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Biomedical Engineering

Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a brief compilation of some questions that are frequently asked about biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt University

What is Biomedical Engineering?

Biomedical Engineering is the application of methods and concepts from engineering science and engineering technology to the scientific and practical problems of medicine and health care. Biomedical engineers develop and design biomedical devices, systems, and processes. The curriculum combines basic science, biomedical engineering science, biomedical engineering design and broader education in the humanities and social sciences.

How long has Vanderbilt offered degree programs in Biomedical Engineering?

Vanderbilt's program is among the oldest in the country. We began offering the BE in biomedical engineering in 1968. The graduate program was initiated in 1980.

What do Vanderbilt Biomedical Engineering graduates do after graduation?

Roughly half of our graduates enter the job market, taking positions with employers focused on medical equipment, medical computing, biomedical imaging, regulatory affairs, biomedical research, software, other engineering, and teaching as well as government and military service.  Employers include Accretive Health, Accuray, Boston Scientific, Brainlab, Cordis, Ethicon, Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation, GE Medical Systems, Globus Medical, Google, Jacobs Engineering, Johnson & Johnson, Medicraft, Medtronic, Merck, NASA, National Institutes of Health, National Instruments, NFL Players Association, OrthoHelix Surgical Designs, Pathfinder Therapeutics, Philips Medical Systems, PharmaSys, Roche Diagnostics, RTI Biologics, Smith & Nephew, Stryker, and Wylie Laboratories.  About 30% of our graduates choose to go on to graduate school, most in biomedical engineering with a few in management (MBA), law, other engineering, or life science programs.  About 20% of our graduates attend medical school, including Harvard, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, and the University of Virginia.  The average acceptance rate for VU BMEs applying to medical school in the last five years is 68%.  

How well does the VU Biomedical Engineering degree program prepare students for medical school admission?

The undergraduate program in biomedical engineering is designed so that students can easily complete the requirements for medical school admission and at the same time receive an engineering education that can lead to a stimulating career without attending medical school.  The courses required for medical school admission fit within the BE in BME curriculum without any overload or extra courses required.  In addition, VU BME alumni regularly comment that our required systems physiology courses significantly aided their success in medical school.    According to the Association of American Medical Colleges' book Medical School Admissions Requirements: U.S. & Canada 2002-2003*, biomedical engineering as a major nationwide had the highest admission rate to medical school of all majors.  No restrictions are placed at Vanderbilt on who can apply to medical school.  

*This was the last edition that included breakdowns by individual majors.

Does the VU biomedical engineering program offer any options or special programs?

There are several options available for biomedical engineering students including specialty courses, pre-medical preparation, an honors program, internships, double majors, and minors.  The curriculum affords students the flexibility to design a sequence of electives that focuses on their individual area(s) of interest.  Of the 20 hours of program elective courses, students select at least eleven hours of BME specialty courses such as imaging, biomedical optics, cellular bioengineering, biotechnology, and modeling.  Remaining elective hours are taken in additional BME specialty courses, other engineering courses including management of technology, sciences, and mathematics.  This approach also allows premedical students to complete requirements for medical school admission following a well-established pre-medical/B.E. in BME curriculum.  Double majors between BME and Electrical Engineering and between BME and Chemical Engineering are also available as are four formal minors within the School of Engineering.  Many other minors are available on campus including mathematics, music, classics, and languages. An honors in BME program affords talented students the opportunity to pursue advanced work and receive an honors diploma.

Can students take liberal arts or other courses?

The BME curriculum includes 18 credit hours of liberal arts core courses that students select  from a wide array of choices. There are also six hours of open electives, which may be taken in any subject area.

Is the VU Undergraduate program accredited?

The Vanderbilt Undergraduate BME program is fully accredited by ABET, the engineering accreditation society.

Does Vanderbilt Biomedical Engineering offer an intern or co-op program?

The Vanderbilt Center for Student Professional Development provides resources to assist students in finding internships including multiple career fairs and hosted employer visits.  Additional opportunities for students can be found through individual pursuit of research laboratories, hospitals and other corporations.  Such experiences strengthen the understanding of concepts learned in the classroom, teach valuable workplace skills, and provide insight into future career options.  Students who have identified a mentor and research project on campus may also choose to participate in a research course (BME 240a, 240b) in the summer or during the academic year for credit towards their degree.

What kinds of jobs would a BE graduate be qualified to hold?

ME Biomedical engineers should be able to make contributions in the following areas of health-care related industries:

  • Design and Development:
    Biomedical Engineering graduates are able to participate in the design, development and testing of medical devices and systems as well as analyze the interaction of technologies with living systems, ranging from automobile airbag effectiveness to tissue reactions to implanted devices.
  • Manufacturer's Representative:
    Biomedical engineering graduates have the special knowledge required to communicate with a variety of health care professionals and have been successful acting as representatives for vendors of high technology medical equipment and services.
  • Health Care Facilities Engineer
    Biomedical Engineers are ideally suited to act as design and maintenance engineers for health care facilities, or for industrial organizations which maintain safety and environmental hazards engineering groups.
  • Management Trainee:
    Biomedical Engineers have the background in technology to allow them to enter management training programs in organizations which deal with health care and biological products.