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What is Biological Engineering?

The need for high quality, naturally derived biological products, such as foods, pharmaceuticals, and biochemicals has produced a high demand for knowledgeable, capable engineers who understand the complexity and sophistication of biological materials, combined with solid engineering skills.

Biological Engineers apply basic scientific and engineering principles to products and processes involving biological and food systems, such as:

  • research and development of new foods, biological and pharmaceutical products
  • development and operation of manufacturing, packaging and distributing systems for drug/food products
  • design and installation of food/biological/pharmaceutical production processes
  • design and operation of environmentally responsible waste treatment systems
  • marketing and technical support for manufacturing plants.

The Biological Engineering (BE) program leads to an ABET-accredited B.S. degree from the College of Engineering. The Biological Engineering curriculum includes basic science courses (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) as well as organic, physical, and food chemistry. Courses in engineering involve thermodynamics, kinetics, unit operations, and engineering design and cover both theoretical and practical aspects of engineering analysis and design. In the senior year, you will have the opportunity to apply your knowledge to the solution of actual food, biological and pharmaceutical processing problems. You will learn about designing unit  operations, such as extrusion, emulsification, heat exchangers, sheeting, sterilization, aseptic processing, freezing, membrane separations, protein purification, evaporation, extraction, fermentation, and packaging, and integrate these with process design principles to design fermentation, enzymatic, and food products/ processes. Employment and career advancement opportunities have been excellent for graduates, not only nationally, but also internationally.

Dual degree programs involving Biochemistry or Pharmaceutical Sciences result in two degrees, one in engineering and one in either biochemistry or pharmaceutical sciences. This would require an additional year of courses. These degrees are focused, intense programs of study targeted to provide graduates with unique skills and job opportunities to take on roles of technical leadership in biological engineering in the next century.

For example, genetic engineering of foods and pharmaceuticals is a target growth technology for the next century involving the manipulation of the genes of microbial, plant, insect and animal cells to alter their processing and product capacities. The dual degree programs are highly interdisciplinary and prepare graduates with an excellent combination of scientific and engineering skills to work in industries involving state-of-the-art technologies such as genetic engineering.

While classes and grades are very important, there are many other important skills to learn at a university. These programs also include education in interpersonal management and communications skills, such as interviewing techniques, leadership training, management supervision opportunities, professional development and much more. An internship or coop experience is not required, but is highly recommended. Overall, a well-rounded education is the best way to plan for your future.