NJIT/Rutgers Joint Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Engineering

NJIT, in collaboration with Rutgers University, offers a PhD program in biomedical engineering. The partnership between the two universities enhances cultural approaches to research, access to facilities and resources, and networking opportunities.  The NJIT/Rutgers joint doctoral program offers advanced graduate education, providing students with the skills necessary for careers in basic and applied research as well as the intellectual foundation to provide leadership in academia and industry. This program emphasizes an integration of engineering and the life sciences to address complex problems Students are admitted to either institution and receive the same degree with a joint diploma. Course requirements are the same regardless of admission.

Aims of the Program

This joint program builds upon the synergistic relationship between NJIT and Rutgers University. The physical proximity of the two institutions facilitates access to courses, laboratories, libraries, and seminars, as well as blending scientific and clinical opportunities in education and research. In addition, the location of NJIT and Rutgers University in Newark promotes interaction with New Jersey's pharmaceutical and medical device industries and medical facilities. As the preparation for the PhD involves an extensive research apprenticeship in the form of dissertation, the program is closely linked to the areas of biomedical engineering research at NJIT and Rutgers University. This research is clustered in the following areas.

  • Biomaterials and Biocompatibility
  • Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine
  • Cellular and Orthopedic Biomechanics
  • Biomedical Signal Processing, Imaging and Instrumentation
  • Neural and Neuromuscular Engineering

The program requires a minimum of 78 credits beyond the B.S. or 60 credits beyond an M.S. degree in biomedical engineering or closely related field. For the post MS student, 24 credits must be in advanced graduate level courses with 12 credits in biomedical engineering and 12 credits in life sciences. The post B.S. student must take an additional 18 credits in approved courses.

The remaining 36 credits are comprised of mentored dissertation research, in which the student demonstrate aptitude for independent research of publishable nature. Individuals completing this degree are well-prepared for employment in academia, industry and government laboratories, or for post-doctoral study.


Eligibility for the Program

Prospective students seeking admission to the joint PhD Program should have an undergraduate degree in engineering, basic science or mathematics, and satisfy the admission and academic requirements of the NJIT Graduate School and the Rutgers University's Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. In general, applicants are expected to have had Calculus through differential equations equations, one full year of physics, one full year of chemistry, and a course in physiology as part of their prior engineering studies. Non-engineering applicants with strong life science or medical education, with the same physics, chemistry, math and physiology background, but who do not have experience in essential engineering sciences, will be considered on a case-by-case basis. These applicants may be asked to pursue and MS in BME prior to admission to the PhD program. Alternatively, conditional admission may be granted to applicants lacking full preparation, the a requirement to take undergraduate bridge courses that will not carry graduate credit. Admitted students who have not previously taken an upper level physiology course will be required to take BME 669- Engineering Physiology or an equivalent course as one of their graduate courses.

Applicants are expect to have a minimum G.P.A of 3.5 in their most recent degree (B.S. or M.S.) and minimum GRE Math and Verbal scores of 750 and 500. The GRE is required for all applicants, and TOEFL is required for all international students.

The program has a joint admission committee, which reviews all application, thus allowing students to apply to either institution. The host institution for a student may be changed depending upon the eventual research advisor and/or the institutional source of the research funding. The only significant institutional difference in the application process is that Rutgers University only admits students in the spring for the upcoming fall semester. NJIT can admit students who are beginning in either the fall or spring semesters. In general, however, spring admissions are rare.

As the PhD program is significantly based on faculty research, admission depends upon available opportunities and funding in individual laboratories, in addition to prior academic performance. A very limited number of teaching assistantships and university fellowships are available for begging students, with subsequent years of research supported by faculty grants.

Laboratory and funding opportunities vary considerably from year to year. Serious potential applicants are encouraged to contact the PhD program director at either NJIT or Rutgers University to discuss the current factors influencing admission.


Specifics of the PhD in Biomedical Engineering

Prior to the first semester of study, the student meets with the PhD Program Committee and develops an individualized  learning contract. This document maps the student's plan of study to math career goals with the PhD curriculum. The development of the learning contract involves reviewing the student's prior courses, assessing future course needs, planning for qualifying exams and lab rotations, and initiating discussion of research interests. If a student enters the program with a research and mentor identified, that mentor is also included in the planning.

This learning contract is revised during each semester's advising period and it is updated as necessary. The Academic Progress Committee, comprised of NJIT and Rutgers University faculty, monitors the progress of students through the completion of their degrees.


Graduate Courses

Students entering the program following an MS in biomedical engineering are required to take a minimum of 24 credits of advanced courses. Twelve credits of advanced biomedical engineering shall be selected in the field of specialization chosen by the student. Generally, the courses selected are offered at NJIT and are listed in the university course catalog. Courses from other engineering departments are considered on a case basis. The remaining 12 credits will be in advanced life sciences. These include GSDN 5200Q Introduction to Biomedical Sciences, which is referred as the "Core" course and is required of all PhD students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences - Rutgers University. For course information visit, http://njms.rutgers.edu/gsbs/olc/index.php. This 5-credit course is augmented by a 1-credit BME 611- Engineering Aspects of Molecular and Cellular Biology - NJIT. The remaining 6 credits of life sciences courses should reinforce the student's area of specialization.  Students may propose alternative courses taken at Rutgers University-Newark's Institute of Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience. For course information visit,​http://psych.rutgers.edu/course-syllabi.

Students entering with a BS biomedical engineering will work with their advisor to select an additional 18 credits of biomedical engineering and life science course that will serve as foundation (similar to an MS) for the advanced courses and dissertation research.

In addition to the required 24 (with BS) course requirements, all PhD students must register for GSDN 5001Q Ethics in Science, Research and Scholarship, and two laboratory rotations (one at NJIT and one at Rutgers University).  Students are requested to attend, but are not required to register for the BME Graduate Seminar at NJIT.


Qualifying Examinations

Before becoming a doctoral candidate, a student must demonstrate his/her ability to integrate the knowledge acquired studies in the Qualifying Examination. This examination is offered each June and included a day-long written portion consisting of integrative questions. Shortly after the date of the written exam, an oral exam is conducted by the  Academic Progress Committee on the same questions. Students discuss and expand upon their written answers, and demonstrate their ability to engage in scholarly discussions.

Qualifying Exam Overview
The goal is to have students prepare a research proposal that demonstrates the student can think independently and apply analytical skills in addressing a medical problem.

Written Research Proposal

Research Grant Format

  • Maximum length of 12 pages single-spaced, excluding references and specific aims
  • Specific Aims (1 page maximum)
  • Background and Significance:
    • Show knowledge of breadth of literature underlying proposed research
    • Address engineering and life science concepts
    • Can include supporting data not generated by the student (all data must be “real” and cited appropriately)
  • Preliminary Data – generated by the student (and cited appropriately as “unpublished” or, if published, with correct reference)
  • Approach/Experimental Design:
    • Include expected results, potential problems and alternative results/hypotheses
  • Research Proposal Topic/Problem can be from the student’s research area
  • Specific Aims must include at least one original Aim developed by the student and can not be a part of the research mentor’s or other faculty members’ current or pending research grants. It can not be developed as part of coursework (e.g. Grant Writing Course: GSND 5006Q or other courses)
  • Specific Aims (at least 2) must be pre-approved by research mentor and graduate committee advisor.  Specific Aims should include brief rationale, hypothesis, list of specific aims – which should include overview of experimental approaches. Research mentor and graduate committee advisor can provide feedback on outline only.

Written proposal due in approximately 2 weeks once Specific Aims are approved.  No further faculty input is permitted until the proposal is submitted to the Examination Committee. Writing will occur at the end of the semester of year 2 (or at the end of year 1 for students who have completed a MS in BME and have fulfilled the majority of course requirements).

Oral Exam

  • The oral exam is scheduled after written proposal is received
  • The student must give an overview of proposed research that is brief (25 minutes)
  • The exam committee is charged to gauge competency and preparedness of the student to undertake PhD research (student is instructed to be prepared for extensive questions from the committee)
  • The Exam Committee will be appointed by the graduate committee advisor with input from the research mentor. The exam committee must be composed of a minimum of three voting members (mentor can attend as an observer only) and must include at least two members from NJIT Department of Biomedical Engineering. One member can be from Rutgers University. (This committee can potentially be the core of the student’s dissertation committee - minimum of 5 members).
  • Outcomes:
    • Pass
    • Conditional Pass – committee will ask student for additional tasks
    • ​Fail – can retake the exam


The dissertation represents original research and reflects a student's ability to critically understand the significance of a problem and conduct novel, high quality, and independent research, which advances the state of the art.

Before beginning the dissertation the student will select a dissertation committee, to be chaired by the student's primary advisor, and prepare a dissertation proposal. The proposal is organized using the format of an NIH Fellowship application, available here), identifying a unique scholarly problem, providing a critical review of related literature, proposing an appropriate hypothesis, and presenting a methodology to address the problem. The proposal is defended before the dissertation committee.

Doctoral study concludes with a written dissertation and an oral defense. All students must complete 36 credits of dissertation research.