Pitt | Swanson Engineering
Bioengineering Graduate Programs

Our graduate programs include: 

The Doctor of Philosophy Program in the Department of Bioengineering emphasizes our excellence in bioengineering research and education. 

Students pursuing the PhD degree are required to pass a preliminary examination based on their Bioengineering coursework at the end of their first year of graduate study. Students pursuing the PhD are also required to complete two, one-credit teaching practicums, and present a PhD proposal, ideally within 18 months or so of taking the preliminary exam. Each PhD candidate makes a final, public PhD thesis defense to fulfill the requirements for the PhD degree.

Credit Requirements of the PhD program:

•Grant Writing in Bioengineering - 1 credit
•Graduate Engineering Mathematics - 3 credits
•Statistics for Bioengineers - 3 credits
•Societal, Political and Ethical Issues in Bioengineering - 3 credits 

•Track Courses - 9 credits (from menu of courses for specific track)
•Graduate Electives - 6 credits
•Life Sciences - 6 credits  
•Teaching Practicum - 2 credits
•Seminar - 6 credits total, 4 credits must be Bioengineering Seminar

•Doctoral Dissertation Research- 33 credits

Total number of credit hours: 72 credits (plus the credits associated with the remedial courses, as applicable).

Preliminary Exam

The PhD Preliminary Exam is given once a year, typically in early June, and is to be taken by students pursuing the PhD degree after their first two semesters of full time course work. A student is allowed no more than two opportunities to take the preliminary examination. 

The purpose of the preliminary examination is to evaluate the student's ability to use fundamental principles of biomedical science and engineering approaches to investigate solutions to bioengineering problems.  The basis of the examination is a specific research question (problem), chosen by the student to write a proposal on.  The student may seek assistance from his/her advisor or any other faculty member for choosing the question.  The examination will consist of an oral presentation and accompanying written proposal in NIH RO3 format (see below for details.)  The written document and oral presentation should demonstrate the student's ability to think, present, and defend in an academic environment, as well as a sufficient background in the biomedical science and engineering aspects of the chosen problem.

The examinations will be coordinated within the current graduate tracks.  They will typically take place at the end of the first year of graduate studies.  The scheduling of the examinations will be handled by the track coordinators, who will also determine the suitability of the research question (problem) (having both engineering and biomedical science components).  The student may get help from anyone in preparing the oral presentation, but must observe the usual strict standards on plagiarism in preparing the written document.  Students are encouraged to focus on one to two experiments and note both alternatives and potential problems in each experiment.  Proper referencing of sources is required for both the oral and written components.  One important paper in the field must be identified in the references and made available to the reviewers, who may ask for an explanation or critique of any aspect of the paper. The research proposal may be supported by preliminary data, but this is not a requirement.   In addition, students must provide a written statement, signed by their advisor, to state what the student's contribution to their research was in the proposal document.

Rather, the examination committee is expected to probe the student with challenging questions to establish the depth of his/her creative and analytical thinking, as well as knowledge in appropriate background areas. 

The final result of the preliminary examination will be based on the combined evaluation of the written and oral components, with three possible outcomes: unconditional pass, conditional pass, and fail.  

BioE Preliminary Exam Instructions

2018 BioE Preliminary Exam Pertinent Dates

Examples of Actual NIH Grant Applications

Committee Selection 

Committees for PhD students should consist of the student's advisor (who will act as Chair of this committee,) at least two additional faculty members from within the Department of Bioengineering and at least one faculty member from outside the Department of Bioengineering. For MS students, the committee will need to consist of three faculty members total and at least two need to be member of the Bioengineering faculty. However, all three can be Bioengineering faculty as there is no requirement to have one member from outside of Bioengineering. Students are required to receive approval from the faculty Graduate Coordinator of the committee, ideally 1-2 months prior to the proposal defense. After this takes place, the student will need to obtain a "blue form" (admission to PhD candidacy form) from the Graduate Administrator, and obtain the necessary signatures at the student's proposal. After this occurs, the form will need to be returned to the Graduate Administrator for submission to the school for approval.

Committee Approval Form

PhD Proposal and Comprehensive Exam

Formal admission to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree (typically in the 3rd year) constitutes a promotion of the student to the most advanced stage of graduate study and provides formal approval to devote essentially exclusive attention to the research and the writing of the dissertation.  Note that it is a departmental requirement that students complete their proposal by the end of their third full year in the program. To qualify for admission to candidacy, students must have obtained full graduate status and have satisfied the requirement of the preliminary examination.  Note that a student does not necessarily need to have all coursework completed before completing their proposal.  The student should submit the written proposal in NIH RO1 format to the committee at least two weeks in advance of the oral defense to the approved committee. The approval of the proposal and defense of it constitutes passing the proposal and Comprehensive Examination. The committee will meet at least once a year during the remainder of his or her PhD program culminating in the Dissertation Defense. 

Once a student has completed the proposal and comprehensive exam, they may then register for 3999 credits, or "post-proposal" research credits. After the student completes 12 credits of 3999, which can easily be completed in one semester, they can then register for FTDH, or Full Time Dissertation Hours, up to and including the semester in which they graduate. Please note that no courses can be taken once a student registers for FTDH. It is important to note that students may switch into 3999 credits if the propose before the end of the add/drop period of the semester in which they complete their proposal.

Proposal Guidelines for Students

Examples of Actual NIH Grant Applications

Writing a Grant Proposal 101

Graduation info

Students are expected to be prepared to announce their dissertation defense date at least two weeks before their defense by emailing the information including the dissertation date, time, and location, the name and full title of their advisor, along with an abstract of no more than 400 words, to the Graduate Administrator, after which a notice will be sent out to the school. At the defense, the student is to prepare the ETD approval forms, the abstract, a copy of all publications (including journal articles, presentations, and proceedings,) and a copy of the PhD rubric form for each member of their dissertation committee.

Information on Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Grad Checklist
PhD dissertation rubrics
ETD approval form

The M.D./Ph.D. Program supports well-integrated basic and clinical sciences pre-doctoral training program. The training program links 17 PhD programs in six graduate schools within the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. It is important to keep in mind that MD/PhD students are working toward TWO degrees, not just "two for the price of one". However, it is recognized that some relaxation of the requirements is appropriate for these students. For example, students in the MD/PhD program exceed the basic life science requirements for the Bioengineering PhD program. However, MD/PhD students can not use their MD courses to opt out of the advanced engineering/math course requirements for the PhD. The course requirements for the MD/PhD in Bioengineering include the following:

  • Grant Writing in Bioengineering - 1 credit
  • Graduate Engineering Mathematics - 3 credits
  • Statistics for Bioengineers - 3 credits
  • Track Courses- 9 credits 
  • Graduate Electives - 6 credits
  • Doctoral Dissertation Research - 42 credits
  • Teaching Practicum - 2 credits
  • Bioengineering Seminar - 6 credits

Total number of credit hours: 72 credits (plus the credits associated with the remedial courses, as applicable). Typically, completion of the PhD portion of the program requires four years, the MD/PhD program typically requires seven years, total.


Download our Professional Master of Science in Bioengineering information sheet.

The Department of Bioengineering offers a special Professional MS in Bioengineering with an emphasis on Medical Product Engineering in conjunction with Center for Medical Innovation. The degree program emphasizes preparation for a career in the medical device industry through hands-on, practical experience in medical product design and development, development of advanced engineering skills, and instruction in professional affairs and practices in medical engineering. In essence, the program focuses on the application of engineering innovation to the identification of and solution to challenges in health care delivery in the medical industry.

The Professional MS in Bioengineering is designed to assure mastery of specific knowledge and skills, rather than random accumulation of a specified number of courses. A thorough grounding in the principles of medical device innovation and development compliant with regulatory requirements is provided through a three-semester sequence that starts with immersion in the medical/hospital environment and ends with a first-generation prototype. The curriculum also provides a strong foundation in ethics, analysis, design principles, and principles of entrepreneurship as applied to medical device innovation.

Full-time program students are required to have internship (or co-op) experience starting with their second semester until completing the program.

Fall Semester (1):
  • [Core Didactic]: BIOENG 2150 - Medical Product Ideation
  • [Elective]: BIOENG 2166 - Managing Medical Product Research & Development
  • [Elective]: Graduate Engineering Mathematics or Statistics Course*
  • [Elective]: Advanced Graduate Engineering Course*
  • [Optional]: Business/Law Course**
Spring Semester:
  • Full-Time Students are required to complete part-time internship (paid, unpaid, or for credit) with an industry partner or related entity
  • [Core Didactic]: BIOENG 2151 - Medical Product Development
  • [Core Hands-on]: BIOENG 2170 - Clinical Bioengineering 
  • BIOENG 2242: Medical Ethics*
  • [Elective]: BIOENG 2165 - Medical Product Entrepreneurship
  • [Elective]: BIOENG 2175 - Human Factors Engineering and Medical Devices
  • [Elective]: BIOENG 2230 - Cardio Organ Replacement
  • [Elective]: Advanced Graduate Engineering Course* 
Summer Semester:
  • Full-Time Students are required to complete full-time internship (paid, unpaid, or for credit) with an industry partner or related entity

Fall Semester (2):
  • Full-Time Students are required to complete part-time internship (paid, unpaid, or for credit) with an industry partner or related entity
  • [Core Hands-on]: BIOENG 2171 - Medical Product Prototyping
  • BIOENG 2241: Medical Ethics*
  • [Elective]: Advanced Graduate Engineering Course*
  • [Elective]: Advanced Graduate Engineering Course*
  • [Optional]: Business/Law Course**

While the typical three-semester sequence focuses heavily on medical product design and development, the student has an opportunity to develop depth in an area of interest through proper choice of the four Advanced Graduate Engineering Courses. The Optional Business/Law Courses are directed toward gaining an appreciation for the special entrepreneurial and law challenges associated with the typical small businesses that are on the forefront of medical product engineering and will qualify the student to earn the  Graduate Certificate in Medical Product Innovation  as well as the Professional MS.

Admission to the Professional MS in Bioengineering program is by application only. Class size is limited. Accepted students will have a curricular advisor and a project advisor to guide the student's individualized educational experience. Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA to remain in good standing in the program. The Professional MS in Bioengineering is not intended for students pursuing the PhD and admission to the program does not guarantee continuation on to the PhD program. Students interested in pursuing the PhD must complete the PhD application process.


Download our Graduate Certificate in Medical Product Innovation information sheet.

The Graduate Certificate in Medical Product Innovation (C-MPI), offered by the Department of Bioengineering in conjunction CMI is multi-faceted, reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of medical innovation, with the objectives:

1) To educate engineering graduate students at the MS and PhD levels in clinical, engineering, business, and legal aspects of the medical device design and development process;
2) To educate students of the health sciences (residents, fellows and clinicians) in engineering, business, and legal methodologies in identifying and developing innovative solutions to their problems;
3) To educate law students in engineering methodology, regulatory constraints, medical device intellectual property, and commercialization aspects of medical innovation;
4) To educate business (MBA) students in clinical, engineering, regulatory, and legal aspects of medical innovation and entrepreneurship; and
5) To train all of the above disciplines in the art of working in multi-disciplinary teams to accomplish the medical innovation process, from medical technology ideation, through development, to realization and commercialization.

Certificate candidates must complete a minimum of 5 courses (15 credits) drawn from the following:
Medical Product Innovation (2 courses)
BIOENG 2150 - Medical Product Ideation
BIOENG 2151 - Medical Product Development

Entrepreneurship/Engineering Management (select one from)
BSEO 2531 - Entrepreneurship and New Venture Initiation
BSPP 2111 - Commercializing New Technologies
IE 2003 - Engineering Management
IE 2039 - Entrepreneurship for Engineers
IE 2076 - Total Quality Management

Legal Aspects of Medical Product Engineering (select one from)
LAW 5135 - Commercializing New Technologies
LAW 5210 - Patent Law
LAW 5260 - Intellectual Property
LAW 5631 - Law and Entrepreneurship

Medical Ethics (select one from)
BIOENG 2241 - Societal, Political, and Ethical Issues in Biotechnology
BIOETH 2661 - Theoretical Foundations
BIOETH 2664 - Bioethics

Students currently enrolled in any graduate program in the University (MS, MBA, JD, PhD, etc) are eligible to obtain the C-MPI upon completion of the Certificate requirements. No formal admissions process is required. Post-baccalaureate and post-professional students interested only in obtaining the C-MPI need to apply to the Department of Bioengineering for admission to the Certificate program.


To apply, please visit the Graduate Admissions Page on the Swanson School of Engineering website.

To schedule a meeting with Dr. Kilichan Gurleyik make an appointment using his Acuity Scheduling Calendar

For questions on CMI Research contact Dr. Alan Hirschman at alh138@pitt.edu


Download our Professional MS in Bioengineering - focus on Neural Engineering information sheet.

Program Coordinator: Prof. Neeraj Gandhi (msne@pitt.edu)


Pitt is a recognized leader in the emerging discipline of Neural Engineering. Our core faculty and clinical collaborators offer courses that prepare students to work in this exciting and dynamic field. Neural Engineering, which encompasses neural prosthetics, brain-computer interface systems, epilepsy monitoring, deep brain stimulation, engineering approaches to psychiatric disorders, and brain-inspired computation and device design, is a fast-growing field that provides clinical and technological benefits.

The program is offered by Pitt’s nationally ranked Department of Bioengineering (#18 U.S. News and World Report). Instruction will be in-person and online. The 30-credit program can be completed in one year of full-time study. Students will garner a deep knowledge of the biology of the nervous system, and how, from an engineering perspective, to treat disorders, build clinical devices, and build computational models. The non-thesis program is designed to provide excellent training for industry in Neural Engineering or related fields such as Medical Devices or Data Science.


Neural engineering students will pursue didactic coursework that builds core competency in at least two of the following areas:

  • Brain-computer interfaces
  • Neural tissue interface
  • Neural imaging and signals
  • Neural devices and neuromorphic engineering

The concentrations for core competency will be selected in consultation with the program director and will take into consideration the student’s previous training and career aspirations.


  • 12 credits in Concentration 1
  • 9 credits in Concentration 2
  • 3 credits in life sciences
  • 3 credits in Mathematics/Statistics
  • 3 credits in Medical Ethics
Concentration Area: Brain-Computer Interfaces
Class Number Class Name Semester (typically)
BIOENG 2186 Neural Engineering Fall
CMU 42-595 Neural Data Analysis Fall
ECE 2195 Machine Learning Fall
BIOENG 2650 Learning and Control of Movement Spring
CMU 42-590 Neural Signal Processing Spring
BIOEN 2586 Quantitative Neuroscience Spring
ECE 3195 Advanced Machine Learning & Deep Learning Spring
Concentration Area: Neural Tissue Interface
Class Number Class Name Semester (typically)
BIOENG 2615 Introduction to Neural Engineering Fall
BIOENG 3735 Extracellular Matrix Tissue Engineering Fall
BIOENG 2540 Neural Materials & Tissue Engineering Spring
BIOENG 2810 Biomaterials and Biocompatibility Spring
Concentration Area: Neural Signals & Systems
Class Number Class Name Semester (typically)
BIOENG 2005 RF Medical Devices Fall
BIOENG 2505 Multimodal Imaging Fall
BIOENG 2330 Biomedical Imaging Fall
BIOENG 2340 Introduction to Medical Imaging & Image Analysis Fall
ECE 2390 Image Processing & Computer Vision Fall
BIOENG 2630 Methods in Image Analysis Spring
ECE 2523 Digital Signal Processing Spring
Concentration Area: Neural Devices & Neuromorphic Engineering
Class Number Class Name Semester (typically)
BIOENG 2005 RF Medical Devices Fall
BIOENG 2150 Medical Product Ideation Fall
ECE 2192 VLSI Design Fall
BIOENG 2151 Medical Product Development Spring
BIOENG 2170 Clinical Bioengineering Spring
BIOENG 2175 Human Factors Engineering & Medical Devices Spring
ECE 2264 Flexible Electronics Spring
Life Science Course
Class Number Class Name Semester (typically)
NROSCI 2005 Cognitive Neuroscience (Olson) Fall
NROSCI 2039 Processing in Neural Circuits (Runyan) Spring
BIOENG 2586 Quantitative Neuroscience (Batista) Spring

Math/Statistics Course –many options available each semester; too many to list


Research M.S. Program (Thesis)

 The Research MS program requires a total of 31 credits, which includes:

  • Graduate Engineering Mathematics - 3 credits 
  • Statistics for Bioengineers - 3 credits 
  • Societal, Political and Ethical Issues in Bioengineering - 3 credits
  • Life Sciences - 3 credits 
  • Track Courses - 9 credits 
  • MS Thesis - 6 credits
  • Teaching Practicum - 1 credit
  • Bioengineering Seminar - 3 credits

Total - 31 credits

Other required courses may be tailored to the student's background and interests. Typically, completion of the Research MS program requires two years. Within the first year of enrollment (preferably within the first semester), the MS candidate is expected to finalize the general area in which he/she will write a thesis and an advisor who will guide the work. By the third semester of enrollment, the student is to prepare a Master's Thesis, following University requirements for Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs.)   The student (under the guidance of his/her advisor) selects a thesis committee of three or more persons.  For MS students, the committee will need to consist of three faculty members total and at least two need to be member of the Bioengineering faculty. However, all three can be Bioengineering faculty as there is no requirement to have one member from outside of Bioengineering. The committee should consist of the student's advisor (who will act as Chairman of this committee), at least one additional faculty member from within the Department of Bioengineering and at least one faculty member from outside the Department of Bioengineering. The committee meets at least once per year and oversees the Thesis Defense.

The MBA/Master of Science (MS) in Engineering Dual Degree Program, offered jointly by the University of Pittsburgh's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and School of Engineering, positions individuals with an undergraduate degree in engineering or the hard sciences to take a management role in a company that has a significant engineering and/or technological focus. To apply visit The Katz MBA/MS Engineering Dual Degree Program

The Department of Bioengineering and the Katz Graduate School of Business offer a dual MBA/MS program, with the following requirements. Please note that these are only the requirements for the Professional MS half of the MS/MBA in Bioengineering and does not include the requirements of the entire program:

Foundation Courses  

  • BQOM 2401 - Statistical Analysis: Uncertainty, Prediction & Quality Improvement (3 credits)
  • BIOE 2241 - Societal, Political, Ethical Issues in Biotechnology (3 credits)
  • Graduate Engineering Mathematics (3 credits)
  • Life Sciences (6 credits)   

Bioengineering Track Courses  

  • Primary Track* - 9 credits from one of six tracks
  • Secondary Track - 3 credits from one other track  

Bioengineering Seminar  

  • All students must register to audit the one-credit seminar each term that they are enrolled full-time.

Projects Course  

  • Joint with KGSB (3 credits)

* The requirement of track courses implies that students would choose a specialty focus or "track" within Bioengineering, which currently consists of Biomechanics, Biosignals and Imaging, Cellular and Organ Engineering, Medical Product Engineering, Rehabilitation and Human Movement, Neural Engineering, Biophysics and Physiology. With the adviser's approval, students could take courses from multiple tracks that either logically fit together or helped fulfill the student's educational objectives.


The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) - PhD in Bioengineering program combines the entry-level DPT leading to licensure as a physical therapist, with a PhD in Bioengineering that will prepare the student to become an independent researcher. The program will integrate clinical and research experiences, with students receiving mentorship from faculty in the departments of Physical Therapy and Bioengineering. Students should have a Bachelor's degree or higher in engineering or engineering-related discipline, with a strong interest in physical therapy.

Contact Information

Patrick Sparto, PhD, PT
Co-Director, DPT-PhD Program
Department of Physical Therapy
Bridgeside Point 1, Suite 210
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-3130
Phone: 412-647-8069
Fax: 412-648-5970
E-mail: psparto@pitt.edu


Application Process

Applications will need to be submitted through the PT Centralized Application Service ( PTCAS ) by December 1 for admission to the program the following June. The application is reviewed by faculty in both departments.

Admission Requirements
Students will need to meet the admission requirements of both programs. Applicants must have a minimum of a Bachelor's degree in a field of engineering or closely related (e.g. physics, or applied mathematics, kinesiology). Applicants must demonstrate evidence of exposure to the field of PT through volunteer or work experience. Applicants must submit 4 letters of reference: one physical therapist with whom the student has volunteered or worked for, two academic advisors, and one work supervisor. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required but competitive applicants typically have a 3.5 GPA or greater. Applicants must take the GRE exam; typically, admitted students have GRE scores greater than the 50th percentile.

Curriculum Overview
Students will follow the typical plan of study for DPT students for the initial seven semesters (i.e. 2 1/3 years) of the program. Then students will follow the plan of study for PhD students. Clinical internships and research experiences will be performed throughout the program. At a minimum, the program will take 6 years to complete.  After completing the didactic and clinical requirements of the DPT program, the student will be allowed to take the licensing exam. Students are required to write and orally defend a dissertation to complete their PhD degree.

DPT Curriculum  

The course requirements for the DPT include the following:
  • Basic Science (Anatomy, Neuroscience, Exercise Physiology, Pharmacology)
  • Clinical Science (Kinesiology, Musculoskeletal PT, Neuromuscular PT, Cardiopulmonary PT, Patient Management, Human Disease, Geriatrics Growth and Development)
  • Critical Inquiry (Research Methods, Evidence-Based Practice) 
  • Leadership and Professional Development
  • Clinical Education

Students are required to pass a written comprehensive examination before the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree can be awarded. The written comprehensive examination is a cumulative examination covering the core clinical sciences and focusing on physical therapy practice.

PhD Requirements

The course requirements for the PhD in bioengineering for the combined program include the following:

  • Grant Writing in Bioengineering-1 credit

  • Bioengineering Track Courses-9 credits
  • Graduate Electives-6 credits
  • Seminar-6 credits total, 4 credits must be Bioengineering Seminar
  • Graduate Engineering Mathematics-3 credits
  • Statistics for Bioengineers-3 credits
  • Societal, Political, and Ethical Issues in Bioengineering-3 credits
  • Teaching Practicum-2 credits
  • Doctoral Dissertation Research-39 credits

Total number of credit hours: 72 credits minimum (plus the credits associated with the remedial courses, as applicable.) Students typically take the PhD preliminary exam after their first year in the program, and PhD proposal (comprehensive examination) is presented generally at the end of the second year. A final public PhD defense is made by each PhD candidate based on the student's research work.