Degree Requirements

Degree Requirements

Rice University's minimum requirement for the doctorate degree is 90 semester hours. The PhD candidate in bioengineering must:

  • Complete 30 semester hours of graduate-level courses (500 and above) in foundation, supporting, and advanced topics (The maximum number of hours that can be transferred is 12.); 15 of these credit hours must be designated as bioengineering (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 PhD degree requirements.

Prerequisite Courses

If a student does not have evidence on their undergraduate transcript that they have received credit for these undergraduate courses, they must take them as part of the PhD curriculum.

  • Fundamentals of Systems Physiology (BIOE 322 or equivalent 3 credit hours)

  • Cell Biology (BIOC 341 or equivalent 3 credit hours)

  • Statistics (BIOE 440 or equivalent, 1 credit hour)


The Rice Bioengineering PhD curriculum 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, doctoral graduates will be well prepared to:

  • Work as independent researchers;
  • Acquire a graduate-level understanding of foundations in bioengineering and apply this material across a variety of sub-disciplines;
  • Integrate knowledge from different sources to solve a defined bioengineering problem;
  • Acquire deep knowledge in a sub-discipline in which they will pursue their dissertation; and
  • Demonstrate professional skills in both oral and written communication.

The PhD curriculum has three components: foundation, supporting, and advanced topics courses. Collectively, the components afford students broad exposure to their chosen field of research interest. First-year PhD students enjoy the opportunity to rotate in faculty labs their first semester after they matriculate. This helps students identify the bioengineering field that best suits their post-graduate career goals.

Foundation Courses

Students must take a minimum of five graduate-level (500-level or above) bioengineering courses for a total of 15 credit hours. The following core courses are required for all bioengineering (BIOE) PhD students:

  • BIOE 539: Applied Statistics for Bioengineering & Biotechnology (3 credit hours) OR a 400-level or higher mathematics, statistics, or computational and applied mathematics course (3 credit hours)
  • UNIV 594: Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research (1 credit hour)
  • BIOE 633: Life Sciences Entrepreneurship (1.5 credit hours) OR BIOE 690: Professional Development for Bioengineering (3 credit hours)
  • Three of the four foundation courses listed below:
    • BIOE 516: Mechanics, Transport, and Cellular Signaling (3 credit hours)
    • BIOE 517: Instrumentation and Molecular Analysis (3 credit hours)
    • BIOE 518: Introduction to Computational Biology (3 credit hours)
    • BIOE 519: Biomaterials (3 credit hours)

Supporting Courses

Students may elect a department research area and take three supporting courses in that area of interest. Students must consult with his or her adviser regarding appropriate courses to support their chosen research area:

  1. Biomaterials, Biofabrication & Mechanobiology
  2. Biomedical Imaging & Instrumentation
  3. Cellular, Molecular and Genome Engineering & Synthetic Biology
  4. Computational and Theoretical Bioengineering & Biophysics

Advanced Topics Courses

A large array of advanced specialty courses is available to Rice bioengineering graduate students. Each student should select the courses most appropriate for his/her research with the help of the thesis adviser. Advanced topic courses may be used to meet the 30 semester hours of graduate level courses.

Graduate Seminar Courses

Students must register for the graduate seminars (BIOE 698 in fall, BIOE 699 in 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.

Learn more about our seminar courses.