Biomedical Engineering Graduate Programs

Graduate Degree Programs Overview

The purpose of biomedical engineering as a research discipline is to discover new physical and mathematical concepts that are applicable to the problems of biology and medicine, including the organization of health care. Biomedical engineering is concerned with the integrative and mathematical approach to biology and also with more pragmatic problems such as the biomedical use of information systems and the development of advanced biomedical instrumentation.

Biomedical Engineering

The Graduate School of Vanderbilt University, in collaboration with the Schools of Engineering and Medicine, offers Master of Engineering, Master of Science; and Doctor of Philosophy degrees with a major in Biomedical Engineering. The goal of the Vanderbilt program is to provide advanced education and research training in quantitative organ and cellular biology, in biomedical information and instrumentation systems, imaging and in the scientific principles underlying the origination of therapeutic devices and processes. It is specifically concerned with the interface between the engineering, physical, computing and mathematical sciences, and biology.

The Department of Biomedical Engineering is in the School of Engineering, but is closely affiliated with the medical school. In addition to the M.Eng., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, the department also participates in the School of Medicine M.D./Ph.D. program. Many BME faculty members hold joint appointments with the Engineering, A&S, and Medical School departments, and numerous faculty from across campus hold joint appointments in BME. The School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center are located on the same campus as the School of Engineering, less than one block away. This close proximity facilitates a wide variety of collaborative efforts between faculty and students in the two schools.

Program Highlights

Graduate Application Deadlines

Spring admission (MS Program only)November 1
Fall admissionJanuary 1*
Fall admission offersEarly March
Deadline to accept admissionApr. 15

* Applications submitted by December 1 will receive priority review with on-campus visit invitations emailed before December 31. Applications submitted by January 1 will be reviewed in early January and on-campus visit invitations will be emailed out in mid-January.

Please make sure to identify faculty you are interested in working with and list them in your Personal Statement.

Application fees will be waived for all Vanderbilt School of Engineering Ph.D. applications for admission in Summer/Fall 2024 and Spring 2025. Full refunds will be issued to those who already paid the fee. Also note that GRE scores are not required for these programs.

Doctor of Philosophy

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree must complete a minimum of 27 semester hours of graduate-level didactic courses approved by the program faculty, excluding seminar, research, and teaching hours. Didactic credits cannot be taken on a Pass/Fail grading basis. The credit hours should be distributed as follows:

  • Biomedical Engineering: minimum of 15 credit hours (including BME 6110)
  • 3 or more credit hour course in life sciences offered at the 6000-level or above, which is taken from the list below or approved by the mentoring committee:
CANB 8340Introduction to Cancer Biology
CANB 8342Advanced Concepts in Cancer Biology
CBIO 8342Epithelial Pathobiology
CBIO 8341Stem/Progenitor Cell and Regenerative Biology
HGEN 8340Human Genetics I
IGP 8002Bioregulation II
M&IM 8329Principles of Immunology and the Immune System in Disease
M&IM 8334Special Topics in Molecular Pathogenesis
MP&B 8330Human Physiology and Molecular Medicine
NURO 8327Graduate Neuroanatomy
NURO 8340Fundamentals of Neuroscience II
NURO 8345Fundamentals of Neuroscience I
NURO 8347The Visual System
PATH-GS 8339Foundations of Immunology
PATH-GS 8345Human Biology and Disease
PATH-GS 8351Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease
  • Advanced Engineering/Science: minimum of 9 credit hours
  • Of the 27 required didactic credits, at least one course is required to be strongly quantitative.  It must either come from the list below or be approved by the mentoring committee.
BME 7310Advanced Computational Modeling and Analysis in BME
BME 7410Quantitative Methods in Biomedical Engineering
BME 7450Advanced Quantitative and Functional Imaging
CS 5267Deep Learning
EECE 5356Digital Signal Processing
CS 8395Special Topics Open-Sourcing Programming for Medical Image Processing
EECE 6357Advanced Imaging Processing
EECE 8396Special Topics: Analysis of Functional Magnetic Imaging
MATH 5670Mathematical Data Science
MATH 6630Nonlinear Optimization
MSCI 5009Biostatistics I
PHYS 8005Mathematical Methods for Physicists

At least 6 of the BME hours and 3 of the advanced science or engineering hours must be 6000+ level courses. The remainder of the 72 hours required for a Ph.D. will primarily consist of dissertation research but may also include seminar and other approved (didactic) courses. In addition, students must pass a qualifying examination consisting of written and oral presentations of a proposal for doctoral research, present a dissertation showing the results of original research in biomedical engineering, and successfully defend the dissertation in an oral examination. The 24 didactic hours taken towards the M.S. degree can be used to count towards the 27 didactic hours required for the Ph.D. degree; however, seminar hours do not count towards the didactic hour requirement for a Ph.D.

Students wishing to combine study for the M.D. degree with that for a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering must apply to the School of Medicine for admission to the Medical Scientist Training Program. Financial aid for this program is available on a competitive basis.

Master of Science

Candidates for the master of science (M.S.) degree must complete 30 hours of graduate-level credit, approved by the faculty, with the following minimum distribution of didactic hours:

  • Biomedical Engineering: minimum of 12 credit hours
  • 3 or more credit hour course in life sciences offered at the 6000-level or above, which is taken from the list below or approved by the research adviser and Director of Graduate Studies:
CANB 8340 Introduction to Cancer Biology
CANB 8342 Advanced Concepts in Cancer Biology
CBIO 8342 Epithelial Pathobiology
CBIO 8341 Stem/Progenitor Cell and Regenerative Biology
HGEN 8340 Human Genetics I
IGP 8002 Bioregulation II
M&IM 8329 Principles of Immunology and the Immune System in Disease
M&IM 8334 Special Topics in Molecular Pathogenesis
MP&B 8330 Human Physiology and Molecular Medicine
NURO 8327 Graduate Neuroanatomy
NURO 8340 Fundamentals of Neuroscience II
NURO 8345 Fundamentals of Neuroscience I
NURO 8347 The Visual System
PATH-GS 8339 Foundations of Immunology
PATH-GS 8345 Human Biology and Disease
PATH-GS 8351 Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease
  • Advanced Engineering/Science: minimum of 9 credit hours

At least 6 of the BME hours and 3 of the advanced science or engineering hours must be 6000+ level courses. One (1) hour of BME seminar and 6 hours of thesis research credit hours can count toward the total of 30 hours necessary for the M.S. degree. In addition, the candidate must submit a research thesis for faculty approval and give a final oral presentation.

Master of Engineering

The School of Engineering, in partnership with the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE), offers a master of engineering (M.Eng.) in Surgery and Intervention. This is an advanced professional degree designed for engineering practitioners who may prefer to work while doing professional study. It is also suitable for individuals who apply directly from undergraduate school but the thrust of the program is toward professional practice in engineering rather than research or teaching. 

Learn More About the Surgery and Intervention Program 

Graduate Program FAQ

  • General Information

    I'd like to know more about graduate programs and research opportunities in the BME Department at Vanderbilt.  More information can be obtained at the following sites:

    Two page overview of the BME graduate program and faculty research

    Faculty Research: VUBME Research

    How long does it take to earn a PhD?

    Most students finish in 4 to 6 years.

    Is it required to earn an MS before earning a PhD?

    No. Students have the option of writing an MS thesis or not.

  • Entry Requirements

    **Note that GRE scores are not required and will not be used to evaluate applications to the Biomedical Engineering graduate program (Masters or Ph.D.)

    Students applying for admission to the graduate program in biomedical engineering must meet the general requirements of admission of the Vanderbilt University Graduate School. Admission is competitive and students are selected on the basis of their scholastic preparation and intellectual capacity. All applicants shall have maintained a B average in their undergraduate work, provide three letters of recommendation. Applicants for study in biomedical engineering should have a bachelor's degree in engineering or science, with the following minimum preparation:

    Biology - one semester of molecular-based biology

    Mathematics - calculus, differential equations, and statistics; one semester of computer programming highly recommended.

    Physics - two semesters, modern physics recommended

    Chemistry- one semester; biochemistry or organic chemistry recommended

    Engineering - introductory courses in two of the following three areas: materials science or biomaterials, mechanics or fluid mechanics, transport or heat and/or mass transfer, signals and systems. Courses in instrumentation and systems physiology are highly recommended.

    Research or Design Experience - highly recommended.

    Special plans may be made on an individual basis for students who are highly prepared in one area, but under-prepared in another.

    Applicants should have a minimum 3.0/4.0 grade point average overall, in the last two years of undergraduate study, and in their major field.

    Students for whom English is not the primary language and who have not earned a degree at an English-speaking US institution must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination. A minimum score of 100 (600 on the old (paper-based) scoring scale) is required.

    Admission to the program is competitive and limited by financial support and available positions in laboratories. Qualifications of an applicant are judged relative to the qualifications of the entire applicant pool.

    I don't satisfy all of the entry requirements above. Can I apply anyway?

    Yes, but you should explain how you intend to make up any deficiency. This should be stated explicitly in the application on the "Statement of Purpose" page.  We strongly recommend that course deficiencies be made up at an accredited institution during the summer before the student enters Vanderbilt. Tuition for prerequisite courses taken at Vanderbilt will not be covered by financial aid awards. If your grades do not reflect your ability, this should be explained in the "Statement of Purpose."

  • When is the application deadline?

    Applications are only considered for admission for the Fall semester of each year. The application deadline is January 1.

    How can I apply?

    All applications are submitted online.  Go to the following URL
    for information on how to apply:

    Aside from submitting my online application, what other information do I need to provide?


    Transcripts can be sent either via the postal service or via secure electronic delivery. In order to be considered official  transcripts and other documents must come directly from the institution attended. Some institutions provide secure electronic delivery of transcripts. These submissions may be made to

    Transcripts sent via the postal service should be addressed as follows:

    PMB 407833
    2301 Vanderbilt Place
    Nashville, TN 37240-7833

    Letters of recommendation can now be submitted online and we would prefer that method over letters received by mail. International applicants should also take the TOEFL exam and enter their results on the application form.   

    Can you please pre-review my application?

    We do not pre-review applications.

    Who should I ask to write letters of recommendation?

    You should ask professors you have had in class who are familiar with your academic performance and research mentors who can provide information about your research abilities. Do not ask a TA to write a letter. One letter can be from an employer or former employer. We are primarily interested in letters that address your potential for success in both the academic and research phases of our program.

  • Financial Aid

    How do I apply for financial aid?

    Simply check the box on the application form requesting that you be considered for financial aid. Your application to graduate school is also your application for financial aid.

    What kinds of financial aid are available?

    BME students receive their financial aid from numerous sources: Teaching Assistantships, Research Assistantships, Training grants, individual fellowship (most commonly the NSF graduate fellowship). Each year, some of the top applicants are considered for special topping-up fellowships supplied by IBM or the Vanderbilt Graduate School.

    How much financial aid can I expect?

    PhD students in our program that are supported as either a teaching assistant or research assistant typically receive a stipend, coverage of health insurance, and tuition support.

  • Information About Vanderbilt Biomedical Engineering

    How many new graduate students enter the program each year?

                Varies from year to year, but typically around 20. 

    How many students apply to the program each year?

                about 200-250. 

    How many graduate students are in the BME program?

                about 85. 

    How are students supported in your department? 

    Most graduate students serve as teaching assistants 1-2 semesters of their first year in the program. Otherwise, students are supported on Research Assistantships (i.e., from their advisor's grants) or Individual Fellowships / Training Grant slots. In the last five years (2013-2017), approximately 42 Vanderbilt BME predoctoral students have won competitive fellowships (NSF, AHA, NIH, NDSEG) and NIH training grant positions. Thus, between 40-50% of our students successfully compete for individual, stipend-granting awards.

    Do you admit international students? 

    Yes. In recent years we have had students from Canada, Romania, Korea, Thailand, Nigeria, India, Ghana, and China.

  • Dual Degree Programs

    How do I apply for the MD/PhD program

    Information can be found on this page.

  • BME Graduate Student Handbook

    For information about BME graduate student degree requirements, forms and procedures, please consult the Department's Graduate Student Handbook.

Program Facilities

The Department of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt is unique among biomedical engineering programs in its immediate proximity to the world class Vanderbilt Medical Center, located on our compact campus.  Our School of Medicine is among the top ten in funding from the National Institutes of Health and includes a National Cancer Institute-recognized Comprehensive Cancer Center, a major children's hospital and a Level I trauma center.  This proximity and the strong relationships among faculty across multiple schools stimulate high impact research and provide unique educational and research and opportunities for students.

The administrative center of BME is centrally located in the Stevenson Center, with many BME laboratories occupying the eighth and ninth floors of Building 5.  When possible, laboratories are located near key collaborators.  This collaborative environment encourages BME graduate students work in research laboratories across campus, including in other disciplines, such as Living State Physics, Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, Cell Biology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Pulmonary Medicine, Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics, and Cardiology. Laboratories under direct supervision of BME faculty are described below.

  • Vanderbilt Biophotonics Center

    The mission of the Vanderbilt Biophotonics Center (VBC) is to establish a trans-institutional initiative in biophotonics research, technology development and education at Vanderbilt University. The center spans across multiple schools (EngineeringMedicine and Arts & Science) and interfaces with existing centers and institutes (VICCVINSEVUIISVBIVIIBREViSE) while being anchored in Engineering. The center is focused on targeted educational programs for medical residents, fellows as well as graduate and undergraduate students and provides opportunities for learning for high schools students interested in this area. The research mission is centered around three main areas:

    1. Clinical photonics
    2. Neuro-photonics
    3. Multiscale photonics
  • Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science

    The Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science (VUIIS) is a University-wide interdisciplinary initiative that unites scientists whose interests span the spectrum of imaging research, from the underlying physics of imaging techniques to the application of imaging tools to address problems such as understanding brain function. The VUIIS has a core program of research related to developing new imaging technology based on advances in physics, engineering, and computer science. In addition to high-field MRI and MR spectroscopy in human subjects, the VUIIS offers state-of-the-art options for small animal imaging in all modalities. Vanderbilt completed a four-floor, state-of-the-art facility adjacent to Medical Center North to house the VUIIS in 2006. The $28 million project ($21 million for construction) provides a
    41,000-square-foot facility to integrate current activities in imaging research and provide research space for 40 faculty members, 36 staff and more than 60 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in biomedical science, engineering, and physics. VUIIS investigators are supported by grants from the NIH, NSF, DOD, DOE, industry and foundations, as well as Vanderbilt University.

    Further details on instruments and capabilities can be found at the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science

  • The Biomaterials Laboratory

    The Biomaterials laboratory resides in approximately 2,000 ft2 of contiguous lab space consisting of 3 internally connect labs setup for chemical synthesis, characterization, biological applications/microscopy. The first lab is a dedicated synthesis suite that houses three fume hoods, a rotary evaporator, lyophilizer, peptide synthesizer, spin coater, NABOND nano electrospinning apparatus, isotemperature vacuum oven, isotemperature lab oven, heat/stir reaction plates with temperature controllers, and all of the necessary glassware and other requirements for organic and polymer synthesis and purification.  The second (internally connected lab) is the characterization suite and houses a PCR machine, fluorescence plate reader capable of measuring fluorescence and absorbance, a differential scanning calorimeter, a UV-vis spectrophotometer, a Waters reversed phase high pressure liquid chromatography system equipped with a UV-vis detector and capable of analytical and prep scale operation, a Shimadzu gel permeation chromatography device equipped with a computer-controlled autosampler, a UV-vis spectrophotometer (Shimadzu SPD-10A), a refractive index detector (RID-10A), and a multi-angle light scattering detector (Wyatt Treos) that allows determination of polymer absolute molecular weight.  The third (also internally connected) lab consists of the molecular biology and tissue culture suite and houses 2 sterile tissue culture hoods, 2 cell culture incubators, an autoclave, 4¡C, 20¡C, -86¡C and liquid nitrogen freezers, a full array of gel electrophoresis equipment, and a microscopy area with a Nikon AZ100 macroscope and a Nikon Eclipse Ti inverted fluorescence microscope with Nikon DS-QiMc black and white camera, Nikon Digital Sight DS-Fi1 color camera, and Nikon Elements Advanced Research image analyzing computer software.  Several centrifuges and other standard laboratory tools (i.e. water baths, mass balances, and vortexes) and bench space are also available.  Other materials characterization capabilities (i.e. Dynamic Light Scattering, Zeta potential, electron microscopes, etc.) are available through the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE) which is co-localized within the Stevenson Center Complex.

  • Laboratories for Innovative Engineering in Surgery

    Surgical Navigation Apparatus Research Lab (SNARL) (SC 5902, SC 5906 2150 sqft)  and Biomedical Modeling Laboratory (BML)  ( SC 5912, SC 5912A, 5912AA 1600 sqft).  These adjoining labs have the space and equipment for the design, construction and validation of devices and software for the guidance of therapy including surgery, ablative techniques, and the delivery of drugs directly to the sites of interest.  We have mechanical, optical and magnetic localizers as well as devices for intrasurgical data acquisition and soft-tissue mechanical property testing.  Our software consists of command and control of the guidance systems, innovative visualization of surgical targets, margins and healthy structures, and enhancement of planning and delivery with computational models.  We have an extensive computational infrastructure to leverage towards the development of innovative medical image registration algorithms, enhanced diagnostics, simulation, and model-based analysis.   Our final laboratory is the operating room both at Vanderbilt and with other collaborators.  Our systems have to be accurate, robust, and valid but their application to improving patient care is immediate.

Contact Us

Yuankai (Kenny) Tao
Director of Graduate Recruiting
Department of Biomedical Engineering

(615) 343-2316