Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering
The Cornell BME Ph.D. program offers research opportunities in the following areas:
- Biomechanics & Mechanobiology
- Biomedical Imaging & Instrumentation
- Drug Delivery & Nanomedicine
- Molecular & Cellular Engineering
- Tissue Engineering & Biomaterials
- Systems & Synthetic Biology
Cornell's commitment to interdisciplinary research allows for a broad range of research opportunities to BME students. Mentored by and collaborating with outstanding faculty, the goal for every BME Ph.D. student is to make an important and long-lasting research contribution in his/her chosen area of expertise. The following three components are the essential pillars of a successful BME Ph.D. degree at Cornell:
- Completion of an original research project that makes an important contribution to a field of biomedical engineering and that establishes the student as an expert in his/her chosen area;
- Acquiring a broad foundation plus in-depth academic knowledge in a chosen area of specialization, achieved by successfully taking advanced classes in biomedical engineering and two chosen minors throughout the course of the Ph.D. program;
- Clinical and teaching experience, obtained through the BME clinical immersion program at Weill Cornell Medicine and a minimum of one semester of service as a Teaching Assistant.
By far the largest amount of effort will be devoted to research. At the same time, continued learning, in the form of taking advanced graduate classes in areas selected by the student in consultation with his/her Special Committee, will ensure substantial depth of knowledge and academic expertise in the chosen research area. In addition, the Cornell BME Ph.D. program encourages students to participate in the multitude of outreach opportunities offered, including service to local middle and high schools, teaching, and public engagement to serve the broader community.
Student background and qualification: Most students entering the Graduate Field of Biomedical Engineering have had formal training in a recognized discipline of engineering. Students with a science degree that includes appropriate mathematics and physics are also eligible.
Each student's progress towards the Ph.D. degree is supervised by a Special Committee composed of Cornell graduate field faculty members chosen by the student. The supervision of a student's Ph.D. program by the Special Committee allows for individualized programs tailored to each student's specific interests that can seamlessly merge traditional disciplines.
For Ph.D. degree candidates, the Special Committee is composed of at least three faculty members: The PhD thesis advisor and two members who represent the two minors selected by the student. The Ph.D. thesis advisor, who must be a BME graduate field member, serves as the chair of the Special Committee.
Ph.D. students select one minor in the life sciences (i.e., biology, biophysics, biomedical science, etc.) and one minor in a traditional engineering discipline (outside BME), often the area of undergraduate specialization. Study in the engineering minor is expected to be equivalent to the core course sequence of Ph.D. students majoring in that field. This combination provides breadth in general approach and depth in at least one specific engineering discipline.
The goals of the coursework are to provide students with both breadth across a wide range of BME and depth in a particular specialization within BME. The extent of required coursework depends on each student's previous preparation and goals. All students in the BME Ph.D. program must complete the following courses:
BME 7010: Seminar for First-Year Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. Students (Fall of 1st year). This course provides an introduction to the Cornell BME Ph.D. program, resources and opportunities available at Cornell, and help and guidance in preparing fellowship application.
BME 7020: Biomedical Engineering Research Seminar (total of 6 semesters). These seminar features work-in-progress presentations by current BME Ph.D. students. The goal of the BME 7020 seminar is to provide students with an opportunity to present their research to a broad audience, to collect feedback from faculty and their peers, and to stimulate intra-departmental collaborations and interactions in the BME field and beyond.
BME 7130: Core Concepts in Disease (Spring of 1st year). This course exposes students to fundamental disease processes, including infection, inflammation, neoplasia, genetic mutation, protein misfolding, and metabolic dysregulation, to identify common pathways and mechanisms in pathobiologies. This course also provides disease background prior to the Immersion experience.
BME 7160: Immersion Experience in Medical Research and Clinical Practice (Summer of 1st year). The clinical immersion term provides first-year Ph.D. students with the opportunity to experience actual clinical practice in a hospital setting and to participate in clinical research.
BME 7900: Biomedical Engineering Graduate Colloquium (total of 6 semesters). This weekly colloquium features talks by invited seminar speakers to provide exposure to a broad range of research topics.
Course selection beyond the required courses is up to each student in consultation with the Special Committee. The Special Committee is responsible for approving classes chosen by the student to fulfill the minor requirements. Students are encouraged to select additional courses of interest.
Clinical Immersion Term
The clinical immersion term is a unique experience of the Cornell BME Ph.D. program to provide first-year Ph.D. students with the opportunity to experience actual clinical practice in a hospital setting and to participate in clinical research during an 8-week summer stay at Cornell’s medical school and associated hospitals in New York City. The purpose of the clinical summer immersion program is to provide substantial clinical experiences for biomedical engineering graduate students to help shape their understanding and appreciation of challenges and needs in medicine. Each student is matched to a clinician mentor. Students shadow their clinician mentors and their partners, engage in focused study of specific anatomy, pathology, and diagnostics and treatments, participate in an ongoing research directly related to clinical practice, attend clinical seminars, and gain exposure to other aspects of clinical culture. You can find additional information at: http://weill.cornell.edu/mri/pages/immersion.html
The specific objectives of the Immersion term are:
- Acquire basic knowledge of the bioethical issues concerning human subject research.
- Acquire basic understanding of a clinical specialty – anatomy and disease process, diagnosis and treatment methods and technology.
- Learn to identify the need and challenges of technology in clinical practice, and to formulate from an engineering perspective the problem of and solution to such challenges.
- Learn how clinicians think, formulate and solve problems, and how to effectively work with busy practicing clinicians.