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B.A. in Biochemistry -> Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering?

  1. Jan 12, 2009 #1
    B.A. in Biochemistry ---> Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering?

    Hi everyone,
    I've been freaking out a bit about grad school and wondering whether I have a chance. The guidance at my small liberal arts college is good, but I doubt that even one person per year goes on to grad school in BME, so the faculty can't really give world's greatest advice. Just wondering what everyone thinks. As far as my school- no engineering degrees offered. We've got a handful of physics students (literally a handful), and I'm not sure about how great my degree is, but here goes. Sorry for the long post.
    I will graduate next year (May 2010) with a B.A. in Biochemistry (and another major) and a minor in Mathematics. Since this is a liberals arts college, these concentrations probably entail significantly less coursework than a regular B.S. degree. When I graduate, my major will have given me the following coursework (I'll underline what I've completed so far, bold what I will have completed at the end of this year): Bio I and II, Chem I and II, Orgo I and II, Physics (with calculus) I and II (all with lab), Genetics (with lab), Intro to Bioinformatics, Biochemistry (with lab), Calculus I and II, and Physical Chemistry- either Thermo or Quantum. I'm leaning toward Quantum.
    The maths: Calc I and II, Multivariable, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, and hopefully a course called "Mathematical Physics," which is kind of an applied math course. (I figured it would be helpful.)
    THEN I'm also hoping to take, in addition: Intro to Comp Sci (will learn C++ although I know Perl from my research), Thermodynamics, and 1 course each in electrical circuits, engineering mechanics, and fluid mech. (The last 3 at a nearby college- since mine doesn't offer this stuff). If I want to have no life next year, I can also take physiology and mechanics of materials. (This year is orgo and physics, and some maths- pretty tough).
    I have some research experience, not really biomedical engineering- more bioinformatics. I'm hoping to do BME type research this summer though.
    I think there are a number of reasons why it took awhile for me to figure out that I wanted to do BME...mainly, I don't know anyone doing it. My high school didn't really offer physics, and at my very small college, its more normal to go for psych, nursing, medicine etc. At this point though, I'm really passionate about it. I love what I'm learning, and love the idea of using physics, chemistry etc to improve the world of medicine.
    One other thing you should know before deciding my fate- right now I've got a 4.0 GPA...dunno how long it's going to last (especially since the hardest courses are yet to come) but that's from 3 semesters of hard work.
    So, do I have a chance? If so- at what kind of places? Also- I really want to apply next fall- I will have a lot of coursework to go at that point(most of those higher level classes)- will admissions committees still consider me?
    Thanks for your help in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 12, 2009 #2


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    Re: B.A. in Biochemistry ---> Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering?

    BME is an engineering discipline. As such, I believe you need an engineering or a physics undergraduate degree in order to do graduate work in the field. Most importantly to get into this field you'll need courses that give you a solid foundation in electrodymanics, electronics, signal and image processing (and the associated math), quantum mechanics and thermodymanics. A general medical physics course wouldn't hurt either.

    I would encourage you to look up specific graduate schools and take note of their admission requirements.
  4. Jan 12, 2009 #3
    Re: B.A. in Biochemistry ---> Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering?

    I have been (a bit obsessively so) looking up grad school admissions requirements, and even emailed admissions faculty from about a dozen schools I'd be interested in applying to. Several of the schools (some of them very good ones- such as Hopkins) were quite encouraging. It seems to me that BME, more than other engineering fields, is extremely interdisciplinary and as such, admissions committees recognize that applicants will be coming from all sorts of scientific backgrounds. They claim to be open to accepting such applicants, provided they have some minimal coursework. This usually includes math through o.d.e., physics with calculus, some sort of comp sci, bio/physiology, and a course in orgo. Many of them also want: circuits (some also want electronics- which I won't have), thermo, fluid mech/transport phenomena, engineering mechanics. For the most part, I have these courses (or will have), and even top programs (most) claim to consider students who are missing some coursework provided they will take these classes at the outset of their studies.
  5. Jan 13, 2009 #4

    Andy Resnick

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    Re: B.A. in Biochemistry ---> Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering?

    Based on what your have said, I think you are a good fit for a BME or Biophysics program. If you can get some related research experience, that would go a long way towards addressing a perceived deficits in your coursework.
  6. Jan 13, 2009 #5


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    Re: B.A. in Biochemistry ---> Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering?

    I majored in biochemistry and am now in a graduate biophysics program, so it definitely is possible to switch from a life sciences field into a physical science, although switching from biochemistry to biomedical engineering may be somewhat different than my experience. Like you, I made sure to supplement my biochem coursework with extra physical chemistry and math courses (I also minored in math), and these extra courses were valuable for helping out with my graduate coursework. In addition, I had a good amount of research experience in a biophysics/biochemistry lab.

    So, it sounds like you're on the right track.
  7. Jan 14, 2009 #6
    Re: B.A. in Biochemistry ---> Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering?

    Thank you everyone for your encouraging and informative replies.
    Would it make a great deal of sense for me to take a year off, beef up my coursework by taking a few more advanced physics/engineering courses, doing some research etc.- and apply then? (i.e. is it laughable to admissions committees that, for instance, I only took general physics the year before I apply?)
    I don't particularly want to do this, since most of my peers are already graduating this year (I took a couple of years off for totally non-related study abroad)...that would mean I'd be 23 when I start. BME PhD programs are usually around 5 years, right?
  8. Jan 24, 2009 #7
    Re: B.A. in Biochemistry ---> Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering?

    I think a year off to catch up on coursework is definitely something not to reject out of hand. (Wow, that's a backwards way of saying that.) I vote keep it as an option and see where life takes you; you can always apply to grad school next year and then catch up on coursework if you don't get in where you want to. Another thing to consider is that while you may be able to get into grad school on what you have, you might still feel kind of lost your first year: you should probably talk to Leah and get her input on that.
  9. Jan 24, 2009 #8
    Re: B.A. in Biochemistry ---> Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering?

    you caught me!!! :-) but then, i caught you first.
    thanks for your thoughtful reply- see you tuesday!
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