Joint Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Engineering
Offered by Biomedical Engineering at NJIT and Rutgers Health Science Campus in Newark
NJIT, in collaboration with the Newark Health Science Campus of Rutgers University, offers a PhD program in biomedical engineering. The partnership between the two universities enhances collaborative 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 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 the Newark Health Science Campus of Rutgers University. This research is clustered in the following areas.
- Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering
- Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Engineering
- Neurotrauma and Injury Biomechanics
- Brain Imaging and Image Processing
- Neural Engineering and Instrumentation
Students entering the program with an MS degree must take 24 credits of course work in advanced graduate level with 12 credits in biomedical engineering and 12 credits in life sciences. The post B.S. student must take an additional 12 credits in approved courses.
After passing the qualifying exam, students continually register for dissertation credits, in which the students demonstrate aptitude for independent research of publishable nature under a faculty mentor, until successfully defending their dissertation topic. 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 both the NJIT Graduate School and the Rutgers University's School of Graduate Studies. In general, applicants are expected to have had Calculus through differential 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 an MS in BME prior to admission to the PhD program. Alternatively, conditional admission may be granted to applicants lacking full preparation, and they may be required to take undergraduate bridge courses that will not carry graduate credit.
Applicants are recommended to have a minimum G.P.A of 3.5 in their most recent degree (B.S. or M.S.) and minimum GRE Quantitative score of 157. 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 applications and allows students to apply through 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.
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. Limited number of teaching assistantships and university fellowships are available with subsequent years of research supported by faculty grants.
Laboratory and funding opportunities vary considerably from year to year. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact the PhD Program Director at either NJIT or Rutgers 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 Director and develops an individualized learning contract. This document maps the student's plan of study to match 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, the 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.
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 by case basis. Twelve credits of course work will also be required in advanced life sciences. The remaining credits can be taken either from Rutgers or NJIT. For more course information visit the Rutgers Graduate Course Information. Students may propose alternative courses from at Rutgers University-Newark's Institute of Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience. For course information visit, http://cmbn.rutgers.edu/.
All student are required to take two laboratory rotations (one at NJIT and one at Rutgers) prior to engaging in the dissertation research and must attend the BME Graduate Seminar at NJIT after passing the Qualifier Exam.
Students entering with a BS in biomedical engineering will work with their advisor to select an additional 12 credits of engineering courses that will serve as a foundation (similar to an MS) for the advanced courses and dissertation research.
Before becoming a doctoral candidate, a student must demonstrate his/her ability to integrate the knowledge acquired in the Qualifying Examination. This examination is offered each June/July where students write a research proposal following the format for NIH fellowship applications and present their proposals orally to an examination committee. Students discuss and expand upon their written proposals, and demonstrate their ability to engage in scholarly discussions. The goal is to have students demonstrate that they can think independently and apply analytical skills in addressing a biomedical problem.
Written Research Proposal for the Qualifying Exam
Written part of the Qualifying Exam follows an NIH style 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 cannot be a part of the research mentor’s or other faculty members’ current or pending research grants, or developed as part of coursework (e.g. Research and Scholarship: 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, and a list of specific aims – which should include overview of experimental approaches. Research mentor and the PhD Program Director committee advisor can provide feedback on the outline only.
Students will complete the written proposal approximately 2 weeks after Specific Aims are approved. No further faculty input is permitted until the proposal is submitted to the Examination Committee. Qualifying Exam will typically occur at the end of the Spring semester in the second year (or at the end of year 1 for students who have been admitted with an MS degree in engineering).
- The oral exam is scheduled after the 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 PhD Program Director 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).
- Conditional Pass – committee will ask student for additional tasks
- Fail – can retake the exam once
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 style grant application similar to the Qualifying Examination as described above, identifying a unique scholarly problem, providing a critical review of related literature, proposing an appropriate hypothesis, and presenting a methodology to address the problem. As a contrast to the Qualifying Exam, the dissertation proposal will contain original preliminary data by the PhD candidate and present a realistic plan for completion of the dissertation research. The proposal is defended before the dissertation committee.