University of Minnesota
Department of Biomedical Engineering

Go to Department of Biomedical Engineering home page.

Ph.D. Degree Requirements (OLD)

Prior to Spring 2012, the Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering requires completion of at least 33 credits of coursework, preliminary written and oral examinations, and a doctoral thesis with final defense. (Students whose degrees were in-progress in Spring 2012 can decide whether to complete this curriculum or the new one.)

Students joining the Ph.D. program with a Bachelor's degree typically graduate in 4-5 years. Those who have already completed a Master's degree can finish the Ph.D. in as little as 3 years.


Ph.D. students are required to complete at least 33 credits of coursework, which must include the following (click each item for more information):

BMEn 8000-Level Core Courses (2)

Choose TWO courses from the following list:

  • BMEn 8001 - Polymeric Biomaterials
  • BMEn 8101 - Biomedical Digital Signal Processing
  • BMEn 8201 - Advanced Tissue Mechanics
  • BMEn 8301 - Functional Biomedical Imaging
  • BMEn 8381 - Bioheat and Mass Transfer
  • BMEn 8431 - Controlled Release: Materials, Mechanisms, and Models
  • BMEn 8501 - Nonlinear Dynamics in Electrophysiology
  • BMEn 8502 - Physiological Control Systems

If additional core courses are completed, they may be counted toward other degree requirements.

Graduate Seminars or Grand Rounds (4)


FOUR total semesters of graduate seminars are required.

At least TWO semesters must be completed in the BME graduate seminar (BMEn 8601/8602; click here for the current seminar schedule). The remaining two semesters may be completed in other departmental graduate seminars.

Grand Rounds may count toward the seminar requirement with pre-approval from the Director of Graduate Studies.

Statistics (1)


ONE course in statistics is required. Recommended courses are:

  • STAT 5021 - Statistical Analysis
  • STAT 5302 - Applied Regression Analysis
  • STAT 5303 - Designing Experiments

The statistics course must be at the 5000 level or higher, unless approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Biology Electives (3)


THREE courses with a primarily biological emphasis are required.

This category may include BMEn 5501 - Biology for Biomedical Engineers, as well as courses from several other departments (e.g., Biochemistry, Microbiology, Physiology, etc.).

All biology electives must be at the 5000 level or higher unless approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.


Technical Electives (4)

Technical electives are courses offered in the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) in engineering, physical sciences, and mathematics. FOUR of these courses are required, of which:

  • TWO must be in engineering, AND
  • ONE must have a mathematical focus

Courses outside of CSE with content predominantly in engineering, physical sciences, and/or mathematics may be counted toward this requirement with pre-approval from the Director of Graduate Studies.

All technical electives must be at the 5000 level or higher unless approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Free Science/Technical Elective (1)


ONE additional course in a science or engineering field is required.

Coursework relevant to science and technology (e.g., public policy, ethical/historical aspects, etc.) may be counted toward this requirement with pre-approval from the Director of Graduate Studies.

The free elective must be at the 5000 level or higher unless approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Minor/Supporting Program

The Ph.D. electives (Biology, Technical, Free) must include a minimum of 12 credits of minor or supporting program coursework. This coursework must be completed outside BME in engineering, mathematics, the physical sciences, and/or the biological sciences.

  • If a MINOR is chosen, it will be included on the official transcript. A minor must be approved by the DGS of the program granting the minor. Students are advised to determine appropriate courses for fulfillment of minor requirements during their first semester of study.
  • If a SUPPORTING PROGRAM is chosen, it must be composed of a coherent set of courses, possibly embracing several disciplines, and should include at least one 8000-level elective. A supporting program will not appear on the transcript.
Graduate Degree Plan


After the fourth semester of study, Ph.D. students should submit a Graduate Degree Plan to the advisor, DGS, and Graduate School for approval. The Graduate Degree Plan is the formal statement of the coursework being used to satisfy degree requirements.

Along with the Graduate Degree Plan, students should also submit the Ph.D. Supplement for review by the DGS. The supplement is an internal form that shows which courses are being used toward the specific degree requirements set by the department (core courses, bio/tech electives, etc.).


Preliminary Examinations

Between the fourth and fifth semesters of study, Ph.D. students must complete the written and oral preliminary examinations. By this time all or most of the coursework should be completed.

Preliminary Examination Committee


At least one month prior to the Oral Preliminary Examination, students must assign their preliminary examination committee members online by going to the Graduate School's Forms for Doctoral Students and clicking on "Assign/Update Preliminary Oral Examining Committee."

Committee requirements are posted on the Graduate School website at

Written Preliminary Examination (WPE)


The WPE (also known as the dossier) is completed and submitted to the Graduate Program to assess the student’s ability to successfully complete a doctoral thesis.

Click here for detailed dossier information, requirements, and deadlines (pdf).

Upon passing the WPE, the student will immediately continue to the Oral Preliminary Examination (OPE).

Oral Preliminary Examination (OPE)

The OPE begins with a short presentation on the research proposal in order to establish the student's ability to formulate, describe, and conduct an original research project. The purpose of the examination is to determine whether the student has mastered the material in the major and minor/supporting fields at the level the committee deems appropriate for advancement to doctoral candidacy. Thus, it is not restricted to a discussion of the research proposal, but will include questions related to coursework in the major and minor/supporting fields.

The OPE must be passed before the drop/add deadline of the fifth semester of study so that the student can register for thesis credits (BMEn 8888) in semesters five and six.


Doctoral Thesis and Defense

After passing the OPE, students advance to doctoral candidacy and become eligible to register for thesis credits.

Thesis Credits

The Graduate School requires doctoral students to complete 24 thesis credits in order to earn the degree. After passing the OPE, BME students should register for 12 thesis credits (BMEn 8888) in each of the next two semesters.

Advanced Doctoral Status

Upon completion of all PhD coursework and thesis credits, students are eligible for Advanced Doctoral Status and, with approval of the advisor and DGS, can maintain their full-time student status by registering for just one credit of BMEn 8444 (FTE: Doctoral). This registration category is only intended for advanced PhD students who have completed all required coursework and thesis credits but are still working full-time on the research or writing of the thesis.

The Application for Advanced Doctoral Status must be submitted to the BME office prior to each semester in which the student plans to register for BMEn 8444.

Final Examination Committee


At least one semester prior to the Final Examination/Thesis Defense, students must assign their final examination committee members online by going to the Graduate School's Forms for Doctoral Students and clicking on "Assign/Update Final Oral Examining Committee."

Committee requirements are posted on the Graduate School website at

Thesis Defense/Final Examination

Upon completion of the thesis and with the approval of the committee, the doctoral candidate must complete the thesis defense, or Final Oral Examination. The examination consists of a public seminar in which the candidate presents the thesis. A closed meeting between the candidate and the appointed examining committee immediately follows the thesis presentation. The candidate is then excused, and a vote is taken. The Final Oral Examination is limited to the thesis and relevant subject areas.

The advisor is responsible for ensuring the inclusion of appropriate modifications and required revisions, if any, in the final thesis. The Final Oral Examination Report will not be signed and submitted to the Graduate School until all revisions have been made.


Degree Completion

Students should be sure to consult the Graduate School's Information for Current Doctoral Students (opens in new window). This website includes links to forms, timelines, completion and graduation procedures, thesis submission guidelines, and other information that is essential for timely completion of the degree.

Quick Links

MS and PhD Application Information

PhD Requirements

MS-Plan A Requirements

MS-Plan B Requirements

Graduate Minor


Grad Handbooks

Additional details about our MS and PhD programs, course lists, and requirements are distributed to new students in the BME Grad Program Handbook. The Handbook is updated every summer. Students should consult the Handbook for the year in which they were admitted to the program. (Handbook links will open in a new tab/window.)

2011-12 (pdf, 390KB)
2010-11 (pdf, 378KB)
2009-10 (pdf, 181KB)

2008-09 (pdf, 746KB)
2007-08 (pdf, 104KB)
2006-07 (pdf, 103KB)
2005-06 (pdf, 107KB)

If your Handbook is not listed above, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator (612-624-8396,