Applying as a non-Biomedical Engineer
From Sepideh Dolatshahi, Graduate Admissions Committee Member, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia
Biomedical Engineering is at the interface of engineering with biology, focused on integrating quantitative and physical principles with advances in modern biology. As such, we do not require that students have a certain undergraduate major to apply to BME. We are inherently interdisciplinary, and receive and enthusiastically welcome applications from a wide variety of backgrounds, in addition to biomedical engineering. We welcome applications from students with science, math and engineering training and a commitment to making the BME transition.
Our applicants can be students with solid quantitative training—for example, in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering or Chemical Engineering—who are confident in their ability to learn the biological sciences. We recommend that these students include cell biology and biochemistry in their undergraduate curriculum or demonstrate familiarity with these disciplines via previous research experiences. Alternatively, our applicants can be brave, quantitatively savvy biologists, immunologists or biochemists. Either way, we look for evidence in your application materials (coursework, research, your personal statement, reference letters and early contacts like Zooms) to gauge whether or not you will succeed in our biological, engineering and computational coursework and research in our BME laboratories.
Having come from a purely electrical engineering, telecommunication networks and signal processing background myself, I started my BME journey at the Ph.D. stage at Georgia Tech. I managed to convince my Ph.D. advisor that I had what it took to build the cell biology and biochemistry background that was needed for my Ph.D. research. There was a steep learning curve, which required enthusiasm and persistence. Many other faculty members in our department have non-BME undergraduate or even graduate training backgrounds. Regardless of your undergraduate major, you are a strong applicant if you demonstrate excitement for research, have an academic grounding in both quantitative and life sciences and have enthusiastic support from previous mentors. It is important that you are able to identify faculty within BME whose research aligns with your interests and have a rough plan for bridging the gaps in your background.