Degree Programs

The Department offers programs leading to Master of Engineering (M.E.), Master of Science (M.S.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in Biological Systems Engineering. A brief description of various degree programs in Biological Systems Engineering is presented below. More detailed information is included in the Academic Requirements section.

The Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Degree program allows advanced undergraduate students the opportunity to earn both a B.S. degree from their home department and a BSE M.S. degree. The advantage of the program is that it allows enrolled students to double-count up to 12 course credit hours (with the restrictions listed below) toward both degrees. Virginia Tech undergraduate students who have a minimum GPA of 3.40 or better on all undergraduate work, may apply for admission to the Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Degree program. A student may enter the program within the 12 month time period prior to the expected completion date of their B.S. degree.

The restrictions on these double-counted courses are that a maximum of 6 credit hours can be at the 4000 level and these courses cannot be required for the undergraduate degree. The remainder of the double-counted courses must be at the 5000-level or higher. To count these courses toward the graduate degree, the courses must be taken for an A-F grade, and the student must obtain a B or higher in each course.

Before the student can apply for the Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Degree program, a BSE graduate faculty member must have agreed to serve as faculty advisor for the student’s graduate degree. The student should work with their advisor to develop a Research Statement to be submitted as their Statement of Purpose with their graduate application. Students must submit at least two letters of recommendation with their graduate application. Students applying for this program are not required to take the GRE for admission.

Students admitted to the program must pursue the M.S. (thesis) degree. To apply for this program, students must use the electronic Graduate School Application Form and request admission into the Master of Science program for the semester (including summer) in which they will begin graduate studies. Students must complete the Graduate School’s Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Degree Program Form and submit it to the BSE Graduate Program Coordinator. The recommended dates for submitting these forms are Jan 15th for students applying for summer or fall admissions and October 1st for spring semester admissions. Any updates to this form must be submitted by the end of the semester prior to when the student will begin the graduate program.

The Master of Engineering (M.E.) degree is a non-thesis course of study designed for those who are interested in broadening their general knowledge of Biological Systems Engineering, rather than specializing in one specific area.  Although a thesis is not required for this degree program, the students are required to complete a project report.  Thirty credit hours, including 3 to 6 credit hours of Project and Report are required. This degree is not recommended for students who might be interested in pursuing a Ph.D. degree. The students in a M.E. program will not be eligible to receive research assistantships from the department.

The department offers the Master of Science (M.S.) degree with a thesis option or a non-thesis option.  For a thesis option, the student in the M.S. program will conduct independent research and will produce a thesis and defend the research findings for fulfilling the requirements of the degree.  For a non-thesis option, the student will be involved in completing a narrowly-defined research/design activity and submit a research report and make an oral presentation detailing the research findings.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the highest academic degree awarded by the University and is conferred upon a student who demonstrates outstanding original scholarship during advanced study. It signifies that the student is able to conduct independent research and has both a broad basic knowledge of all areas of the field and a comprehensive knowledge of one area. A student who wishes to qualify for the degree is expected to meet the requirements of both the Graduate School and the Department. Taking courses beyond the Master's Degree does not constitute being a "doctoral student."

Typically students enroll in the Biological Systems Engineering Ph.D. program after completing their M.S. degrees. The BSE department also offers a Direct Admit to Ph.D. (Direct Ph.D.) program. Superior students with a B.S. degree can be admitted to the Direct Ph.D. program without completing an M.S. degree. These students should have excellent academic records with a minimum grade point average of 3.5 (for the last 60 credit hours) and should be able to provide evidence of research activities to indicate their ability to synthesize information and conduct research experiments.

A student without a prior engineering degree is required to take the following two courses at either undergraduate or graduate level: Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics. The student needs to obtain a passing grade (P on a P/F scale, or C- (or better) on a letter scale).  If undergraduate level courses are to be taken, the course credits cannot be counted towards the student’s Plan of Study.  These courses can be taken anywhere that is convenient to the student prior to or after joining the BSE graduate program.  For MS students, the courses must be taken before the final MS defense exam.  For PhD students, the courses must be taken before the preliminary exam.