Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineering lies at the intersection of the physical and life sciences, incorporating principles from physics and chemistry to understand the operation of living systems. As in other engineering fields, the approach is highly quantitative: mathematical analysis and modeling are used to capture the function of systems from subcellular to organism scales. An education in Biomedical Engineering, and engineering more broadly, enables students to translate abstract hypotheses and scientific knowledge into working systems (e.g., prosthetic devices, imaging systems, and biopharmaceuticals). This enables one to both test the understanding of basic principles and to further this knowledge, and it places this understanding in the broader context of societal needs.  Department Website

In recognition of the pivotal importance of the life sciences and the technologies they inspire to our society, Harvard is committed to broadly educating engineers who will become leaders in the developing field of Biomedical Engineering. The objective of this concentration is to provide students with a solid foundation in engineering, particularly as applied to the life sciences, within the setting of a liberal arts education. The concentration is flexibly structured for a diversity of educational and professional objectives. It enables the acquisition of skills drawn from the humanities, social sciences and sciences, which enhance engineering knowledge and which will contribute to future leadership and technical success.

The A.B. degree consists of 14 four-credit-courses. This degree prepares students for the practice of Biomedical Engineering and for graduate study in engineering and medicine, and it is an excellent preparation for careers in other professions (business, law, etc.) as it provides an ideal framework for a well-rounded technical and scientific education. Advanced courses build on the knowledge acquired in math, science, and introductory engineering science courses. Concentrators are encouraged to complete the common prerequisite course sequence in their first two years at Harvard. This includes Math or Applied Mathematics, Life Sciences and Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering Sciences 53 (Quantitative Physiology). 

The technologies that engineers create are changing at an amazing rate, but the fundamentals of engineering that enable these advances remain constant. Our curriculum emphasizes a solid background in the chemical and biological aspects of the Biomedical Engineering field, with ample opportunity to learn about state-of-the-art technologies. In particular, students will take courses in systems modeling to understand and mathematically model non-linear complex biological systems, thermodynamics to appreciate the basic driving forces underlying biological and chemical systems, the fundamental processes of heat and mass transport that often control the rates of system changes, and molecular to tissue level engineering of biological systems. Through this coursework, students also gain experience in the engineering design process, the engineering activity that requires creative synthesis as well as analysis.