Frequently-Asked Questions about Biomedical Engineering


What is biomedical engineering?
Biomedical engineering (BME) is the application of engineering principles and methods to solve medical and biological problems. It integrates electrical, mechanical, chemical and life science principles in the development of new healthcare technologies and systems, as well as in providing a better understanding of the mechanisms of human life.


Is biomedical engineering really ‘engineering’ or is it better to study electrical, mechanical or chemical engineering?
Like most new fields, BME developed because of the need to address complex problems that require interdisciplinary knowledge.  A strong BME program will provide students with the skills necessary to work as engineers as well as provide physiological and biological foundations that are not included in more traditional engineering programs. According to the National Science Foundation, BME is the fastest growing branch of engineering in terms of student enrollment.


Is the popularity of BME a passing fad?  Will the bubble burst?
No one can know if the rapid growth of BME will continue at its current pace.  All fields are susceptible to fluctuations in the economy. However, if we consider the explosion in scientific and medical  knowledge of recent years, we can see that there are enormous opportunities to use that knowledge in the development of new medical devices and healthcare systems.  The importance of healthcare in the U.S. appears to be increasing yearly and bodes very well for the future of biomedical engineering.


What careers are open to BME graduates do after they complete their degree?
BME is an excellent preparation for a career in engineering in large, medium and start-up companies.  It also prepares one very well for careers in management, medical administration, sales, and regulatory practices.  Biomedical engineering graduates from NJIT have gone on to graduate study in medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, management and law, as well as biomedical engineering.


Is BME a good path toward a career in medicine and dentistry?
If a student has an interest in engineering, then BME is a wonderful path to medical school. Contrary to public opinion, one does not need to major in biology to be admitted to medical or dental school. 

The undergraduate BME curriculum provides a strong preparation for both medicine and dentistry. Courses required for admission to medical and dental schools fit naturally into a BME student’s program of study. The same problem solving skills that are at the core of an engineering education are essential in diagnosing and treating patients. As both medicine and dentistry become increasingly dependent on technology, engineering skills will even more valuable in medical and dental practice. 

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ publication Medical School Admissions Requirements: U.S. & Canada 2002-2003, biomedical engineering graduates have the highest admission rate to medical school of all majors.

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What kinds of jobs are available for BME graduates?
Graduates of the NJIT's Department of Biomedical Engineering have found employment as design engineers, development engineers, process and manufacturing engineers, and as product managers.  NJIT’s location in New Jersey provides proximity to the nation’s largest concentration of medical device and pharmaceutical companies.  Over 500 large and small biomedical businesses are located within 50 miles of the campus.  Biomedicine is now New Jersey’s largest industry.


Will I need an advanced degree?
A BS in biomedical engineering allows the graduate to enter a professional career without further graduate study.  NJIT’s BME program prepares its students to function as engineers who can be highly successful in their first job. 


How long has NJIT offered BME degrees?
NJIT has offered Masters degrees in biomedical engineering for over 25 years through an interdisciplinary program.  A new department of Biomedical Engineering, adding the BS and PhD to the existing MS, was established in the fall of 2000. 


When will BME at NJIT be accredited?
Only BS programs are accredited in engineering. This takes place every six years.  New programs like NJIT’s BME degree are eligible for accreditation in the next round of reviews.  Our faculty are currently preparing for an accreditation review in the fall of 2007.  The BME curriculum at NJIT was developed to exceed all accreditation criteria.

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What distinguishes NJIT's Department of Biomedical Engineeing from those at other universities?
The BME department at NJIT was developed in recent years and had the opportunity to learn from other programs.  While older programs may still be teaching is the same manner as they did several decades ago, at NJIT, we have adopted the studio style of education that encourages active learning on the part of the student.  We have designed our new facilities to support this method. 

Small teaching colleges often are very student focused, with excellent teaching, but have limited research opportunities and therefore fewer connections to the medical and industrial communities.  In contrast, research universities have a wealth of scholarly activity that may not be accessible to students. 

At NJIT, we have carefully considered the report of the Carnegie Foundation for Higher Education and have sought to offer the instructional quality of a small college combined with the resources of a research university.  This offers our students excellent instruction by our faculty as well as opportunities to learn from experts from the medical and industrial communities. It also provides access to specialized equipment available in research laboratories.


What is studio learning?
Studio learning is a method that has been borrowed from schools of architecture.  Instead of the normal three hours of lecture and 3 hours of laboratory, we offer four hours of studio in which the instructor offers a short lecture followed by a period of active learning by the students.  The professor takes on the role of coach and mentor.  A recent survey shows that our students prefer this approach to passive lectures.


BME at NJIT does not appear in the published lists of the top 10 undergraduate programs. Is that a concern?
All of the top ten programs are excellent, however that does not mean that NJIT’s Department of Biomedical Engineering does less for its students.  Such lists are based largely on subjective impressions of a program by people across the nation. These impressions are often influenced by the amount of research money, the accomplishments of graduates, and other factors that favor older, more established departments.  As a new department, we ask students to consider the opportunities we offer them individually and make their decision not entirely on national reputation.


BME seems so broad.  Are there specialties within the field?
Yes, BME is very broad.  At NJIT we offer tracks that help students specialize in an area of their interest. Presently, these tracks are biomechanics, biomaterials, bioinstrumentation, and biocomputing/modeling.  Each track offers courses that allow students to develop a depth of professional expertise.

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How and when does a student choose a track?
The choice of a track is entirely up to the student. Often students have an idea of their career goals when they arrive at NJIT, while others determine their personal path after their introductory courses.  Generally, students begin thinking about their track in the sophomore year and declare a track at the beginning of their junior year.  We offer three introductory BME courses, Electrical Foundations of BME, Mechanical Foundations of BME and Biochemical Foundations of BME, which are generally taken in the sophomore year. These help students explore their career interests.


Is it possible to switch between tracks?
Students often switch tracks.  In many cases, courses taken for one track may be in common with another track or can be used as technical electives.  Obviously, the closer one comes to graduation, the more difficult it is to switch tracks without delaying the completion of the degree.


How large is the NJIT BME program?
BME at NJIT is very popular, however the enrollment has been intentionally held at approximately 250 undergraduate and 80 Masters students. Only the new PhD program is expected to grow in the near future.  The size of the undergraduate program will be controlled by increasing the entrance standards.  At the present time, BME students enter NJIT with the highest average SAT scores and the largest percentage participation in the Honors College of all departments in the University.


Do many women study BME at NJIT?
About 40-50% of our students are female.


Who teaches the courses?
The department has 12 full-time tenure track and academic faculty who are actively engaged in teaching. Many research universities assign undergraduate teaching to graduate teaching assistants or to part-time adjuncts.  This is not the case at NJIT.  Our faculty are committed to teaching as well as scholarship.  Many have won NJIT teaching awards.   In addition, we have an excellent cadre of long-term lecturers who enrich the department by bringing expertise from local medical centers and industry. 


How large are NJIT’s undergraduate courses?
Most BME courses at NJIT have enrollments of fewer than 30 students.  In contrast to many large engineering schools, NJIT does not rely upon large 300-500 student lectures.


How are students advised at NJIT?
BME students are initially advised by the department’s new student advisor.  Once they have chosen a track, they will have a track advisor who is a member of the faculty with expertise in that area.  Students are required to meet with their advisor once each semester to monitor progress and select courses for the next semester.  Of course, a student may schedule additional meetings as needs arises.

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Can a student earn a BS and an MS at the same time?
Yes.  Many NJIT BME students take advantage of the BS/MS program, which allows a student to take graduate courses in their senior year.  Two graduate courses count toward both the BS and MS, thus reducing both the cost and time required for graduate study.  Students with sufficient Advanced Placement credits and a willingness to study in the summers can complete the BS and MS in four years.


Is it wise to double major or minor in another discipline?
Double majoring is an exciting option. In general, it requires an additional year of study since it expects that the student meet the requirements of both majors, and it requires an additional 30 credits.  Double majoring should be compared with the alternative of working toward the B./MS, which requires the same number of credits.  Minoring in another discipline is often possible without additional credits.  BME students find it very attractive to minor in mathematics.  The requirements for a minor are determined by the department in which the minor is offered.  Students should confer with their BME advisor as well as the minor department.


Can undergraduates take graduate courses?
Yes.  Students in the BS/MS program must take two graduate courses in their senior year.  Other BME students with a GPA higher than 3.3 are also allowed to take graduate courses in their senior year with the instructor’s approval. 

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When do BME students take their first BME courses?
NJIT BME students are welcomed into the department in the first semester of their freshman year.  The Freshman BME seminar meets weekly and introduces students to the breadth of the field and to the entire department faculty.  Each member of BME faculty makes a presentation on his/her area of expertise.  First-semester students are encouraged to think about participating in faculty research.  The freshman year also includes an Introduction to Physiology as well as Fundamentals of BME Design.  Both courses are taught by full-time member of the BME faculty.


Are the teaching facilities at NJIT up-to-date?
We are very proud of our educational facilities.  Our new building includes two teaching studios that are fully equipped for studio and laboratory-based courses as well as a large classroom and seminar room.  Students are provided with a comfortable study room and a networked computer lab that are available at all times.  Upper level courses make use of other departmental and NJIT facilities including a strength of materials lab, bio-optics studio, biomaterials lab and robotics lab. 


Can undergraduates participate in research?
Our BME students are strongly encouraged to participate in research.  Students may join a research group at any time during their four years as long as they are able to contribute to work.  Many students wait until their junior or senior year, but others have begun research as early as their freshman year.  Our students’ success is measured in part by the many awards received at national and regional conferences.  A number of undergraduates have published one or more scientific papers before graduation.

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What research facilities are available at NJIT?
As a new department, BME at NJIT has state of the art research facilities.  Our East Building core site houses laboratories for biomedical instrumentation, neuromuscular engineering, motor control and rehabilitation, human performance and rehabilitation, and neural engineering.  Nearby are two clusters of wet labs dedicated to tissue engineering and biomaterials.  In addition, students participate in research conducted in the bio-optics laboratory and in the Center for Microelectronics, which is very active in the development of bioMEMS (microelectromechanical systems). 

One block from NJIT’s campus are the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University-Newark, and the Public Health Research Institute.  A 10-minute walk brings students to the flagship campus of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), which includes the New Jersey Medical School, the New Jersey Dental School and the University Hospital.  UMDNJ has outstanding facilities for research in neuroscience, orthopedics, physiology, biomaterials and molecular and cellular biology.

NJIT students have also found research opportunities at the East Orange VA Medical Center and the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute.


Does NJIT have an internship or co-op program?
BME students often find that an internship or a co-op is a perfect addition to their coursework.  These provide valuable experiences that are not generally available through traditional courses.  The BME department has a staff person who assists students in obtaining internships and co-ops.

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Can BME students take a semester abroad?
We recommend that students think about taking a semester abroad.  While this usually done by liberal arts students, we feel that engineering students can benefit equally from the experience.  Working with the NJIT Office of International Students and his/her advisor, a student can develop a plan of study that allows courses taken abroad to count toward graduation at NJIT.  In recent years, BME students have studied in Singapore, Sweden, England, France and Spain.


How many credits are required to graduate?
BME at NJIT requires 132 credits for graduation.  Those credits are divided among core engineering requirements, core BME requirements, liberal arts requirements, track requirements and technical electives.


Is engineering design a part of the curriculum?
Design is part of the set of problem solving skills that are essential to all engineers.  BME Freshmen take Fundamentals of BME Design course in which they are introduced to the design method and design tools, and conduct a structured design exercise.  Design is integrated into other BME courses, and culminates in a two-semester capstone design project conducted in the senior year.


What courses are required?
All NJIT engineering students take a common set of core courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry, and are required to take a number of liberal arts electives.  BME students all take a common set courses that include Introduction to Physiology, Fundamentals of BME Design, the three-course sequence of Electrical, Mechanical and Biochemical Foundations of BME, Biomedical Computing, a two course sequence of Engineering Physiology, linear algebra, statistics, and Capstone Design.  Tracks generally have four required courses and several technical electives.


May I take courses in other departments?
BME students often fulfill their technical electives by taking courses in other departments. These include robotics, human factors engineering, virtual instrumentation, laboratory techniques, material science, machine design, bio-optics, laser physics, microcomputers, human computer interaction, and computer science.


Do I take liberal arts courses as well as engineering?
While engineering is very important in BME, the purpose of an education is not entirely to advance one’s career.  Becoming a well-rounded citizen is equally important.  Courses such as medical ethics, economics, and history are important in understanding the world that one live in.  NJIT has a seamless arrangement with Rutgers-Newark that offers a wealth of interesting liberal arts courses.

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How do I ask for recommendations for graduate school, internships, or jobs?
This is a  major advantage of BME at NJIT. Students who are actively engaged in their courses, participate in research and are active in departmental programs have no difficulty finding faculty to write a personal and meaningful recommendation.  Recommendations can be written by the student’s advisor or any professor with whom they have worked.


Does NJIT have an Honors Program?
Yes, the Albert Dorman Honors College offers outstanding students opportunities found at small private colleges.  Students may apply to the Honors College at the same time they apply to NJIT.  Students may also seek later admission based on their accomplishments at NJIT.  Our BME students are well represented among the honors students.


I love sports, where is the football team?
NJIT has two football teams, they are called the Giants and the Jets.  Seriously, if you are a sports fan, NJIT is wonderfully located.  The Meadowlands complex is just one exit north on the Turnpike.  You can get there by car or public transportation.  You can watch NFL football, NBA basketball, NHL hockey and MLS soccer.  Just down the hill from campus the Newark Bears play Independent League baseball, and 10 minutes the other way, Seton Hall entertains some of the country’s top college basketball teams. 

If you are an athlete, you have a great chance to make one of NJIT’s varsity teams.  We do not recruit ‘professional’ athletes to fill our squads.  NJIT teams are made up of people like you and your classmates. Whether you are playing or cheering, you will know the players.


Does NJIT have a problem with alcohol and drugs? 
No.  Much to the credit of our students, we see very little of this problem that plagues many U.S. campuses.  Our students tend to be serious about their studies and work hard to obtain the best education possible. 

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Is Newark a nice place?
Newark is a fascinating city.  It suffered a devastating blow 40 years ago and has been recovering slowly.  The University Heights section is a bustling academic community with adjacent campuses of NJIT, Rutgers-Newark, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Essex County College.  In all, about 25,000 students make Newark a ‘college town’.  Newark’s great strength is its cultural diversity.  Ethnic music and food are plentiful.  The Ironbound neighborhood, Newark’s Portuguese and Brazilian enclave, has more than 50 restaurants.  The Newark Museum is a real gem and is one block from campus, while the NJ Performing Arts Center brings world-class performances to town.

Getting around is easy, with a subway stop on campus. The Newark City Subway is safe, clean and efficient.  It takes 5 minutes to reach Newark’s Penn Station from which you can take the Path or NJTransit to Manhattan and be there in less than 20 minutes.  As with any big city, you just need to be smart about your safety.

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