close-up of an implantable microchip

Biomedical engineering is the application of engineering tools for solving problems in biology and medicine. It is an engineering discipline that is practiced by professionals trained primarily as engineers, who specialize in medical and biological applications. This area of study combines fundamentals of the biomedical sciences with advanced engineering methods of analysis and design, and brings together these two fields in order to contribute to the design of new medical instruments and devices, apply engineering principles for understanding and repairing the human body and other biological systems, and use engineering tools for decision making and cost containment.

The interdisciplinary degree program offers a course of graduate study leading to the master of science or the doctor of philosophy degrees in biomedical engineering. The Department of Biomedical Engineering should be of interest to students who wish to practice engineering or engage in research in an engineering specialization in medicine and biology. An individualized course of study is planned with a faculty advisor. Biomedical engineering faculty and affiliated faculty come from the various colleges and professional schools throughout the university. They specialize in biomedical engineering areas as diverse as biomechanics, bioinstrumentation, biomedical imaging and biophotonics, micro and nanotechnology, systems biology, biomaterials, cellular engineering, tissue engineering, and neuroengineering. A list of biomedical engineering faculty, affiliated faculty, and their respective areas of specialization is available from the department website.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline September 1
Summer Deadline December 1
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in engineering (biomedical, chemical, electrical, industrial, mechanical, etc.) or science (biology, biochemistry, chemistry, genetics, immunology, physics, etc.). Each application is judged on the basis of:

All applicants must satisfy requirements that are set forth by the Graduate School. Students admitted to the program may be required to make up deficiency course requirements.

To apply to the BME program, complete applications, including supportive materials, must be submitted as described below and received by the following deadline dates:

  • Fall Semester—December 1 
  • Spring Semester—September 1 
  • Summer Session1—December 1 

1Please note that summer admissions are generally limited to continuing BME students at UW–Madison or applicants who have research assistantships already arranged with UW faculty.

Official Academic Transcript

Electronically submit one copy of your transcript of all undergraduate and previous graduate work in your online application to the Graduate School. Unofficial copies of transcripts will be accepted for review. Official copies are required after an applicant is recommended for admission. Please do not send transcripts or any other application materials to the Graduate School or the BME department unless requested. If you have questions, please contact

English proficiency test scores (if applicable)

An applicant whose TOEFL (iBT) score is below 92; TOEFL (PBT) score is below 580; or IELTS score is below 7 must take an English assessment test upon arrival. Depending on the result, an applicant may need to register for recommended English as a Second Language (ESL) courses in the first semester of enrollment.

All BME PhD students will participate in teaching during their graduate degree. International students whose native language is not English must take the SPEAK test during their first semester on campus, unless they have achieved a score 26 or greater on the speaking section of the iBT TOEFL (8.0 for the IELTS). Any recommended ESL coursework must be completed during the first year.

Three Letters of Recommendation

These letters are required from people who can accurately judge the applicant's academic or research performance. Letters of recommendation are submitted electronically to graduate programs through the online application. Applicants should not send any more than three letters (if more than three are sent, only the first three will be considered). See the Graduate School for FAQs regarding letters of recommendation.

Statement of Purpose

In this document, applicants should explain why they want to pursue further education in BME and discuss which UW faculty members they would be interested in doing research with during their graduate study. See the Graduate School for more advice on how to structure a personal statement.


Upload your resume in your application.

Application Fee

Submission must be accompanied by the one-time application fee. It is non-refundable and can be paid by credit card (Master Card or Visa) or debit/ATM. This fee cannot be waived or deferred. Fee grants are available through the Graduate School under certain conditions.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Students admitted to the BME PhD program are guaranteed financial support from the department in the form of research assistantships, teaching assistantships and fellowships. Support will continue as long as the student maintains satisfactory progress toward their degree.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 60 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 30 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
This program follows the Graduate School's GPA Requirement policy
Other Grade Requirements n/a
Assessments and Examinations PhD candidates are required to pass a comprehensive qualifying examination, preliminary examination, and final oral defense. Deposit of the doctoral dissertation to the Graduate School is required.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
Graduate School Breadth Requirement Breadth is provided via interdisciplinary training. The central aim of biomedical engineers is to unravel gaps in biological knowledge through the use of engineering principles. Thus, the doctoral program is inherently interdisciplinary. Prior to obtaining a Ph.D. warrant, students will prepare a summary of their effort in interdisciplinary coursework and training. The purpose of the summary will be to document the effort to meet the spirit of the minor requirement. The summary must be approved by the student's thesis committee and filed with the department. Students may elect to pursue a doctoral minor or Graduate/Professional certificate.


General Requirements
Research Credits (B M E 790, 890, 990)at least 30
Coursework, including:at least 25
2 semesters of B M E 7012
B M E 703 Responsible Conduct of Research for Biomedical Engineers2
One set of Ph.D. pathway requirements (credits vary; see below).21
Total Credits60

Students who follow the Ph.D. coursework guidelines should fulfill the Biomedical Engineering: Research, M.S. requirements. They may file for that degree prior to their preliminary examination.

Biomaterials & Tissue Engineering Pathway1

Biomaterials and tissue engineering employ a diverse range of approaches to develop methods to diagnose and treat diseases, create living tissue environments that may be used to restore the function of a damaged organ, and uncover biological mechanisms related to tissue development and disease. Graduate students trained in biomaterials and tissue engineering are expected to gain a detailed understanding of cellular and molecular biology, materials science, and engineering methods relevant to their research focus. 

Biology Requirement3
Fundamentals of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology
Molecular and Cellular Organogenesis
Cell Biology
Data Analysis Requirement3-4
Introduction to Biostatistics
Advanced Bioinformatics
Data Visualization
Statistical Methods for Bioscience I
Statistical Methods for Molecular Biology
Engineering Requirement9
Biological Interactions with Materials
Introduction to Tissue Engineering
Tissue Engineering Laboratory
Stem Cell Bioengineering
Engineering Extracellular Matrices
Introduction to Biological and Medical Microsystems
Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering (CRISPR Genome Editing and Engineering Laboratory)
Polymer Science and Technology
Special Topics in Chemical Engineering (Cellular Biomanufacturing)
Synthetic Organic Materials in Biology and Medicine
Biological Engineering: Molecules, Cells & Systems
Advanced Polymeric Materials
Elective credits chosen in consultation with your advisor6
Total Credits21-22

Biomedical Imaging & Optics Pathway1

Biomedical imaging and optics research develops and utilizes new experimental and computational tools to characterize tissue structure across multiple size scales. A particular focus is on human health, especially with respect to achieving superior diagnostic/prognostic tools for a spectrum of diseased states. Graduate students trained in this pathway are expected to gain a detailed understanding of mathematics, biology and engineering both optical and/or physical methods relevant to their research focus.

Mathematics Requirement 23
Applied Linear Algebra
Biology Requirement3-5
Introduction to Biochemistry
Cell Biology
Data Analysis Requirement3
Matrix Methods in Machine Learning
Computer Vision
Computational Methods for Medical Image Analysis
Engineering Requirement 9
Medical Imaging Systems
Mathematical Methods in Medical Physics
Data Science in Medical Physics
Non-Ionizing Diagnostic Imaging
Biophotonics Laboratory
Microscopy of Life
Advances in Medical Magnetic Resonance
Biological Optical Microscopy
Biomedical Optics and Biophotonics
Methods in Quantitative Biology
Radiation Physics and Dosimetry
The Physics of Medical Imaging with Ionizing Radiation
Principles of X-ray Computed Tomography
Elective credits chosen in consultation with your advisor3
Total Credits21-23

Biomechanics Pathway1

Biomechanists use experiments and computational tools to investigate the mechanical aspects of biological systems at levels ranging from whole organisms to organs, tissues, and cells. Graduate students trained in biomechanics are expected to gain a detailed understanding of mechanics, mathematics, biology, and engineering relevant to their research focus.

Mechanics 12
To provide depth, 6 credits of Biomechanics courses are required. The remaining 6 credits may be selected from either the Advanced Mechanics or Biomechanics lists.
Orthopaedic Biomechanics - Design of Orthopaedic Implants
Biomechanics of Human Movement
Finite Elements for Biological and Other Soft Materials
Special Topics in Bioinstrumentation and Medical Devices (Image-Based Biomechanics)
Tissue Mechanics
Advanced Tissue Mechanics
Advanced Mechanics
Intermediate Vibrations
Composite Materials
Experimental Vibration and Dynamic System Analysis
Intermediate Fluid Dynamics
Experimental Mechanics
Computational Fluid Dynamics
Advanced Mechanics of Materials I
Fracture Mechanics
Heterogeneous and Multiphase Materials
Mechanical Vibrations
Introduction to Finite Elements
Micro- and Nanoscale Mechanics
Mechanics of Continua
Viscoelastic Solids
Theory of Elasticity
Fundamentals of Human Physiology
Eukaryotic Molecular Biology
Biology of Heart Disease and Regeneration
Cardiorespiratory Adaptions to Environment and Exercise
Cell Biology
Elective credits chosen in consultation with your advisor6
Total Credits21-23

Medical & Microdevices Pathway1

Medical and mircodevices involve the use of electronic and computational tools to develop devices used in diagnosis and treatment of disease ranging from the systemic to the cellular and molecular levels.

Mathematics Requirement 23
Applied Linear Algebra
Ordinary Differential Equations
Analysis of Partial Differential Equations
Biology Requirement 3-5
Introduction to Biochemistry
Prokaryotic Molecular Biology
Eukaryotic Molecular Biology
Cellular and Molecular Biology/Pathology
Cell Biology
Data Analysis Requirement3-4
Introduction to Biostatistics
Introduction to Clinical Trials I
Introduction to Bioinformatics
Advanced Bioinformatics
Engineering Requirement9
Medical Instrumentation
Therapeutic Medical Devices
Introduction to Energy-Tissue Interactions
Introduction to Biological and Medical Microsystems
Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering (Introduction to Neuroengineering)
Medical Devices Ecosystem: The Path to Product
Biophotonics Laboratory
Biological Optical Microscopy
Elective credits chosen in consultation with your advisor3
Total Credits21-24

Neuroengineering Pathway1

Neuroengineering is the convergence of neuroscience, computation, device development, and mathematics to improve human health. Neuroengineering brings together state-of-the-art technologies for the development of devices and algorithms to assist those with neural disorders. It is also used to reverse engineer living neural systems via new algorithms, technologies and robotics. Students pursing this pathway are involved in all of these endeavors so as the next generation of engineers, they will transcend the traditional boundaries of neuroscience, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

Data Analysis Requirement3
Data Science Programming I for Research
Matrix Methods in Machine Learning
Image Processing
Medical Image Analysis
Engineering Requirement 9
Therapeutic Medical Devices
Stem Cell Bioengineering
Introduction to Biological and Medical Microsystems
Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering (Introduction to Neuroengineering)
Medical Devices Ecosystem: The Path to Product
Medical Instrumentation
Computers in Medicine
Biology Requirement3
Neural Basis for Movement
Principles of Motor Control and Learning
Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Systems Neuroscience
Neurobiology of Disease
Design and Analysis of Psychological Experiments I
Perceptual and Cognitive Sciences
Development of the Nervous System
Elective credits chosen in consultation with your advisor6
Total Credits21

Systems & Synthetic Biology Pathway1

Systems and synthetic biology utilizes experimental and computational tools in an iterative fashion to analyze and regulate biological systems.

Students interested in earning a doctoral minor in Quantitative Biology: enrollment in B M E 780 Methods in Quantitative Biology is a requirement. Additionally, students will need to take one additional 3-credit course in quantitative science, biology, or integrated biology/quantitative science from the approved list of courses in the doctoral minor (this course counts toward the elective credits for this pathway).

Mathematics Requirement 23
Applied Linear Algebra
Ordinary Differential Equations
Analysis of Partial Differential Equations
Biology Requirement3
Introduction to Biochemistry
Prokaryotic Molecular Biology
Eukaryotic Molecular Biology
Cell Biology
Data Analysis Requirement3
Introduction to Biostatistics
Introduction to Bioinformatics
Data Science Programming I for Research
Matrix Methods in Machine Learning
Engineering Requirement9
Introduction to Biological and Medical Microsystems
Systems Biology: Mammalian Signaling Networks
Special Topics in Biomedical Engineering (CRISPR Genome Editing and Engineering Laboratory)
Methods in Quantitative Biology
Biochemical Engineering
Intermediate Problems in Chemical Engineering
Biological Engineering: Molecules, Cells & Systems
Modeling Biological Systems
Elective credits chosen in consultation with your advisor3
Total Credits21

 Guidelines for students who earned a master's degree in another field at UW-Madison

  1. Students who have earned a master's degree in another field at UW-Madison should contact the Associate Chair of the PhD Degree to understand remaining course requirements. A maximum of 7 credits can be counted from a separate MS degree, in compliance with the Graduate School's Double Degrees policy.
  2. Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more years lose all degree credits earned before their absence. 
  3. All students with a prior master's degree will need to complete the Qualifying Exams and Preliminary Exam requirements even if coursework requirements have been met. Please discuss your specific plan with the Associate Chair of the PhD Degree.



These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.


The math requirement can be waived by a B- or better in the equivalent course in undergraduate. To request this waiver, please e-mail the Associate Chair of the PhD Degree a copy of your unofficial transcript and indicate the course you are proposing to use. The credits do not transfer; you will instead be able to take an additional 3 credits of electives.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

A student may transfer graduate coursework from other institutions with program approval. These courses may not be used toward the Graduate School's Minimum Graduate Residence Credit at UW-Madison (32 credits). Coursework earned five years or more prior to admission to the PhD program is not allowed to satisfy requirements. Reach out to the BME Graduate Coordinator for more information.

If a student earned a master's degree at another institution, the following guidelines apply:

  1. If the previous degree was a master's in BME the program may transfer up to 18 credits of PhD pathway coursework requirements. Students must fulfill the remaining pathway requirements and then meet the 32 credit minimum at UW-Madison in order to advance to dissertator status (research credits count towards this minimum).
  2. Those with a master's in other fields can earn a Master of Science in BME at UW-Madison; only 7 credits of coursework will be transferred in this case. 
  3. All students with a prior master's will still need to complete the Qualifying Exams and Preliminary Exam but may be able to do so at an accelerated pace.
  4. Master's degree credits earned five or more years prior to the initiation of the PhD program cannot be transferred. 
  5. Students should develop a list of course equivalents between their chosen pathway and courses taken at their prior institution. This list, the syllabi for all courses from the prior institution, and a copy of the unofficial transcript should be provided to the Associate Chair of the PhD Degree for determination of equivalency.

UW-Madison Undergraduate

A student who has completed their bachelor's degree at UW-Madison may transfer 6 credits of coursework with program approval. These courses must be coursework numbered 400 or above. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a Ph.D.. degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements. These courses may not be used toward the Graduate School's Minimum Graduate Residence Credit.

UW-Madison University Special

This program follows the Graduate School's policy for Transfer from UW–Madison University Special Student Career at UW–Madison.


This program follows the Graduate School's Probation policy.


Advisor: Every BME graduate student must have a faculty advisor. A faculty advisor provides the student with academic guidance in their course program and research oversight in their thesis. The advisor must be a primary BME faculty or a BME affiliate; if the advisor is a BME affiliate, the student must identify a primary BME faculty to serve as co-advisor within their first semester. Graduate students should always seek advice from their advisor and/or co-advisor prior to enrolling for courses.

Doctoral Committee: In addition to the committee requirements put forth by the Graduate School, BME has department-specific criteria that Ph.D. students must meet when forming their committees:

  • Committees consist of at least 5 members (one more than the Graduate School's requirement of four)
  • The student's advisor(s) must be on the committee
  • A minimum of two primary BME faculty must be on the committee

  • The Ph.D. committee chair must be a primary BME faculty - either the student's advisor or their co-advisor (if the advisor is an affiliate)

  • At least one member must be from outside of the primary BME faculty.

  • The Ph.D. committee chair must approve the other members of the committee and any committee changes.
  • Students must have a yearly committee meeting after passing the preliminary exam.


15 credits

Time limits

Students typically complete their degree within six years of entering the program.

Within two years of entering their program, students are required to pass a comprehensive qualifying examination.

Within three years of entering their program, students are required to prepare for a preliminary examination.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

BME Grievance Procedures

If a student feels unfairly treated or aggrieved by faculty, staff, or another student, the University offers several avenues to resolve the grievance. 

Step 1

The student is encouraged to speak first with the person toward whom the grievance is directed to see if a situation can be resolved at this level. Students are also encouraged to talk with their faculty advisors regarding concerns or difficulties, or reach out to the Graduate Student Services Coordinator or Associate Chair of BME Graduate Advising for additional assistance. These activities do not rise to the level of a formal grievance; however, the student is encouraged to keep documentation of these interactions as they may be useful if a formal grievance is pursued.

Step 2

Should a satisfactory resolution not be achieved, a formal grievance can be filed with the BME Grievance Committee. To do so, the student contacts the Department Administrator, who will provide the student with the name of the current chair of the Grievance Committee. The student will then contact the Chair of the Grievance Committee, who will reply within seven calendar days. If the grievance is with the current Chair of the Grievance Committee, please let the Department Administrator know and they will identify an alternate committee member to contact. It is advised that grievances are filed within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment to enable a thorough investigation.

Step 3

If the student does not feel comfortable working through the departmental process, they are encouraged to seek out other campus resources including: 

  • The Assistant Dean for Graduate Affairs in the College of Engineering 
  • The Graduate School 
  • UW Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement (DDEEA) 
  • McBurney Disability Resource Center 
  • Employee Assistance Office 
  • Ombuds Office
  • University Health Services 

Step 4

At this point, if either party (the student or the person toward whom the grievance is directed) is unsatisfied with the decision of the faculty committee, the party may file a written appeal. Either party has ten working days to file a written appeal to the School/College. For more information, students should consult the College of Engineering Academic Advising Policies and Procedures.

Step 5

Documentation of the grievance will be stored for at least seven years. Significant grievances that set a precedent will be stored indefinitely. The Graduate School has procedures for students wishing to appeal a grievance decision made at the school/college level. These policies are described in the Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures.



Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Program Resources

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) 

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) helps graduate students and postdoctoral researchers:

  • assess current skills, interests, and strengths;
  • make a plan for developing skills to meet academic and professional goals; and
  • communicate with supervisors, advisors, and mentors about evolving goals and related skills.

The IDP is a document to be revisited again and again, to update and refine as goals change and/or come into focus, and to record progress and accomplishments. 

The university recommends IDPs for all postdoctoral researchers and graduate students, and requires IDPs for all postdoctoral researchers and graduate students supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. See the Graduate School for more information and IDP resources.

Engineering Career Services

The Engineering Career Services staff offers assistance to students searching or preparing for internships, co-ops, and jobs with well-recognized organizations.

The Writing Center

The Writing Center is a campus-wide organization that provides free of charge, face-to-face and online consultations for students writing papers, reports, resumes, and applications.

  1. Demonstrate an ability to synthesize knowledge from a subset of the biological and physical sciences.
  2. Conduct original research.
  3. Demonstrate an ability to create new knowledge and communicate it to their peers.
  4. Foster ethical and professional conduct.


Paul Campagnola (Chair)
Randolph Ashton
David Beebe
Walter Block
Christopher Brace
Kevin Eliceiri
Shaoqin 'Sarah' Gong
Aviad Hai
Melissa Kinney
Pamela Kreeger
Wan-ju Li
Kip Ludwig
Kristyn Masters
Megan McClean
Beth Meyerand
William Murphy
Krishanu Saha
Melissa Skala
Darryl Thelen
Justin Williams
Colleen Witzenburg
Filiz Yesilkoy

Instructional Staff and Teaching Faculty

Amit Nimunkar
John Puccinelli
Tracy Jane Puccinelli
Darilis Suarez-Gonzalez
Aaron Suminski

See also Biomedical Engineering Faculty Directory.