cals-biologicalsysengineering

Biological systems engineering (BSE) is the application of engineering principles to biological and agricultural systems which greatly impact our food, fiber and renewable energy resources. Since biological systems engineering programs focus heavily on the protection and conservation of natural resources, it is not uncommon for them to be described as sustainable engineering programs.

Within the BSE program a student must enroll in either the General Program area or in one of the following three specialization areas: Machinery Systems Engineering, Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering, or Food and Bioprocess Engineering. The specialization in Food and Bioprocess Engineering is split into a Food Engineering track and a Bioprocess Engineering track.

Students who complete all degree requirements are awarded a Bachelor of Science–Biological Systems Engineering degree. A student who completes one of the three program specializations will have the area of specialization identified on the official transcript. The BSE program, like all undergraduate engineering programs on the UW–Madison campus, is accredited by ABET. Accreditation by ABET is an indication of program quality and has major benefits for individuals seeking registration as a licensed professional engineer. A UW–Madison BSE graduate may apply for licensure as a registered professional engineer once they have passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, obtained four years of qualifying engineering work experience, and have passed the Professional Engineering (PE) exam. To obtain a BSE degree from UW–Madison, a student must have taken (but is not required to have passed) the FE exam as part of their Senior Design sequence. Information about the FE exam can be found at Fundamentals of Engineering Exam.

Graduates work in career fields associated with the growth, harvest, transportation, processing and storage of food, feedstuffs, biomass for energy production and forestry products. This includes, but is not limited to, jobs involving the design, construction and management of: bio-energy production facilities, greenhouses, food processing plants, soil management systems and erosion control structures, irrigation and drainage systems, wastewater and solid waste treatment/recycling operations, animal housing facilities, aquaculture enterprises, systems for improved air quality, and equipment for agricultural production, material handling, processing, and packaging. Job opportunities for BSE graduates remain plentiful and show no signs of decreasing given (1) the increase in world population and corresponding increasing need for food, fiber and renewable energy, (2) the measurable shortage of highly trained technical personnel in the United States, and (3) the constantly expanding emphasis on protection and conservation of natural resources.

The UW-Madison BSE program is traditionally known for its emphasis on undergraduate education which is reflected in outstanding one-on one advising and smaller class sizes.

The BSE program requires completion of a minimum of 125 credits to be eligible for graduation. Note that this is higher than the minimum for other CALS programs.

Biological Systems Engineering Program Educational Objectives

The Biological Systems Engineering Department recognizes that our graduates will choose to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired during their undergraduate years to pursue a wide variety of career and life goals, and we encourage this diversity of paths. Whatever path graduates choose, be it a job, graduate school, or volunteer service, be it in engineering or another field, we have for our graduates the following objectives; that they will:

  1. Exhibit strong skills in problem solving, leadership, teamwork, and communication;
  2. Use these skills to contribute to their communities;
  3. Make thoughtful, well-informed career choices; and
  4. Demonstrate a continuing commitment to and interest in their own and others' education.

Entry to this professional program requires students to meet the five admission requirements detailed below. Students are admitted to the department as pre-Biological Systems Engineering until they meet the admission criteria. Admission eligibility must be confirmed by the department.

  1. Must complete a minimum of 24 degree credits.
  2. Must have completed a minimum of 17 graded credits of calculus, statistics, chemistry, computer science, statics, biology, and physics courses required for a BSE degree.
  3. Must have a math and science grade point average (M&SGPA) of at least 2.80 with a minimum grade of C in every course used to calculate the M&SGPA. The M&SGPA is based on: math courses numbered 217 and above; statistics courses numbered 224 and above; all chemistry courses; all biology courses (courses with biological science breadth); computer sciences courses numbered 302 and above; E M A 201 Statics; and physics courses numbered 201 and above. For any course that a student repeats, only the most recent grade will be used in the calculation. Any transfer course from another university that is included in the previous list must be included in the GPA calculation. To calculate the M&SGPA, see Applications and Forms on the BSE website.
  4. Must be in good academic standing—i.e., not on academic probation or dropped status.
  5. Must successfully complete introductory chemistry (CHEM 103 & CHEM 104, or CHEM 109, or equivalent) and math through MATH 222.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Requirements

In addition to the University General Education Requirements, all undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and major requirements. Specific requirements for all majors in the college and other information on academic matters can be obtained from the Office of Academic Affairs, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, 116 Agricultural Hall, 1450 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3003. Academic departments and advisors also have information on requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies and Science), but courses counted toward university requirements may also be used to satisfy a college and/or a major requirement; similarly, courses counted toward college requirements may also be used to satisfy a university and/or a major requirement.

College Requirements for all CALS B.S. Degree Programs

Quality of Work: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.000 to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation.
Residency: Students must complete 30 degree credits in residence at UW–Madison after earning 86 credits toward their undergraduate degree.
First Year Seminar1
International Studies3
Physical Science Fundamentals4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World
Advanced General Chemistry
Biological Science5
Additional Science (Biological, Physical, or Natural)3
Science Breadth (Biological, Physical, Natural, or Social)3
CALS Capstone Learning Experience: included in the requirements for each CALS major (see "Major Requirements")

Named Options within the Major

Students may complete the Biological Systems Engineering General Program or select a Named Option. The course requirements on this page represent the general program. Students are encouraged to consider one of the Named Options (Food and Bioprocess Engineering; Machinery Systems Engineering; or Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering). Links to learn more about these options, including the course requirements, are included below.

Major Requirements

Major Requirements
Common Requirements53
General Program Classes and Technical Electives43
Capstone5
Total Credits101

Common Requirements

Mathematics and Statistics
MATH 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 15
MATH 222 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 24
MATH 234 Calculus--Functions of Several Variables4
MATH 319 Techniques in Ordinary Differential Equations3
or MATH 320 Linear Algebra and Differential Equations
STAT 324 Introductory Applied Statistics for Engineers3
Chemistry
Select one of the following:5-9
Advanced General Chemistry (Recommended)
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II 1
Biology
BSE 349 Quantitative Techniques for Biological Systems3
One additional Biological Science breadth Course; the following courses are preferred choices: 22-5
Introductory Biology
Introductory Biology
General Botany
Animal Biology
General Microbiology 3
Biology of Microorganisms 3
Physics
E M A 201 Statics 43
PHYSICS 202 General Physics5
Foundation
BSE 270 Introduction to Computer Aided Design3
Select one of the following:3
Problem Solving Using Computers (Preferred)
Introduction to Chemical Process Modeling
Problem Solving Using Computer Tools
Select one of the following:3
Engineering Economic Analysis (Preferred)
Manufacturing Fundamentals
Accounting Principles
Introduction to Finance
Fundamentals of Accounting and Finance for Non-Business Majors
Core
BSE 249 Engineering Principles for Biological Systems 53
or CBE 250 Process Synthesis
BSE 365 Measurements and Instrumentation for Biological Systems3
BSE 308 Career Management for Engineers1
Total Credits53-60

General Program Requirements

M E 361 Thermodynamics 13
or CBE 310 Chemical Process Thermodynamics
Select one of the following: 13-4
Fluid Dynamics
Fluid Mechanics
Introductory Transport Phenomena
BSE 464 Heat and Mass Transfer in Biological Systems3
E M A 303 Mechanics of Materials3
or M E 306 Mechanics of Materials
Select a minimum of three of the following:6-9
Land Surveying Fundamentals
Renewable Energy Systems
On-Site Waste Water Treatment and Dispersal
Rheology of Foods and Biomaterials
Biorefining: Energy and Products from Renewable Resources
Food and Bioprocessing Operations
Sediment and Bio-Nutrient Engineering and Management
Irrigation and Drainage Systems Design
Engineering Principles of Agricultural Machinery
Engineering Principles of Off-Road Vehicles
Small Watershed Engineering
Food and Pharmaceutical Separations
Select a minimum of 9 credits of 300 level or above non-BSE engineering courses9
Total Credits27-31

Technical Electives

Select courses from one or more of the following four technical elective categories to bring the total number of credits in the General Program Area or in the selected specialization area to 43. See the BSE Undergraduate Student Handbook for a list of recommended technical electives for various areas of specialization.

A. Introduction to Engineering Courses (freshmen only)

INTEREGR 101 Contemporary Issues in the Engineering Profession2
INTEREGR 102 Introduction to Society's Engineering Grand Challenges2
INTEREGR 110 Introduction to Engineering1
INTEREGR 111 Introduction to the Engineering Design Process and Profession2
INTEREGR 160 Introduction to Engineering Design3
INTEREGR 170 Design Practicum3

B. Independent Study/Instruction Courses

CALS or CoE courses with a 001, 299, 399, or 699 course number.  No more than 3 credits of coursework in this category can be used to meet technical elective requirements.

C. Upper-Level Courses

Part 1. Upper-Level Engineering Courses

This includes BSE courses not taken to meet other curricular requirements. This does not include independent study/instruction courses.

Any Engineering course numbered 300 or above
E M A 202 Dynamics3
or M E 240 Dynamics

Part 2. Upper-Level Science Courses

This includes BSE courses not taken to meet other curricular requirements. This does not include independent study/instruction courses.

Advanced biological, natural, and physical science courses (i.e., courses with a B, N, or P designation)
CHEM 341 Elementary Organic Chemistry3
CHEM 342 Elementary Organic Chemistry Laboratory1
CHEM 343 Introductory Organic Chemistry3
CHEM 344 Introductory Organic Chemistry Laboratory2
CHEM 345 Intermediate Organic Chemistry3
CHEM/​M S & E  421 Polymeric Materials3
AGRONOMY/ATM OCN/SOIL SCI 532 Environmental Biophysics3

D. Lower-Level Science and Engineering Courses, Breadth Courses

Elementary and intermediate biological, natural and physical science courses except elementary and intermediate math courses; College of Engineering courses with a 100 or 200 level designation; College of Agricultural and Life Sciences courses, Institute of Environmental Studies courses, and/or School of Business courses. Independent study/instruction courses cannot be counted in this category. No more than 12 credits of coursework in this category can be used to meet technical elective requirements.

Capstone

BSE 508 Biological Systems Engineering Design Practicum I2
BSE 509 Biological Systems Engineering Design Practicum II 13
Fundamentals of Engineering Exam 1

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

1. The ability to analyze systems, components and processes. This includes: the ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering fundamentals; the ability to use the techniques and tools of modern engineering practice; the ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems.

2. The ability to create a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constrain ts such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability.

3. The ability to formulate and conduct basic investigations such as laboratory experiments, prototype tests, field trials, computer simulations and market analyses.

4. The ability to identify important resources, and to retrieve, interpret, analyze and critique information for use in solving engineering problems and conducting basic investigations.

5. The ability to communicate effectively. This includes: the ability to  effectively orally communicate; the ability to write in a clear, concise, grammatically correct and organized manner; the ability to document work activities and properly archive information; the ability to develop appropriate illustrations including hand sketches, computer generated drawings/graphs and pictures.

6. An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.

7. The ability to function on multidisciplinary teams.

8. The broad education necessary to understand and assess the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context.

9. Recognition of the need, and the ability to engage in lifelong learning.

10. Knowledge of contemporary issues.

Four-year plan

Sample Biological Systems Engineering Four-Year Plan—General Program

Freshman
FallCreditsSpringCredits
MATH 2215MATH 2224
Biological Science Course3I SY E 3133
CHEM 10915COMP SCI 3103
General Education Course3INTEREGR 170 or 1102
 E P D 1552
 16 14
Total Credits 30
Sophomore
FallCreditsSpringCredits
E M A 2013BSE 3493
MATH 2344MATH 3203
BSE 2493M E 3063
BSE 2703PHYSICS 2025
General Education Course3BSE 3081
 16 15
Total Credits 31
Junior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
M E 3613E P D 397 (or other COMM B)3
BSE Course3M E 3633
STAT 3243BSE 5082
300 level or higher non-BSE engineering course3BSE Course3
Technical Elective Course3General Education Course6
General Education Course3BSE 3653
 18 20
Total Credits 38
Senior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
BSE 5093BSE 4643
BSE Course3General Education Course3
Technical Electives4300 level or higher non-BSE engineering course3
General Education Course3Free Elective Course3
300 level or higher non-BSE engineering course3Technical Electives4
 16 16
Total Credits 32

Sample Biological Systems Engineering Four-Year Plan—Food and Bioprocess Engineering Specialization–BioProcess Engineering Track

Freshman
FallCreditsSpringCredits
MATH 2215COMP SCI 3103
CHEM 10915INTEREGR 170 or 1102
E P D 1552MATH 2224
General Education Course3MICROBIO 101
MICROBIO 102
5
 15 14
Total Credits 29
Sophomore
FallCreditsSpringCredits
BSE 249 or CBE 2503BSE 3493
MATH 2344MATH 3203
CHEM 3413E P D 3973
E M A 2013PHYSICS 2025
BSE 2703BSE 3081
 16 15
Total Credits 31
Junior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
M E 3613BSE 5082
BSE/​ENVIR ST  3673BSE 3643
BIOCHEM 5013M E 363 or CBE 3203-4
STAT 3243Technical Electives3
General Education Course3BSE 3653
 General Education Courses3
 15 17-18
Total Credits 32-33
Senior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
BSE 4613BSE 4643
BSE 5093General Education Courses6
BSE 4603BSE Breadth Requirement3
Technical Electives2-3Free Elective Course3
General Education Course3 
I SY E 3133 
 17-18 15
Total Credits 32-33

Sample Biological Systems Engineering Four-Year Plan—Food and Bioprocess Engineering Specialization–Food Engineering Track

Freshman
FallCreditsSpringCredits
MATH 2215MICROBIO 1013
CHEM 10915COMP SCI 3103
E P D 1552INTEREGR 170 or 1102
General Education Course3MATH 2224
 I SY E 3133
 15 15
Total Credits 30
Sophomore
FallCreditsSpringCredits
BSE 249 or CBE 2503BSE 3493
MATH 2344General Education Course3
E M A 2013MATH 3203
BSE 2703PHYSICS 2025
CHEM 3413BSE 3081
 16 15
Total Credits 31
Junior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
FOOD SCI 4103BSE 3653
MICROBIO/​FOOD SCI  3253FOOD SCI 4323
M E 361 or CBE 3103BSE 5082
E P D 3973M E 363 or CBE 3203-4
STAT 3243BSE 3643
 15 14-15
Total Credits 29-30
Senior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
FOOD SCI 5324General Education Courses6
BSE 5093BSE Breadth Requirement3
General Education Course3BSE 4643
BSE 4613Technical Elective3
Technical Electives3-4Free Elective Course3
 16-17 18
Total Credits 34-35

Sample Biological Systems Engineering Four-Year Plan—Machinery Systems Engineering Specialization

Freshman
FallCreditsSpringCredits
MATH 2215MATH 2224
CHEM 10915PHYSICS 2025
General Education Course3INTEREGR 170 or 1102
E P D 1552M E 2312
 COMP SCI 3103
 15 16
Total Credits 31
Sophomore
FallCreditsSpringCredits
MATH 2344M E 3613
General Education Course3M E 3063
E M A 2013M E/​E M A  3071
Biological Science Course3STAT 3243
BSE 2493BSE 3493
 E M A 2023
 BSE 3081
 16 17
Total Credits 33
Junior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
BSE/​M E  4753M E 3403
MATH 3203BSE/​M E  4763
M E 3633E P D 3973
I SY E 3133M E 3133
BSE 2703BSE 5082
 BSE 3653
 15 17
Total Credits 32
Senior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
BSE 5093General Education Courses6
BSE Breadth Requirement3Technical Electives9
Technical Elective5 
M E 3423 
 14 15
Total Credits 29

Sample Biological Systems Engineering Four-Year Plan—Natural Resources and Environment Specialization

Freshman
FallCreditsSpringCredits
MATH 2215MATH 2224
E P D 1552SOIL SCI 301 or 2303-4
CHEM 10915COMP SCI 3103
General Education Course3INTEREGR 170 or 1102
 Biological Sciences Course3
 15 15-16
Total Credits 30-31
Sophomore
FallCreditsSpringCredits
E M A 2013STAT 3243
MATH 2344BSE 3493
BSE 2493PHYSICS 2025
BSE 2703BSE 4723
BSE 2011BSE 3081
General Education Course3 
 17 15
Total Credits 32
Junior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
MATH 3203E P D 3973
BSE 4732E M A 3033
CIV ENGR 3103BSE 5082
BSE/​CIV ENGR/​SOIL SCI  3722BSE 5713
I SY E 3133General Education Courses3
Technical Elective3BSE 3653
 16 17
Total Credits 33
Senior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
BSE 5093Technical Electives6
M E 3613General Education Courses6
Technical Elective3Free Elective Course3
BSE Breadth Requirement3 
General Education Course3 
 15 15
Total Credits 30

Students are assigned a faculty advisor when they declare the major or become pre-biological systems engineering. Prospective students should contact the department at bse@wisc.edu or 608-262-3310 for more information.

Graduates work in career fields associated with the growth, harvest, transportation, processing and storage of food, feedstuffs, biomass for energy production and forestry products. This includes, but is not limited to, jobs involving the design, construction and management of: bio-energy production facilities, greenhouses, food processing plants, soil management systems and erosion control structures, irrigation and drainage systems, wastewater and solid waste treatment/recycling operations, animal housing facilities, aquaculture enterprises, systems for improved air quality, and equipment for agricultural production, material handling, processing, and packaging. Job opportunities for BSE graduates remain plentiful and show no signs of decreasing given (1) the increase in world population and corresponding increasing need for food, fiber and renewable energy, (2) the measurable shortage of highly trained technical personnel in the United States, and (3) the constantly expanding emphasis on protection and conservation of natural resources.

Professors

Robert Anex, Dave Bohnhoff, Christopher Choi, Sundaram Gunasekaran, Awad Hanna, David Kammel, Krishnapuram Karthikeyan, John Ralph, Douglas Reinemann, John Shutske, Kevin Shinners, Richard Straub, Anita Thompson

Associate Professors

Xuejun Pan, Troy Runge (chair)

Assistant Professors

Rebecca Larson, Brian Luck

Staff

Department Administrator: Susan Reinen
Student Services: Betsy Wood
Payroll: Pam Spahn
Financial: Terry Meyer

Through our curriculum, BSE students have opportunities for many high-impact learning experiences including hands-on lab courses, involvement in student organizations, and BSE’s capstone design classes. Introductory engineering courses and career management courses are built into the curriculum to make sure you have a community to succeed both at UW and after you graduate.

Beyond traditional classes, our students work or perform independent study with professors not only in BSE but throughout the campus. Many campus labs and shops need students who know how to design and build systems, skills at which you will excel through your experiences in BSE. Outside the university, BSE students can take advantage of internships and co-ops, but are also in high demand for programs such as Peace Corps and Engineers without Borders. BSE has an active student organization ASABE, where students network with professionals and provide service projects to the community.

As a BSE student, you will be proud that you are contributing to the social and economic well-being of Wisconsin and beyond by designing solutions to feed and fuel the world in a sustainable manner. Many of our students go on to work in the following areas:

  • Machinery systems that support the agricultural production sector including precision agriculture, cultural and processing technology, and logistics for crop and animal production with a focus on dairy facilities and milking technology.
  • Natural resource systems that support both agricultural producers and environmental agencies in the areas of air and water quality, and waste mitigation and utilization.
  • Food production systems that support the food industry striving for improvements in food processing, safety, and security.
  • Bioprocessing systems that support bioenergy and bioproducts industries including biomass production and logistics systems, biomass conversion technologies, and forest products.

Or, you may take the skills you learn through your experiences at BSE and apply them to a brand new challenge. We are excited to see what you will do.

The BSE SHOP

The Biological Systems Engineering Shop is dedicated to providing BSE students a hands-on experience with machining equipment found throughout the production sector of industry. The shop, located at 540 Elm Drive, is open to all BSE students who have completed the shop safety form (renewed annually) and have read and understood the Shop Rules and Regulations. In addition, a yearly refresher is required which consists of watching the shop safety presentation and completing a short, yearly safety quiz. Whether you have never worked in a shop before, or already feel at home working with this type of machinery, we welcome you to the BSE Shop and want to make you feel comfortable in this learning environment.

BSE students are welcome to learn various machining and metal fabrication techniques as well as woodworking skills. These skills are aimed at improving students’ understanding of the design, fabrication, and assembly processes through one-on-one training and hands-on operation of the machines—before they enter the workforce. To operate any of the shop machines, students must first be authorized by completing the online Canvas course and provide a one-on-one, hands-on operation with the shop supervisor to demonstrate understanding of the machine’s controls and capabilities. To maintain a safe work environment, the shop is under 24-hour video surveillance. For additional details, please see Shop Info for Students

CAE Computer Lab

A dedicated student computer lab in room 217 of the Agricultural Engineering Building offers 10 computer workstations and space for group work.  These machines have the same software packages as those found in Computer Aided Engineering labs on the Engineering campus. A CAE printer is also provided.

The B1 Lounge

In the basement of the Agricultural Engineering Building is a large room with multiple tables and chairs that can be used for group study or individual work.  Department-wide social events are also held here. A microwave oven is available for student use.

Scholarships

All BSE students are encouraged to apply for CALS scholarships annually through the common scholarship application. Each year the department makes specific funding decisions for more than two dozen outstanding students. 

Accreditation.

Accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, http://www.abet.org.

Note: Undergraduate Program Educational Objectives and Student Outcomes are made publicly available at the Departmental website. (In this Guide, the program's Student Outcomes are designated by our campus as "Learning Outcomes.")