lab Science:
MLSC.5310 Clinical Immunohematology
MLSC.6000 Biomarker Discovery & App
MLSC.6001 Biomarker Discovery & App Lab

Nutritional Science:
NUTR.5630 Vitamins & Minerals
NUTR.6010 Nutrition Assessment
NUTR.6040 Nutrition Epidemiology

Pharmaceutical Science:
PHRM.6120 Principles of Pharm Sciences Lab
PHRM.6501 Drug Discovery

Plastics Engineering:
PLAS.5320 Adhesives and Adhesion
PLAS.5970 Plastics and the Environment
PLAS.6420 Characterization of Polymers and Plastics

Radiological Science/Medical Physics:

RADI.5010L Radiation Safety and Control I
RADI.5020L Radiation Safety and Control II
RADI.5240 Environmental Health Physics
RADI.5330 External Radiation Dosimetry and Shielding
RADI.5340 Internal Radiation Dosimetry and Bioassay
RADI.5410 Radiochemistry
RADI.5650 Introduction to Radiation Therapy Physics
RADI.5820 Numerical Methods in Radiological Science
RADI.5980 Introduction to Medical Imaging
RADI.6050 Radiation Interactions and Transport
RADI.6650 Advanced Radiation Therapy Physics
RADI.6980 Advanced Medical Imaging

XXXX.XXXX Other elective as approved by BMEBT Graduate Coordinator