About This Degree
Biological engineering is an emerging discipline that combines science and engineering principles. The program at USU provides students with fundamental engineering knowledge and problem-solving skills that can be applied to a variety of fields, including medicine, law, food, the environment, and more.
USU’s biological engineering program is research intensive and focuses on the application of research to solve current problems. Students are introduced to the scope of projects through an introductory research class required of all incoming freshmen. In the class, students meet faculty, learn about their research projects, and have opportunities to get involved with lab work if they haven't already.
Building on these research experiences, students begin to focus on an interest area as they near their senior year. It is not uncommon for students to present their research at national conferences, publish in peer-reviewed journals, and even apply for patents.
The biological engineering degree is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. It has a first-time pass rate of nearly 100% on the mandatory Fundamentals of Engineering examination (usually taken during a student's junior year), while the national pass rate is close to 50%. Additionally, the job placement rate for students graduating from USU’s engineering programs is extremely high.
Students may study in the following areas:
- Biomedical Engineering: Biomedical engineering is the application of engineering principles and techniques to the medical field. Biomedical engineers may be involved with developing pharmaceuticals, biomaterials with antimicrobial properties, artificial organs or working with prostheses, instrumentation, health care delivery systems, etc. This field is expected to be the fastest growing occupation through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Bioprocess Engineering: Bioprocess engineers design and develop specialized bioreactors and thermochemical reactors for biomass, equipment, and processes for manufacturing products made of biological materials, including biofuels.
- Synthetic Biological Engineering: Synthetic biological engineering is a new area of research focused on the design and construction of new biological parts and devices utilizing genetic BioBricks to develop new useful functions and systems not found in nature. Examples include engineering the microbial synthesis and secretion of bioplastics and biofuels.
- Metabolic Engineering: Metabolic engineering is the practice of optimizing genetic and regulatory processes within cells to increase the cells’ production of a certain substance. Producing beer, wine, cheese, pharmaceuticals, and other biotechnology products often involves metabolic engineering.
- Tissue Engineering: Tissue engineering is closely associated with applications that repair or replace portions of or whole tissues and also includes the effects of environmental and industrial chemicals on human tissues that lead to illnesses, including cancer.
- Biosensing: Biosensing is the use of nanoscale or microscale biological sensors, which are used to measure environmental chemicals in water, air, and soil, or monitor the operation and performance of bioreactors.
- Biomaterials Engineering: Biomaterials engineering encompasses elements of medicine, biology, chemistry, tissue engineering, and materials science to develop biomedical devices that perform, augment, or replace a natural function.
- Synthetic Biophotonics: Biphotonics is a combination of biology and photonics (the science and technology of generation, manipulation, and detection of photons, quantum units of light). Applications of biophotonics include engineering photosynthetic systems to produce products, development of non-invasive methods to measure the physiological health of organisms, and design and testing light systems for communication among microorganisms, including instructions for producing specific bioproducts.
- Bionanotechnolgy: Bionanotechnology is a new area that focuses on biotechnology at the nano scale. Researchers develop processes that can be applied to various disciplines. Examples of current nanobiotechnological research involves developing particles that could be introduced into the human body to track down metabolities associated with tumors and other health problems, and the development of sensing devices for rapid diagnosis of impending heart attacks (myocardial infarction) from saliva.
Concurrent Bachelor’s/Master’s Program:
The department also offers a concurrent bachelor’s/master’s program, which allows USU engineering students to begin taking graduate classes during their senior year as an undergraduate and to complete requirements for both the bachelor's degree and the master’s degree concurrently over two years.
Career And Outcomes
With a degree in biological engineering, students may pursue careers in the following areas:
- Biochemical Engineering (reactor design, performance, monitoring for bioproducts)
- Medical devices
- Food processing
- Disease research
- Environmental (water, wastewater treatment, bioplastics, biofuel)
- Biotechnology (diagnostics methods for diseases, cures, and environmental health)
- Graduates often go on to research-based graduate programs or attend professional schools (law, medicine, public health, dentistry, veterinary, business, etc.)
The Career and Design Center provides counseling and information on hundreds of job and internship opportunities and even helps students apply and interview.
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