Stanford School of Medicine
Course Catalog



Russ Altman, MD, PhD

Department web site:

Faculty of Bioengineering:

Department Offices:

Clark Center, Room S-166
Mail Code: 5444
318 Campus Drive
Stanford, CA 94305-5444
(650) 736-2254

Courses offered by the Department of Bioengineering have the subject code BIOE.

Bioengineering is jointly supported by the School of Engineering and the School of Medicine. The facilities and personnel of the Department of Bioengineering are housed in the James H. Clark Center, the Allen Center for Integrated Systems, the William F. Durand Building for Space Engineering and Science, the William M. Keck Science Building, the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building and the Richard M. Lucas Center for Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and Imaging.

The departmental headquarters is located in the James H. Clark Center for Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, along with approximately 600 faculty, staff, and students from more than 40 University departments. The Clark Center is also home to Stanford's Bio-X program, a collaboration of the Schools of Engineering, Medicine, Humanities and Sciences, and Earth Sciences.

Courses in the teaching program lead to the degrees of Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy. The department collaborates in research and teaching programs with faculty members in Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and departments in the School of Medicine. Quantitative biology is the core science base of the department. The research and educational thrusts are in biomedical computation, biomedical imaging, biomedical devices, regenerative medicine, and cell/molecular engineering. The clinical dimension of the department includes cardiovascular medicine, neuroscience, orthopaedics, cancer care, neurology, and environment.



The department offers an undergraduate major in Bioengineering (BioE). Completion of the undergraduate program in Bioengineering leads to the conferral of the Bachelor of Science in Engineering. The subplan "Bioengineering" appears on the transcript and on the diploma.

The Bioengineering (BioE) major enables students to combine engineering and the life sciences in ways that advance scientific discovery, healthcare and medicine, manufacturing, environmental quality, culture, education, and policy. Students who major in BioE earn a fundamental engineering degree for which the raw materials, underlying basic sciences, fundamental toolkit, and future frontiers are all defined by the unique properties of living systems. Students will complete engineering fundamentals courses, including an introduction to BioE and computer programming. A series of core BioE classes beginning in the second year leads to a student-selected depth area and a capstone senior BioDesign project. The department also organizes a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. BioE graduates are well prepared to pursue careers and lead projects in research, medicine, business, law, and policy.

For additional information, see the Handbook for Undergraduate Engineering Programs at


This option is available to outstanding Stanford undergraduates who wish to work simultaneously toward a BS in another field and an MS in Bioengineering. The degrees may be granted simultaneously or at the conclusion of different quarters, though the bachelor's degree cannot be awarded after the master's degree has been granted. The University minimum requirements for the coterminal bachelor's/master's program are 180 units for the bachelor's degree plus 45 unduplicated units for the master's degree. Students may apply for the coterminal BS and MS program after 120 undergraduate units have been completed and they must be accepted into the program one quarter before receiving the BS degree. Students should apply directly to the Bioengineering Student Service Office by December 3, 2012. Sstudents interested in the coterminal degree must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE); applications may be obtained at Prospecitve applicants should see the application form, instructions, and supporting documents at; University regulations and forms concerning coterminal degree programs are available at

The application must provide evidence of potential for strong academic performance as a graduate student. The application is evaluated and acted upon by the graduate admissions committee of the department. Students are expected to enter with a series of core competencies in mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, computing, and engineering. Typically, a GPA of at least 3.5 in engineering, science, and math is expected.


The University's requirements for the MS and PhD degrees are outlined in the "Graduate Degrees" section of the Stanford Bulletin.

Students are expected to enter with a series of core competencies in mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, computing, and engineering. Students entering the program are assessed by the examination of their undergraduate transcripts and research experiences. Specifically, the department requires that students have completed mathematics through multivariable calculus and differential equations, completed a series of undergraduate biology courses (equivalent to BIO 41 Genetics, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology, BIO42 Cell Biology and Animal Physiology series) and completed physics, chemistry, and computer sciences courses required of all undergraduate majors in engineering.

Qualified applicants are encouraged to apply for predoctoral national competitive fellowships, especially those from the National Science Foundation. Applicants to the PhD program should consult with their financial aid officers for information and applications.

The deadline for receiving applications is December 3, 2012.

Further information and application forms for all graduate degree programs may be obtained from Graduate Admissions, the Registrar's Office,


The Master of Science in Bioengineering requires 45 units of course work. The curriculum consists of core bioengineering courses, technical electives, seminars and unrestricted electives. Core courses focus on quantitative biology and biological systems analysis. Approved technical electives are chosen by the student in consultation with his/her graduate advisor, and can be selected from graduate course offerings in mathematics, statistics, engineering, physical sciences, life sciences, and medicine. Seminars highlight emerging research in bioengineering and provide training in research ethics. Unrestricted electives can be freely chosen by the student in association with his/her advisor.

The department's requirements for the MS in Bioengineering are:

  1. Core Bioengineering courses (9 units); the following courses are required:

    BIOE 300A Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering
    BIOE 300B Physiology and Tissue Engineering
    BIOE 301A Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering Lab
    BIOE 301B Clinical Needs and Technology

    These courses, together with the approved technical electives, should form a cohesive course of study that provides depth and breadth.

  2. Approved Technical Electives (26 units): these units must be selected from graduate courses in mathematics, statistics, engineering, physical science, life science, and medicine. They should be chosen in concert with the bioengineering courses to provide a cohesive degree program in a bioengineering focus area. Students are required to take at least one course in some area of device or instrumentation. Up to 9 units of directed study and research may be used as approved electives.

  3. Seminars (4 units): the seminar units should be fulfilled through BIOE 390, Introduction to Bioengineering Research and BIOE 393, Bioengineering Departmental Research Colloquium. Other relevant seminar units may also be used with the approval of the faculty advisor. One of the seminar units must be MED 255, The Responsible Conduct of Research.

  4. Unrestricted Electives (6 units)

Students are assigned an initial faculty advisor to assist them in designing a plan of study that creates a cohesive degree program with a concentration in a particular bioengineering focus area. These focus areas include, but are not limited to: Biomedical Computation, Regenerative Medicine/Tissue Engineering, Molecular and Cell Bioengineering, Biomedical Imaging, and Biomedical Devices.

To ensure that an appropriate program is pursued by all MS candidates, students who first matriculate at Stanford at the graduate level (a) submit an advisor approved Program Proposal for a Master's Degree form to the student services office during the first month of the first quarter of enrollment and (b) obtain approval from the MS advisor and the Chair of Graduate Studies for any subsequent program change or changes. It is expected that the requirements for the MS in Bioengineering can be completed within approximately one year. There is no thesis requirement for the MS.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of Bioengineering; a number of courses are offered directly through the Bioengineering Department, but many are available through other departments. See respective ExploreCourses for course descriptions.


A student studying for the PhD degree must complete a master's degree (45 units) comparable to that of the Stanford MS degree in Bioengineering. Up to 45 units of master's degree residency units may be counted towards the degree. The PhD degree is awarded after the completion of a minimum of 135 units of graduate work as well as satisfactory completion of any additional University requirements. Students admitted to the PhD program with an MS degree must complete at least 90 units of work at Stanford. The maximum number of transfer units is 45.

On the basis of the research interests expressed in their application, students are assigned an initial faculty advisor who assists them in choosing courses and identifying research opportunities. The department does not require formal lab rotations, but students are encouraged to explore research activities in two or three labs during their first academic year.

Prior to being formally admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree, the student must demonstrate knowledge of bioengineering fundamentals and a potential for research by passing a qualifying oral examination.

Typically, the exam is taken shortly after the student earns a master's degree. The student is expected to have a nominal graduate Stanford GPA of 3.25 to be eligible for the exam. Once the student's faculty sponsor has agreed that the exam is to take place, the student must submit an application folder containing items including a curriculum vitae, research project abstract, and preliminary dissertation proposal to the student services office. Information about the exam may be obtained from the student services office.

In addition to the course requirements of the MS degree, doctoral candidates must complete a minimum of 15 additional units of approved formal course work (excluding research, directed study, and seminars).

Dissertation Reading Committee: Each PhD candidate is required to establish a reading committee for the doctoral dissertation within six months after passing the department's PhD qualifying exams. Thereafter, the student should consult frequently with all members of the committee about the direction and progress of the dissertation research.

A dissertation reading committee consists of the principal dissertation advisor and at least two other readers. Reading committees in Bioengineering may include faculty from another department. It is expected that at least one member of the Bioengineering faculty be on each reading committee. The initial committee, and any subsequent changes, must be officially approved by the department Chair.

University Oral and Dissertation: The PhD candidate is required to take the University oral examination after the dissertation is substantially completed (with the dissertation draft in writing), but before final approval. The examination consists of a public presentation of dissertation research, followed by substantive private questioning on the dissertation and related fields by the University oral committee (four selected faculty members, plus a chair from another department). Once the oral has been passed, the student finalizes the dissertation for reading committee review and final approval. Forms for the University oral scheduling and a one-page dissertation abstract should be submitted to the department student services office at least three weeks prior to the date of the oral for departmental review and approval.


Students interested in a career oriented towards bioengineering and medicine can pursue the combined MD/PhD degree program. Stanford has two ways to do an MD/PhD. U.S. citizens and permanent residents can apply to the Medical Scientist Training Program and can be accepted with funding from both MD and PhD programs for stipend and tuition. They can then select a bioengineering laboratory for their PhD. Students not admitted to the Medical Scientist Training Program must apply to be admitted separately to the MD program and the PhD program of their choice.

The PhD is administered by the Department of Bioengineering. To be formally admitted as a PhD degree candidate in this combined degree program, the student must apply through normal departmental channels and must have earned or have plans to earn an MS in bioengineering or other engineering discipline at Stanford or another university. The MS requires 45 units of course work which consists of core bioengineering courses, technical electives, seminars, and 6 unrestricted units. Students must also pass the Department of Bioengineering PhD qualifying examination.

For students fulfilling the full MD requirements who earned their master's level engineering degree at Stanford, the Department of Bioengineering waives the normal departmental requirement of 15 units applied towards the PhD degree beyond the master's degree level through formal course work. Consistent with the University PhD requirements, the department accepts 15 units comprised of courses, research, or seminars approved by the student's academic advisor and the department chair. Students not completing their MS engineering degree at Stanford are required to take 15 units of formal course work in engineering-related areas as determined by their academic advisor.


Doctoral students pursuing a PhD degree in a major other than Bioengineering may apply for the PhD minor in Bioengineering. A minor is a not a requirement for any degree, but is available when agreed upon by the student and the major and minor department. Application forms, including the University's general requirements, can be found at

A student desiring a PhD minor in Bioengineering must have a minor program advisor who is a regular Bioengineering faculty member. This advisor must be a member of the student's reading committee for the doctoral dissertation, and the entire reading committee must meet at least one year prior to the date of the student's dissertation defense.

The PhD minor program must include at least 20 units of coursework in Stanford Bioengineering or Bioengineering cognate courses at or above the 200 level. Of these 20 units, no more than 10 can be in cognate courses. All courses listed to fulfill the 20 unit requirement must be taken for a letter grade and the GPA must be at least 3.25. Courses used for a minor may not be used to also meet the requirements for a master's degree.


Stanford Medicine Resources:

Footer Links: