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The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

BioScience Research CollaborativeBioengineering challenges facing the leaders of the new millennium are complex and, based on their application, offer more effective cures for global disease and improved quality of life for aging populations or people with disabilities. The Department of Bioengineering at Rice University is an exemplary academic and research institution that believes no single discipline will provide the answers future scientists, business leaders, professionals, and politicians will need. To train the next generation of leaders in bioengineering, we have built an innovative teaching program that transcends boundaries between bioengineering, basic science, and clinical medicine; integrating the academic, industrial, and societal perspectives.

Our hands-on approach to education is supported by a long-standing tradition of cross-disciplinary research and education. The Rice bioengineering program is comprehensive and provides students with:

  • A fundamental understanding of the life and medical sciences,
  • Advanced analytical and engineering capabilities, and
  • Translational research that transfers biotechnical advances from bench to bedside.

With this educational background, graduates will be well prepared to participate in independent or collaborative research and development endeavors in industry or academia.

The Ph.D. program curriculum

The Ph.D. curriculum has three components: Foundation, Supporting, and Advanced Topics courses. Collectively, the components afford students broad exposure to their chosen field of research interest. 

Prerequisite courses

The following courses are required prerequisites. If a student does not have evidence on their undergraduate transcript that they have received credit for these courses they must take them as part of the Ph.D. curriculum.

  • Fundamentals of Systems Physiology,
  • Cell Biology, and
  • Statistics.

Only one prerequisite course may be counted towards the required 30 hours of Foundation, Supporting, and Advanced Topic courses. This course must be a 400 level or higher course and taken for a standard letter grade. (Exception: BIOC 341 may be taken with a standard letter grade as a prerequisite and counted towards the 30 required hours.) If more than one prerequisite is required, additional courses may be taken for a standard letter grade or pass/fail credit, but will not count toward the required 30 hours of Foundation, Supporting, or Advanced Topic courses regardless of the grade mode.

Foundation courses

The following core courses are required for all students:

  • Mechanics, Transport, and Cellular Signaling (BIOE 516, 3 credit hours)
  • Instrumentation and Molecular Analysis (BIOE 517, 3 credit hours)
  • Introduction to Computational Biology (BIOE 518, 3 credit hours)
  • Biomaterials (BIOE 519, 3 credit hours)
  • Applied Statistics for Bioengineering and Biotechnology (BIOE 539, 3 credit hours) or 400 level or higher mathematics, statistics, or computational and applied mathematics course (3 credit hours);
  • Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (UNIV 594, 1 credit hour);
  • Life Sciences Entrepreneurship (BIOE 633, 1.5 credit hours) or Professional Development for Bioengineering (BIOE 690, 3 credit hours)
Students must take a minimum of 5 graduate level (500 or above) bioengineering (BIOE) courses for a total of 15 credit hours. 

Supporting courses

There are seven recognized major tracks that reflect research interests within the Bioengineering Department. Students may elect a specialization track and take three supporting courses in that area. To fulfill the requirements of the track, students must take three supporting courses in the area of interest. The student must consult with his or her advisor regarding appropriate courses to support their chosen track. Seven major tracks that reflect research interests within the Bioengineering Department are recognized:

  1. Translational Bioengineering Cancer Research (TBCR),
  2. Molecular, Cellular and Tissue Engineering (MCTE),
  3. Bioimaging and Optics (BIO),
  4. Biomaterials, Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering
  5. Computational and Theoretical Bioengineering (CTBE),
  6. Nanobiology (NBIOL), and
  7. Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB)   

Advanced topics courses

A large array of advanced specialty courses is available to BIOE graduate students. Each student should select the courses most appropriate for his/her research work with the help of the thesis advisor and the Graduate Academic Affairs Committee. Students must take a minimum of 15 credit hours of graduate level BIOE courses.

Graduate seminar courses

Students must register for the graduate seminars (BIOE 698 in the fall and BIOE 699 in the spring) every semester of their first three years of study. Students beyond their third year are not required to attend, but are highly encouraged to do so. These courses are given on a pass/fail basis only. Attendance at the seminars is mandatory unless the absence has been excused in advance by the course administrator. Graduate students may miss up to two seminars per semester. Seminars are given by leaders from the field of bioengineering. Following each seminar, there is time scheduled for graduate students to meet with the speaker for an informal discussion. Attendance at these sessions is not mandatory, but strongly recommended.

Ph.D. program requirements

The university minimum requirement for the doctorate degree is 90 semester hours. For more details about the Department of Bioengineering's Graduate Degree Requirements and Procedures, see the linked PDF files on the sidebar to the left titled Additional Information. The Ph.D. candidate in Bioengineering must:

  • Complete 30 semester hours of  foundation, supporting, and advanced topics courses (The maximum number of hours that can be transferred is 12.); 15 of these credit hours must be graduate level 500 or higher BIOE courses.
  • Maintain an average GPA of 3.2 or higher,
  • Complete 2.5 semesters as a teaching assistant for six to ten hours per week,
  • Prepare a thesis proposal and present it to the thesis committee,
  • Complete a publishable thesis representing research that is an original and significant contribution to a field of bioengineering, and
  • Pass a public oral examination in defense of the thesis.

No foreign language is required for an advanced degree in Bioengineering. About four to six years of study are normally necessary to complete the Ph.D. degree requirements.