Rapid technologically driven advances in understanding and treating human disease have opened up vast opportunities to advance human health through research that integrates engineering, basic sciences, medical sciences, and knowledge of industry practices. The doctoral program will prepare leaders in bioengineering in this broader, integrative sense of the discipline. A major distinguishing feature of the curriculum is its emphasis on understanding how biomedical technology is translated from bench to bedside. Graduates from this program will eventually serve at universities, industry or government in a variety of roles, including scientific research, technology development, and regulatory affairs.

Available Concentrations

Four concentration areas are offered, aligned with current faculty research expertise:

  • Biomedical Imaging and Devices
  • Computational Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials and Nanomedicine
  • Neurotechnology and Computational Neuroscience

Admissions

Application Requirements

In addition to fulfilling Mason's admission requirements for graduate study, applicants should:

  • Have a baccalaureate degree in engineering or the sciences from an accredited program with a reputation for high academic standards and an earned GPA of 3.3 or better in their highest-level engineering-related credits.
  • Provide official GRE Scores.
  • Provide three letters of recommendation, preferably from academic references or references in industry or government who are familiar with the applicant's aptitude for research.
  • Provide a resume and detailed statement of career goals and professional aspirations, including why they want to study at Mason, and two faculty with whom they want to work with.
  • Demonstrate interest in combining engineering and the natural sciences with discovery and application in the life science; i.e., via a degree which reflects the desired combination (such as bioengineering, biomedical engineering, biophysics); a degree in engineering or the natural sciences which includes course work in life sciences; a degree in biology which includes course work in mathematics, physics, or engineering; a project or research experience with combined complementary expertise.
  • If their native language is not English, students must take the English Proficiency exam. Test score minimum requirements are available at https://www2.gmu.edu/admissions-aid/how-apply/graduate/standardized-test-information

Policies

Reduction of Credit

Students must complete a minimum of 72 graduate credits, which may be reduced by a maximum of 30 credits from a related master's degree. Reduction of credit requires the approval of the program director or designee and the dean or designee of the school. They determine how many credits are eligible for the reduction of credit.

For students to remain eligible for the PhD program, they must maintain a "B" average. Grades of "C" or lower in courses cannot be counted towards degree completion.

Program Requirements

The bioengineering PhD program requires successful completion of coursework detailed in a plan of study, qualifying examination, dissertation proposal, and final dissertation defense. Additional training requirements include seminar attendance, ethics training, and mentoring and teaching experience.  All the general requirements for doctoral degrees at Mason apply to this program as well.

Banner Code: VS-PHD-BIOE

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72

Complementary Background

Students choose 6 credits of complimentary courses 16
Students with a background in engineering or related field select:
Molecular Cell Biology for Bioinformatics
Chemistry and the Brain
Students with a background in a non-engineering or related field select:
Numerical Analysis I
Numerical Methods in Engineering
Quantitative Foundations for Systems Engineering
Total Credits6

Core Bioengineering

BENG 501Bioengineering Research Methods 13
BENG 514Pathophysiology and the Role of New Technologies in Human Diseases 13
BENG 575Intellectual Property, Regulatory Concepts and Product Development 13
BENG 601Collaborative Bioengineering Basic Science Research 3
BENG 602Collaborative Bioengineering Clinical Science Research 3
STAT 554Applied Statistics I 23
or STAT 535 Analysis of Experimental Data
or STAT 560 Biostatistical Methods
BENG 800Bioengineering Colloquium 33
Total Credits21

Concentrations

Select one concentration and complete the requirements therein.

Biomedical Imaging and Devices (BMID)

BENG 538Medical Imaging3
BENG 537Medical Image Processing3
or BENG 570 Bioinstrumentation and Devices II
BENG 738Advanced Medical Image Processing3
Total Credits9

Computational Biomedical Engineering (CBME)

BENG 520Biomedical Data Analytics3
BENG 530Continuum Biomechanics and Biotransport II3
BENG 535Multi-Scale Modeling and Simulation in Biomedicine3
Total Credits9

Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (BNM)

BENG 521Cell and Tissue Engineering3
BENG 541Biomaterials3
BENG 641Advanced Nanotechnology in Health3
Total Credits9

Neurotechnology and Computational Neuroscience (NTCN)

BENG 526Neural Engineering3
NEUR 634Neural Modeling3
NEUR 689Topics in Neuroscience3
Total Credits9

Technical Electives

These graduate courses develop additional technical expertise in a student's PhD concentration. Students must choose 12 credits from the following list. At least half of the selected classes must be at the 600-700 level.

Technical Specialization12
Bioengineering
Advanced Topics in Bioengineering
Computational Motor Control
Advanced Medical Image Processing
Biomedical Systems and Microdevices
Modeling and Simulation of Human Movement
Electrical, Computer & Mechanical Engineering
Computer Architecture
Introduction to Random Processes in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Sensor Engineering
System Engineering Design
Adaptive Signal Processing
Foundations of Fluid Mechanics
Bioinformatics
Biomolecular Modeling
Numerical Methods for Bioinformatics
Systems Biology
Protein Structure Analysis
Introduction to Biophysics
Introduction to Computer Simulations of Biomolecules
Biochemical and Cellular Systems Modeling
Machine Learning for Bioinformatics
Biology and Chemistry
Personalized Medicine
Virology
Cancer Genomics
Human Genetics
General Biochemistry
Advanced Eukaryotic Cell Biology
General Biochemistry I
Bioorganic Chemistry
Modern Polymer Chemistry
Protein Biochemistry
Physics
Computational Physics I
Physics of Modern Imaging
Finite Element Analysis of Solids and Fluids
Applied Mechanics of Solids
Applied Fluid Mechanics
Mathematics and Statistics
Numerical Analysis
Experimental Design
Applied Multivariate Statistics
Applied Regression Analysis
Multivariate Statistical Methods
Statistical Learning and Data Analytics
Nanoscience and Neuroscience
Developmental Neuroscience
Cellular Neuroscience
Molecular Neuropharmacology
Computational Neurobiology
Total Credits12

Qualifying Examination

All students entering the Bioengineering PhD program are expected to pass a qualifying exam any time within the first year. The goal of the qualifying exam is to test the student's preparation to undertake doctoral level research.

A committee consisting of the student's advisor and at least two other members of the bioengineering graduate faculty will administer the exam. At least one of the faculty in the Qualifying Exam Committee must be from the bioengineering core faculty. The exam will test the student's research competency as well as knowledge of core bioengineering concepts and competency in complementary areas. The exam will consist of a written research report submitted by the student, a research presentation by the student based on the report, and an oral exam by the committee.

Upon starting the PhD program, the student in consultation with their advisor will define a plan of study and a research topic for the qualifying exam. The topic could be a short original research project, or a review of relevant research in the student's area. The qualifying exam committee will provide the student a list of readings that the student is expected to master. The student will be expected to submit a research report to the committee and give a research presentation. The report and presentation should demonstrate the student's ability to articulate a research question or a testable hypothesis, an understanding of the significance of the work informed by a critical review of the relevant literature, an understanding of the relevant research methods, and the ability to analyze and interpret relevant data. Following the research presentation, the committee will administer a closed-door oral exam that will probe in depth of the student's understanding of the relevant concepts.

The Bioengineering PhD Committee will review the plan of study, the recommendation of the qualifying exam committee and the students' academic record. Based on this information, the PhD Committee will determine whether or not the student is qualified for the PhD program. If the student does not qualify on their first try, they will be allowed to repeat the exam in the following semester, but the same committee will administer the exam. A student who fails to qualify on their second try will be removed from the program.

Dissertation Proposal

Each student must prepare a written dissertation proposal. While preparing this proposal, the student enrolls in BENG 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal. The proposal must be made available to the committee at least two weeks in advance of the presentation. The proposal must be presented to and approved by the dissertation committee. The committee determines whether the proposal has merit and can lead to significant contributions to the area and whether the student has the knowledge and skills to complete the proposed work successfully and in a timely manner. Students may present their dissertation proposal only after passing the qualifying exam, and the presentation may not be on the same day as the qualifying exam. If the student fails to defend the proposal, the student may present a dissertation proposal a second time at a later date. Failure in the second attempt results in dismissal from the program. On completing this requirement successfully, the student is advanced to candidacy for the PhD degree.

Advancement to Candidacy

Each student must present and defend a written dissertation proposal to advance to candidacy. The student is eligible to advance to candidacy after passing the qualifying exam, and satisfactorily completing the required courses in an approved plan of study filed by the student, and completing a minimum of 6 credits of BENG 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal. All students must advance to candidacy within four years after initial enrollment in the program, unless special waiver is granted by the PhD committee for extenuating circumstances. If the student has not demonstrated satisfactory progress to the PhD committee by the end of the 4th year, they can be terminated from the program.

The proposal should at a minimum clearly articulate the research question and the specific aims of the research, provide a critical review of the literature and present the rationale and the significance of the research in addressing a gap in scientific knowledge, describe the research methods and study design in sufficient detail and present preliminary results demonstrating the feasibility of the research.

The proposal must be made available to the committee at least two weeks in advance of the presentation. The committee determines whether the proposal has merit and can lead to significant original contributions to the area.

Following the research presentation, the dissertation committee will ask the students a number of questions in a closed session to evaluate the students understanding of the relevant literature and methods that are broadly related to the chosen area of research, and whether the student has the knowledge and skills to complete the proposed work successfully and in a timely manner. If the dissertation committee feels that the student is not adequately prepared, they may recommend remedial measures, including additional coursework to address any gaps in knowledge, or modification of the aims of the proposal. The student can appear for advancement to candidacy a second time anytime within one year. Failure in the second attempt results in dismissal from the program. On completing this requirement successfully, the student is advanced to candidacy for the PhD degree.

Dissertation Research

Students are expected to complete 24 credits of BENG 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and BENG 999 Doctoral Dissertation towards their degree. Students cannot enroll in BENG 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal before they have passed the qualifying exam. Students cannot enroll in BENG 999 Doctoral Dissertation before they have advanced to candidacy. Students who advanced to candidacy after the add period for a given semester must wait until the following semester to register for BENG 999 Doctoral Dissertation. Students cannot advance to candidacy and defend their dissertation during the same semester. In special cases, waivers may be granted by the PhD committee. Once enrolled in BENG 999 Doctoral Dissertation, students must maintain continuous registration in BENG 999 Doctoral Dissertation each semester until graduation, excluding summers. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of BENG 999 Doctoral Dissertation during that summer term.

Select 24 credits from the following:24
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal (9 credit minimum, 12 credit maximum)
Doctoral Dissertation (12 credit minimum)
Total Credits24

Dissertation Committee Selection

Each student must form a dissertation committee, comprising four or five individuals, including the members selected for the qualifying exam. A minimum of two members of the committee must be tenured or tenure-track faculty in the Department of Bioengineering. One member must be from outside the department. The chair of the dissertation committee must be tenured or tenure-track faculty in the Department of Bioengineering. The dissertation director can be a member of the Bioengineering graduate faculty with primary appointment outside of the Department of Bioengineering. The committee and the chair must be approved by the chair of the Department of Bioengineering.

Dissertation Preparation and Defense

While preparing the dissertation, the candidate enrolls in BENG 999 Doctoral Dissertation. The candidate can proceed to a public defense of the dissertation once their dissertation has been approved by the dissertation committee.

The dissertation must make significant contributions to its area as evidenced by refereed journal and/or conference publications. All students are expected to defend their dissertation within three years after defending their proposal, unless special waiver is granted by the PhD committee for extenuating circumstances.

The defense must be announced at least two weeks in advance. The dissertation draft must be submitted to the library and made publicly available at least two weeks in advance of the defense. The entire dissertation committee must be present at the defense, unless an exception is approved by the director of the PhD in Bioengineering Program in advance of the defense. If the candidate fails to defend the dissertation, the candidate may request a second defense, following the same procedures as for the initial defense. There is no time limit for this request other than general time limits for the doctoral degree. A candidate who fails a second attempt to defend the dissertation is terminated from the program.

Additional Training Requirements

Bioengineering Seminar

All PhD students are required to attend a minimum of 3 departmental seminars per semester. Students will sign an attendance sheet available at the end of each seminar.

Ethics Training

Prior to beginning research studies in a Bioengineering laboratory, all PhD students must complete the on-line Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Responsible Conduct of Research course. CITI training modules provide students with an understanding of conflicts of interest, research misconduct, peer review, and authorship.

Bioengineering Mentorship

All PhD students are required to participate in mentoring at least one undergraduate Bioengineering senior design team for a duration of 1 year. PhD students work with the faculty advisor for the senior design team and are expected to apply translational and entrepreneurial concepts towards the mentorship of the team.

Teaching Requirement

All PhD students are required to participate in teaching activities in consultation with their major advisors. Teaching opportunities include presenting lectures, conducting recitation sessions, serving as a teaching assistant, working as a laboratory assistant, participating in teaching workshops, preparing course materials, and other related activities approved by the student's advisor.