Jun 21, 2018  
2015-2016 Graduate Catalog 
2015-2016 Graduate Catalog

Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology: Multicampus Joint Program, PhD

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Degree Requirements

Course Work

To receive the PhD in biomedical engineering and biotechnology, the student must complete sixty-three credits, distributed as follows:

  • Required (core) courses (16 credits) and specialization courses (12 credits);
  • Directed studies (3 credits) and doctoral seminar (2 credits); and
  • Research credit (30 credits).

The student must take 16 credits

The student must take 16 credits of core courses that fall into the following areas:

  • Introduction to Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology
  • Instrumentation and Laboratory Experience
  • Applied Math for Life Sciences or Advanced Numerical Methods
  • Quantitative Physiology
  • Bioethics
  • Advanced Cell and Molecular Biology

For a complete list of biology courses offered at UMass Boston, go to Courses and search for courses with a BIOL prefix.

A minimum of 12 additional specialization credits

A minimum of 12 additional specialization credits (four courses) must be taken, subject to the approval of the student’s dissertation committee.


Students must take a minimum of 30 dissertation credits through BIOL 899 Dissertation Research .

Other Requirements


Students are required to participate in the teaching program as teaching assistants for at least two semesters. The teaching responsibility is intended to enhance the experience and skills of the PhD candidate.


To continue in the PhD program, the student must maintain a GPA of 3.0 and may not receive a grade of “C” in more than one course.

Written Comprehensive and Oral Qualifying Examinations

Students must pass two examinations before they undertake research at the doctoral level: 1) a written comprehensive examination to test the student’s command and knowledge of four specific areas of biology, and 2) a subsequent oral qualifying examination based on a) the oral description and defense of the student’s dissertation proposal, and b) comprehensive questioning focused on the four areas covered in the written exam. This exam will be administered by a student’s academic advisory committee (AAC).

The written comprehensive examination may be taken at the end of the student’s first year, or after the completion of at least 18 credits of course work; it generally should be taken by the end of four semesters or 36 credits of course work. The student will defend four areas, drawn from the array of graduate courses offered in the department or from other areas acceptable to his/her AAC and approved by the graduate committee.

A student who fails the written examination may, at the discretion of the academic advisory committee, be permitted a second and final written examination after six months. A student failing the examination a second time may either 1) withdraw from the program or 2) formally petition the AAC for permission to complete a master’s degree. A student may not continue in the PhD program after a second failure of the written examination.

Generally, the oral qualifying exam should be scheduled within one month after the submission of the dissertation proposal. In preparing for the oral examination, the student should consult with individual members of his/her AAC to discuss any deficiencies in his/her written examination. Before the oral examination is scheduled, the student must submit a brief description of his or her dissertation proposal to the AAC and the GPD and confer with members of the AAC on the soundness of the proposal.

On successfully completing the oral qualifying examination, the student becomes a candidate for the PhD degree.

Departmental Presentation

Within two semesters after the advance to candidacy, the student will present a seminar, based on his/her work in progress, to the entire department.

Dissertation Committee

After becoming a candidate for the PhD, the student must choose a dissertation advisor and committee. The dissertation committee will generally, but not necessarily, comprise the three members of his/her AAC and one member from outside the department. With the approval of the GPD and the graduate committee, faculty from outside the Biology Department or non-UMass Boston faculty will be permitted to co-sponsor a student’s dissertation work. Dissertation committees for Boston-based students must be approved by the dean of graduate studies and meet the university-wide requirements for such committees.

Dissertation Defense

A final public dissertation defense will be administered by a dissertation panel of at least five members, including a) the dissertation committee; and b) the Biology GPD or (if the GPD is already on the  dissertation committee) a member of the Biology Department Graduate Committee. The defense will be chaired by the student’s dissertation advisor and will be scheduled after the student has submitted an advance draft of the manuscript to the dissertation panel, and all members of the panel have agreed that the student is ready to defend it.

Admission Requirements

Applicants from many different science/engineering undergraduate programs are invited to apply. Because the degree brings together biomedical engineering with biotechnology, it is designed equally for students with life sciences or engineering/physical science backgrounds. One’s specific background will be of less interest in determining qualification for entrance than will be one’s personal and career goals, demonstrated academic ability and research potential, and commitment to an interdisciplinary, teamwork approach. Individuals applying to this program should apply to one of the four participating campuses.

Applications will be accepted from individuals holding appropriate bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees (or the US baccalaureate equivalents from a foreign institution). Applicants should have a background in life science, physical science, or engineering. All applicants must have taken a full year (two semesters or three quarters sequence) of calculus.

General admissions requirements for all of our graduate programs follow.

  • Submission of the graduate admissions application form.
  • A distinguished undergraduate transcript; competitive students generally have at least a 3.0 overall GPA, although lower grades can be acceptable.
  • A bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, from a four-year college or university of recognized standing.
  • Official transcripts of all graduate and undergraduate work. (One copy of each transcript must be sent directly to the University’s Office of Graduate Admissions. A final transcript showing that the bachelor’s degree has been awarded must be received before the student can enter the program.)
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • Submission of scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Combined Aptitude Test.
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL official test score) is required for international applicants. For more information regarding minimal TOEFL scores, please see “International Applicants” in the “Admissions” section of this catalog.

The stated interests of a prospective student must coincide to an acceptable degree with the faculty specialties represented in the program. The biology graduate committee in conjunction with the director of graduate programs in biology is responsible for reviewing applications and for recommending candidates to the dean of graduate studies.

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