The discipline of biomedical engineering (BME) is interdisciplinary in that it incorporates elements of mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering. In reality, the pallet of expertise required for success in BME-related careers necessitates specific and integrated coursework tailored to an application space outside these majors. In addition, there is critical discipline-specific expertise required for all BME majors that is not contained in other majors. Biomedical engineers must operate in the highly variable, uncertain, and constantly changing arena of human health and disease. Their training enables them to engineer solutions that are robust against these challenges.
Cornell’s BME program focuses on four concentration areas within its B.S. degree that reflect directly the career spaces available to them. We believe this approach promotes a knowledge base and a discipline-specific skill set that empowers undergraduates for both further education and careers in the engineering and life science industries. Inherent in this approach is development of a “T-shaped” skill set, that is, central technical engineering depth accompanied by broad professional skills and experiences that facilitate collaborations and interdisciplinary interactions. These programs were assembled through an analysis of the positions within biomedical industries taken by Cornell graduates, consultation with our industrial partners, and the research and teaching strengths of our faculty. As part of their degree, each student will choose one concentration, but only after familiarizing themselves with the opportunity and challenges of the four cornerstone courses—the first course in each concentration sequence. Each concentration is described below. See Paths & Careers for a list of industrial positions obtained by our graduates related to each concentration.
Molecular/Cellular/Systems Engineering (MCSE)
Students focusing on MCSE enhance their understanding on how molecular and cellular coordination control tissue homeostasis and pathogenesis, with an emphasis of quantifying and controlling interactions that occur across length and time scales. These students will train in depth on the molecular and genetic technologies used to control cell behaviors within living systems, as well as delivery strategies to enhance and target local responses. They are also keen to use computational and experimental strategies to understand and predict system and population based network interactions. Many of these students will utilize the world leading nano/microfabrication facilities at Cornell. They engineer advanced in vitro culture platforms and test beds used for quantitative analysis of complex biological processes and screening strategies to alter them. (Photo: Lammerding, Cell Migration)
Biomaterials & Drug Delivery (BMDD)
Students in the BDD concentration enhance their understanding of how engineered materials interact with host biology, which includes both the material remodeling and human biological responses. Biomaterials have evolved substantially from mere biocompatibility to enabling multifaceted control over local biological responses and tissue remodeling. These students will train in depth on the science and technology underlying fabrication of different material classes, including synthetic and biologically based. These students will engineer and modify new materials to control host responses, including wound healing, immune response, and biomechanical remodeling. Students in this concentration also study the engineering of living tissue replacements with an emphasis on recapitulating multi-scale biological phenomena. Some students also engineer new delivery mechanisms within biomaterials for efficient drug release. (Photos: Left; Butcher, 3D printed living aortic valve; Right: Putnam, OMVs encapsulated in polymers for controlled release)
Biomedical Imaging and Instrumentation (BMII)
Much of the information that is gained about human health and disease comes from images. Generating images, converting them into quantitative data, and analyzing large image datasets is a major focus of students that concentrate in BMII. Cornell has world class imaging expertise, including optical, X-ray, ultrasound, and MRI technologies. These students will develop the skills and knowledge necessary to design new instrumentation components for acquiring and recording biological and physiological data, as well as using instrumentation to manipulate biological processes in vivo. They will also design algorithms for processing and analyzing data to identify emergent features and predict clinical performance. (Photos: Schaffer-Nishimura lab hyperspectral scope; Adie Lab laser)
Biomechanics and Mechanobiology (BMMB)
Every tissue and cell in the body experiences mechanical forces as a major component of its formation, function, and/or disease pathogenesis. Mechanical forces occur at the molecular level, from cell adhesion receptors to tiny cilia on the surfaces of cells, to whole organ level behaviors such as the pumping of the heart and bending of the bones. Students concentrating in BMMB will possess a comprehensive understanding of the multi-scale mechanical interactions that occur during tissue development, homeostasis, and disease. They will fabricate devices that can measure and apply forces at these biological scales, from nanometers to centimeters, nanonewtons to kilonewtons. They will also design bioreactor environments and implantable technology to utilize mechanical forces to alter tissue or organ level behavior through manipulation of these mechanically sensitive signaling pathways. (Photo: Hernandez Lab, bone formation)
For a comprehensive look at our requirements within these modules, please refer to the BME major curriculum.