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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

The School of Graduate Studies

The Biomedical Engineering Program

The Program's Purpose

The PhD Biomedical Engineering (BME) curriculum integrates advanced academic training in engineering, basic sciences and medicine, with industrial experience, to produce world-class biomedical engineers who are prepared to work at the cutting-edge.

The Program's Goals

Within the context of this larger purpose, the program has four goals.

  • Commitment
  • Integration
  • Leadership
  • Economic Development



The program faculty are committed to providing doctoral students with a broad education that will prepare them not only for the extremely competitive academic "marketplace," but also for other employment opportunities - an approach that has been recommended strongly by the National Research Council.

Broad education and training are accomplished, in part, through the recommendation that students complete at least one laboratory rotation at either of the following industrial sites:

» Downstate's new Advanced Biotechnology Park, located adjacent to the Downstate campus; or
» Polytechnic's NSF I/UCR & EP for Biocatalysis & Bioprocessing of Macromolecules, located on the Polytechnic campus.

Because 40-50% of biomedical engineering graduates nationwide in recent years have taken jobs in industry, exposure to an industrial setting is highly advantageous for the PhD BME students.

In addition, students are offered courses that help prepare them to manage the various issues which will confront them in either academic or industrial careers.

For example, students are required to complete at least one of Polytechnic's many courses in technology management.

Also, participation in a Downstate School of Graduate Studies course called Entrepreneurship in Academia is strongly encouraged. The course is taught by patent lawyers, technology transfer specialists, and Downstate ethicists. This course covers both the legal and ethical aspects of intellectual property, patents, authorship, technology transfer, business plans, and venture capitalism.

Finally, the joint SUNY/Poly BME seminar series hosts speakers from both industry and academia.


The program faculty strive to integrate engineering, basic and clinical science, and translational research not only across traditional departmental boundaries, but also across several academic levels, e.g., students, postdoctoral researchers, residents and faculty. For example Principles of Biological Systems, a course taught by surgeons, is required for students matriculating in two of the three PhD BME entry-level pathways.

Through this forum, the surgeons present clinical problems that they believe require engineering solutions to an audience of future biomedical engineers. Also, Responsible Conduct in Research, a course which fulfills the current ethics requirement of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), provides instruction in the regulations governing research using animal and human subjects.


The program faculty strive to be a leading provider of education to students who are underrepresented in the field of biomedical engineering. Already, both Downstate and Polytechnic have a long tradition of educating students from backgrounds underrepresented in health sciences and engineering, as well as recent immigrants and children of immigrants.

  • PhD Biomedical Engineering Program Director: Subrata Saha
  • Biomaterials and Polymer Therapeutics Track Coordinator: John Carter
  • Bioimaging and Neuroengineering Track Coordinators: Randall L. Barbour & Yao Wang

Economic Development

The program faculty aim to provide the borough of Brooklyn with long-term economic development by increasing educational and employment opportunities through the joint PhD BME program, as well as through Downstate's new Advanced Biotechnology Park. Brooklyn's population is equivalent in size to that of the fourth largest US city, Chicago.

The Program's Structure

The PhD BME program consists of 46 course credits, exclusive of the required thesis research. The program has three separate, entry-level pathways to accommodate students entering with a bachelor's degree in any of the following disciplines:

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Computer Science Engineering
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Premedical Studies

Accommodating students with a variety of academic backgrounds is in keeping with the interdisciplinary nature of biomedical engineering.

Advanced PhD BME students select one from the following two thesis tracks:
» Biomaterials and Polymer Therapeutics; or
» Bioimaging and Neuroengineering.

Additional tracks may be added in the future. In the event that a student wishes to transfer between tracks during the first two years of the program, the Program Director will review the student's request.

The required PhD thesis research may be conducted under the supervision of a faculty member from either institution. It is expected that these students need six years after their bachelor's degree to complete the doctoral program.

Students are required to complete two laboratory rotations, each of three to four months' duration, prior to selection of a thesis laboratory. In keeping with the goal of preparing graduates for the changing career marketplace, it is recommended that one rotation be in an industrial setting; the other should be in an academic setting, i.e., in a basic science laboratory of either Polytechnic or Downstate, or in a laboratory of a Downstate clinical department engaged in translational research.

Both types of settings provide mentor-based, individualized training of the highest quality. Both basic science and clinical faculty with active research and graduate school appointments may supervise rotations, and ultimately, thesis projects. Senior scientists in companies of Downstate's Advanced Biotechnology Park, located adjacent to the Downstate campus, are eligible for adjunct faculty status and, as such, may be supervisors of rotations and co-supervisors of thesis projects. In order to become a thesis supervisor, a sufficient level of extramural funding (i.e., grants, contracts, or clinical revenues) must be demonstrated.

Students whose thesis research advisors are Polytechnic faculty are required to register at Polytechnic, whereas those whose thesis research advisors are Downstate faculty are required to register at Downstate. The same joint PhD is conferred regardless of the campus at which the student registers; the requirements for all graduate students in the program are identical.

While the PhD BME curriculum is designed to enroll students who have completed only a bachelor's degree, the program can accomodate students who have already completed a MS in Biomedical Engineering.

A qualifying examination, scheduled for no later than the end of the second year, is required to advance to candidacy for the PhD.

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