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College of Engineering

Biomedical Engineering

Undergraduate Degree Program
Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Curriculum

Room 2130 Engineering Centers Building, 1550 Engineering Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1609; 608-263-4660; www.bme.wisc.edu

Faculty: Meyerand (chair), Ashton, Beebe, Block, Brace, Campagnola, Chesler, Gong, Kao, Keely, Kreeger, Li, McClean, Masters, Murphy, Rogers, Saha, Thelen, Tompkins, Vanderby, Webster, Williams; Senior Lecturer: Tyler; Faculty Associates: Nimunkar, Puccinelli, and Towles. See also the BME Faculty Directory.

Biomedical engineering (BME) 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. As engineers, BMEs are engaged in design and problem solving. BMEs assert their multidisciplinary expertise for designing new medical instruments and devices, applying engineering principles for understanding and repairing the human body, and for decision making and cost containment using engineering tools. BME is an interdisciplinary profession. BMEs often work in teams consisting of engineers, physicians, biologists, nurses and therapists.

The BME undergraduate degree emphasizes engineering design in preparation for employment in biomedical industries and for graduate study. Novel aspects of the undergraduate program include design projects throughout the curriculum supervised by a faculty mentor and a committee of affiliated faculty, clinicians and biomedical industry professionals; industry cooperatives/internships; continuous advising; flexibility in engineering specialization areas; participation in program evaluation and improvement; aboard opportunities; and an option to complete an M.S. degree in just one year after the B.S. degree. The BME curriculum will also enable a student to prepare for medical school in four years.

Biomedical engineering combines engineering expertise with medical needs for the enhancement of health care. It is a branch of engineering in which knowledge and skills are developed and applied to define and solve problems in biology and medicine. Students choose the biomedical engineering field to be of service to people; for the excitement of working with living systems; and to apply advanced technology to the complex problems of medical care. The biomedical engineer is a health care professional, a group which includes physicians, nurses, and technicians. Biomedical engineers may be called upon to design instruments and devices, to bring together knowledge from many sources to develop new procedures, or to carry out research to acquire knowledge needed to solve new problems. Some of the well-established specialty areas within the field of biomedical engineering are bioinstrumentation, biomechanics, biomolecular engineering, radiological engineering, cellular engineering, tissue engineering, biomaterials, systems physiology, and rehabilitation engineering. BME students choose a course of study that emphasizes one of the following five technical areas:

Bioinstrumentation is the application of electronics, measurement principles and techniques to develop devices used in diagnosis and treatment of disease. Examples include medical instruments and devices such as the electrocardiogram, cardiac pacemaker, blood pressure measurement, hemoglobin oxygen saturation, kidney dialysis, and ventilators. Micro-electromechanical systems (BioMEMS) and micro-scale phenomena can be used to engineer systems at the cellular scale which enables the creation of new tools, instruments and methods for the quantitative study of cell biology. Neuroengineering involves using engineering technology to study the function of neural systems and the development of implantable technology for neuroprosthetic and rehabilitation applications.

Biomedical imaging designs and enhances systems for noninvasive human imaging by measuring the body's response to physical phenomena (from molecular to anatomical). Though the field has traditionally concentrated on anatomical imaging for diagnostic information, it is expanding into functional and therapeutic applications. Advanced capabilities result when fundamentals of engineering, physics, and computer technology are applied in conjunction with the expertise of clinical collaborators.

Biomechanics applies engineering mechanics for understanding biological processes and for solving medical problems at systemic, organ, tissue, cellular, and molecular levels. This includes the mechanics of connective tissues (ligament tendon, cartilage and bone) as well as orthopedic devices (fracture fixation hardware and joint prostheses), vascular remodeling (pulmonary hypertension), muscle mechanics with injury and healing, human motor control, neuromuscular adaptation (with age, injury, and disease), microfluidics for cellular applications, cellular motility and adhesion, and rehabilitation engineering (quantifying, adapting and restoring function for those who lost abilities because of a condition at birth, accident, illness, or aging).

Biomaterials/Cellular/Tissue Engineering: Biomaterials are structural materials, derived from synthetic or natural sources that interact with tissue for medical therapeutic or diagnostic purposes. A wide range of materials are employed in biomedical devices such as artificial blood vessels, cardiovascular stents, heart valves, orthopedic joints, dental fillings, catheters, and drug delivery vehicles. Understanding material properties and their interaction with the body is vital in the use of biomaterials. Biomaterials are often utilized for Cellular and Tissue Engineering. Cellular engineering is an interdisciplinary field to study or manipulate biological processes at a cellular or even molecular level (such as the cell's differentiation, proliferation, growth, migration, and apoptosis). Tissue Engineers understand structure-function relationships in normal and pathological tissues to engineer living tissues and/or biological substitutes to restore, maintain, or improve function.

Healthcare Systems aims to improve the quality of healthcare delivery or reduce medical errors, make healthcare more cost effective and competitive, design medical and health information and computer systems to be more user friendly, implement solutions to improve the safety and health of workers/employees/patients, design medical/healthcare products that actually work for intended users/recipients, and improve healthcare providers' capabilities and response times. Healthcare systems can be focused on decision science and operations research such as at the system level in manufacturing and quality control to human factors and ergonomics. The field is concerned with design, improvement, implementation of integrated systems composed of people, materials, equipment, and information.

These specialty areas frequently depend on each other. Often the biomedical engineer who works in an applied field will use knowledge gathered by biomedical engineers working in more basic areas. For example, the design of an artificial hip is greatly aided by a biomechanical study of the hip. The forces which are applied to the hip can be considered in the design and material selection for the prosthesis. Similarly, the design of systems to electrically stimulate paralyzed muscle to move in a controlled way uses knowledge of the behavior of the human musculoskeletal system. The selection of appropriate materials used in these devices falls within the realm of the biomaterials engineer. These are examples of the interactions among the specialty areas of biomedical engineering.

Undergraduate Degree Program

The 128-credit, four-year BME core curriculum is shown below. Designing and close advising are significant aspects of the new undergraduate program. Students take an advising/design project course every semester during the sophomore through senior years. A faculty member advises small teams of students, serving as their advisor/consultant/mentor, to guide them through real-world design projects solicited from clients throughout the university and from industry. Potential clients for the design projects are BME researchers, clinicians, and biomedical industry representatives. The clients serve as resources for students in their project, conduct discussions, and expose the students to various aspects of the BME field. This novel approach gives the students an exceptionally balanced education by incorporating clinical and biomedical industry issues. Students can choose to have optional coop experiences with local or national medical device manufacturers, hospitals, or laboratories.

Students transferring from other UW–Madison undergraduate programs or from outside of UW–Madison may need to make up course deficiencies. Consult Bonnie Schmidt, the transfer admissions coordinator, about transfer credits.

Students successfully completing the B.S. degree in BME, with an overall GPA of 3.0 or a GPA of 3.25 for the last 60 credits of the B.S. program are eligible to apply for the one-year M.S. degree.

Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Curriculum

The department publishes a comprehensive curriculum brochure on its website.

Freshman Year, First Semester, 15 credits

InterEgr 160 (or 111) Introduction to Engineering (a), 3 cr
Math 221 Calculus Analytic Geometry I, 5 cr
EPD 155 Basic Communication (b), 2 cr
Chem 109 General Chemistry (c), 5 cr (M)

Freshman Year, Second Semester, 17 credits

Math 222 Calculus Analytic Geometry II, 4 cr
EMA 201 Statics (d), 3 cr
Zoology 101 Animal Biology (h, i), 3 cr (M)
Chem 343 Introductory Organic Chemistry (e), 3 cr (M)
Chem 327 Fundamentals of Analytical Science (f), 4 cr

Sophomore Year, First Semester, 15 credits

BME 200 Biomedical Engineering Design (g), 1 cr
Math 234 Calculus—Functions of Several Variables, 5 cr
Phys 202 General Physics (d), 5 cr
Zoology 102 Animal Biology Lab (h, i), 2 cr (M)
EMA 303 or ME 306 Mechanics of Materials, 3 cr

Sophomore Year, Second Semester, 17 credits

BME 201 Biomedical Engineering Fundamentals and Design, 2 cr
Math 320 (or 319) Linear Algebra and Differential Equations, 3 cr
CS 302 (or CS 310), Computer Programming elective, 3 cr
Chem 345 Intermediate Organic Chemistry (f), 3 cr (M)
BME 430 Biomaterials, 3 cr
BME 310 Bioinstrumentation, 3 cr

Junior Year, First Semester, 17 credits

BME 300 Biomedical Engineering Design (g), 1 cr
Stat 371 or 571, Biostatistics elective, 3 cr
Chem 344 Introductory Organic Chemistry Lab (f), 2 cr (M)
Physiology 335 Physiology (h), 5 cr
BME 315 Biomechanics, 3 cr
Area—Required Engineering Technical Elective, 3 cr

Junior Year, Second Semester, 16 credits

BME 301 Biomedical Engineering Design, 1 cr
Liberal Studies Elective, 3 cr
EPD 397 Technical Communication (j), 3 cr
Advanced Zoology Elective (k), 3 cr (M)
Engineering Technical Elective, 3 cr
Area—Engineering Technical Elective, 3 cr

Senior Year, First Semester, 15 credits

BME 400 Biomedical Engineering Capstone Design Course, 3 cr
Liberal Studies Electives, 6 cr
Area—Engineering Technical Elective, 3 cr
Area—Engineering Technical Elective, 3 cr

Senior Year, Second Semester, 16 credits

BME 402 Biomedical Engineering Design, 1 cr
Liberal Studies Electives, 7 cr
Advanced Zoology Lab Elective or other free elective, 2 cr (M)
Advanced Biomedical Engineering Technical Elective, 3 cr
Area—Engineering Technical Elective, 3 cr

Total Required Credits: 128


(a) InterEGR 160 (or 111) is recommended for all new freshmen. Students not taking InterEgr 160 (or 111) are required to take another InterEGR course (if this GCR requirement is not waived) and an Engineering Tech Elective (3 credits) to substitute for it.

(b) Any approved Communication Part A course may be substituted for EPD 155.

(c) Chem 103 (4 cr) & 104 (5 cr) may be substituted for Chem 109. For this choice, the excess 4 cr are counted as free electives. Most med schools require one year of basic chemistry. (f)

(M) All these courses should be taken for students interested in satisfying premed requirements. Med schools have varying requirements, liberal electives, free electives, and Zoology electives can often be used to satisfy these.

(d) If Physics 201 is chosen as part of the GCR instead of EMA 201, another engineering course must be substituted for EMA 201. This engineering course can be selected from any engineering program except EPD. The excess 5cr from Physics 201 are counted as free elective credits. Physics 207–208 may be used to substitute for Physics 201–202.

(e) Chemistry 341 may be substituted by those students who are not interested in satisfying all premed requirements and who expect to take only one semester of organic chemistry (Chem 341 is not permitted as a prereq. for Chem 344/5).

(f) Either Chem 344/345 or Chem 327 (or 329) are required (the excess credit is counted as a free elective). Premeds or students interested in Biomaterials/Cellular/ Tissue Engineering should choose to take Chem 344&345. Premeds may also choose to take both Chem 109 and 327 (or 329) or alternately Chem 103&104, since many medical schools specify one year of general chemistry. UW–Madison’s medical school (and others) accepts Chem 109 as a full-year equivalent. If only taking Chem 344/345 which cannot be taken in the freshman year, students can choose another elective.

(g) BME 001, 1 cr, (or research credit) may be substituted for any of these courses. If BME 200 was missed due to a late transfer into the department, any 200-level or above additional engineering technical elective may be substituted for it.

(h) Students very serious about med school may select to replace this set of courses with Biocore 301, 303, 304, 323, 324, 333. The Biocore courses have limited enrollment and students must be accepted into this program as freshmen. Any set of Biocore courses may be taken, but Biocore 302 is not recommended and is not necessary to fulfill premed requirements. If all the other Biocore courses are taken (a total of 16 cr) including Biocore 323, this will replace the Zool 101 & 102, the Advanced Life Science Elective, Physiology 335, and EPD 397.

(i) Zoology 151 and Zoo 152 may be substituted for Zoo 101 and Zoo 102.

(j) Zoology 152 (5 cr), which satisfies Communication Part B, may be substituted for EPD 397. For the Biocore program, Biocore 304 substitutes for EPD 397. For these choices, the excess two credits are counted as free electives.

(k) Students must choose from Human Anatomy (Anatomy 328), Comparative Anatomy (Zoology 430), Introduction to Animal Development (Zoology 470), Cell Biology (Zoology 570), Comparative Physiology (Zoology 611), or Genetics (Zoology 466), or Biological Interactions (Biocore 333). 

Technical Electives

Engineering Area Technical Electives

BME majors must take 15 credits of area technical electives in one of the following five tracks (and an additional 3 credits of any advanced BME elective):

  1. Bioinstrumentation: Required area elective: ECE 230 Circuit Analysis
    Advanced BME Area technical electives: BME 462, BME 463, BME 535, BME 550
    Other area electives: any ECE course or additional advanced BME area electives
  2. Biomedical Imaging: Required area elective: ECE 330 Signals and Systems
    Advanced BME Area technical electives: BME 530, BME 568
    Other area electives: ECE 533, BME 547, BME 567, BME 573, BME 574, BME 575, BME 619
  3. Biomechanics: Required area elective: EMA 202 or ME 240 Dynamics
    Advanced BME Area technical electives: BME 505, BME 564, BME 603, BME 615
    Other area electives: any ME or EMA courses or additional advanced BME area electives
  4. Biomaterials/Tissue Engineering: Required area elective: BME 320 Transport Phenomena
    Advanced BME Area technical electives: BME 510, BME 520, BME 545, BME 550, or BME 560
    Other area electives: any CBE or MS&E courses, ME 418, BME 511, or additional advanced BME area electives
  5. Health Care Systems: Required area elective: ISyE 349: Human Factors
    Advanced BME Area technical electives: BME 564, BME 662
    Other area electives: any ISyE courses or additional advanced BME area electives

Other Engineering Technical Electives

BME majors must take 6 additional credits of engineering technical electives including InterEgr 160, if selected.

Liberal Studies Electives

The selection of courses to fulfill the 16 credits of Liberal Studies Electives follows College of Engineering Liberal Studies Guideline summarized as follows:

Students must take 16 credits that carry H, S, L, or Z breadth designators. H: Humanities, S: Social Science, L: Literature, Z: Humanities and Social Science. Note: some course may carry more than one breadth designator (i.e. Social Science and Natural Science etc.), these are not acceptable. These credits must fulfill the following sub-requirements:

  1. A minimum of two courses from the same department or program. At least one of these two courses must be above the elementary level (i.e., must have an I, A, or D level designator) as indicated in the Course Guide.
  2. A minimum of 6 credits designated as humanities (H or L or Z credit) and an additional minimum of 3 credits designated as social studies (S or Z). Foreign language courses count as H credits*.
  3. At least 3 credits in courses designated as ethnic studies (lower case "e" in the Course Guide). These credits may help satisfy regulations I or II as well, but they count only once toward the total required.

*Exception: "Retro credits," which are credits awarded by foreign language departments for successful completion of a higher level course, do not count toward this requirement, nor toward the total of 15 credits required. They are still helpful: If a student takes even one foreign language course at the intermediate level and is awarded retrocredits, then requirement I above is satisfied, because the student is judged to have achieved "depth" in liberal studies.