By joining our department you will join a group of talented, dedicated students who share your enthusiasm for engineering better health and better health care. Your peers are your greatest asset, and a strong peer group is a hallmark of UW Bioengineering education. Students move through the program as a cohort, beginning Spring Quarter of the sophomore year. Our junior-level lectures enroll 50-55 students; labs have 15-20; and senior elective courses typically enroll between 24-40. Because of our smaller size and our cohort structure, each year students form a tight-knit, mutually supportive and mutually challenging group. Faculty and staff get to know the students as a cohort and as individuals.
The student community is supported by great facilities. Bioengineering majors enjoy:
- A student den, for light meals, study, socializing, pizza parties, pool—or a nap
- Lockers in the Foege building
- A student-only drop-in computing lab (and remote access to your BIOE desk-top)
- An advanced computing lab, open for students whenever class is not in session
- Open collaborative spaces on each floor designed to foster conversation, exchange of ideas, study groups, and lunch groups
- Ability to reserve our conference rooms, seminar rooms, and meeting rooms for student events
- Access to presentation equipment and video editing equipment
- Day and night access to the building, teaching labs, computer labs, and student den
UW Bioengineers are leaders! Our students run the campus chapter of the BioMedical Engineering Society (BMES), which doubles as our student club. They launched Bioengineers Without Borders (BWB), a group that develops low-cost medical instrumentation appropriate to low resource settings. And they are involved in numerous cultural, humanitarian, and sporting organizations on campus.
UW Bioengineering students help shape their education. A team of undergraduates was involved in the design of our curriculum. Undergraduates serve on the department's Curriculum Committee, Student Affairs Committee, and the Chair's Student Advisory Board. We pride ourselves on openness and responsiveness to student concerns.
UW Bioengineering students support each other. The atmosphere is cooperative rather than competitive, and study groups are key to survival. Juniors and seniors are employed as graders (undergraduate TA's) in classes they have successfully completed, giving the benefit of their experience to their younger peers.
The culture of research is a defining characteristic of our degree program.
UW Bioengineering is housed jointly in the School of Medicine and the College of Engineering, which makes interdisciplinary collaboration second nature to us. Our research spans everything from basic science discovery to engineered solutions ready for commercialization and clinical use. At UW, research is integral to your education in Bioengineering. To be graduated, all BS BIOE students must complete a significant research project, and many complete two, three or even four years of research and have publications to show for their efforts. Bioengineering students are very competitive for Mary Gates Research Scholarships and other research-based awards. The Department sponsors a Senior Capstone Scholarship competition during the fall of the senior year.
Interested in finding research in your freshman year? Read our tips.
To explore the breadth and depth of what we do, check out our Research section.
- Reading about faculty research
- Finding what interests them
- Contacting the faculty of interest and asking for a position
- By presenting themselves well in email and in person
Step 1: Learn what research is happening at UW.
This first step requires reading on department web sites. For Bioengineering start at http://depts.washington.edu/bioe/research/research-themes/research-themes.shtml. Don’t restrict yourself to bioengineering research, as our labs get very full of our majors. Any research in science or engineering is fair game; the point is getting started. Don’t neglect the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy, full of clinically relevant research!
Seminars are another good way to learn about research. Try BIOEN 299, Autumn and Winter quarters.
Step 2: Decide what interests you most.
Keep notes as you read. What sparks your interest? What subjects keep attracting you? What stands out?
Step 3: Contact the faculty whose research interests you.
Email is best. Be concise and informative. Your email should:
- Introduce yourself. (i.e., “I’m a sophomore who will be applying to BIOE next quarter.”)
- Say what you want. (“I’d like to get involved in research.”)
- Express why you are interested in their research. (Be brief, but try to say something about why their work caught your attention.) Explain why you think you would be a good match for the lab.
- Explain what you can offer. (“I could volunteer X hours a week.” “I have prior research experience doing X.” “I’ve completed sequences in chemistry, calculus, and physics and have a GPA of X.XX.” “I’m hard-working and self-disciplined.”) Briefly state whatever is true of you that could be an asset to the lab.
- Ask for an interview. (“Would you have ten minutes to meet with me to discuss the possibility of volunteering in your lab?”)
Attach a resume if you have one. The Career Center in Mary Gates Hall has resume models online and offers drop-in resume critiques in the afternoon. http://careers.washington.edu/ .
Step 4: Present yourself well.
Read the lab website thoroughly in advance. Prepare a few questions to ask about the research. If possible, look up a recently published paper (often listed on the lab website) and read it. It’s ok if it’s hard; you can always ask a question about it. It’s impressive when students prepare well and show curiosity. Express your interest. Ask what they look for in a student researcher. You will have the best experience if there is a match between your interests and availability and their work and expectations.
It should go without saying that you should keep your appointment, be on time, and send a thank-you afterwards (email is fine).
Keep in mind:
Be willing to start at the bottom, especially if you don’t have prior lab experience. The lab may just need an assistant, someone to wash dishes and do routine tasks. It’s ok to start there. Ask if you can sit in on lab meetings. Read the background papers. When you have mastered your introductory tasks, look around to see if there is some other way you can make yourself useful. Usually you will start by volunteering; with more experience, you may be able to find a paying lab position. This varies widely by lab.
Not all faculty will respond to your email. It’s ok to send a follow-up after two or three weeks. If you still don’t get an answer, move on.
Some faculty will say they don’t have room at this time. Ask if you can check back in a quarter or two, and do so.
To find a summer position in a BIOE lab, you will likely need to begin searching by Spring break, and in some cases earlier.
Keep your promises! If you say you will spend 12 hours a week in lab, be prepared to honor that agreement.
- Undergraduate Research Program, http://www.washington.edu/research/urp/. Information about finding research, getting funding, designing posters, research conduct, and more.
- Mary Gates Research Scholarship, http://www.washington.edu/uaa/mge/apply/research/index.htm. If you are researching with faculty, you are eligible to apply. They like to fund ongoing projects and usually you will be a stronger applicant if you have been in the lab at least a quarter. See website for details. The deadline is normally early to mid-Autumn quarter.
- Some organized research programs with stipends:
-Amgen Scholars: https://www.washington.edu/research/urp/amgen/
-Howard Hughes Medical Institute: http://www.biology.washington.edu/HHMI/
-National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU): http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.cfm
-Space Grant Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP): http://www.waspacegrant.org/u-gradsum.html
- Mary Gates Research Scholarships
Our undergraduates have a successful track record in securing these scholarship supporting faculty-guided research.
- Amgen Scholars
Provides $3,500 stipend, room, board, and travel allowance to selected sophomores, juniors, and non-graduating seniors.
- Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity
- Senior Capstone Scholarships
Three scholarships of $1,500 each are available to applicants enrolled in BIOEN 482 with a capstone project in Integrative Physiology, Systems Biology & Synthetic Biology or Imaging and Image-Guided Therapy.
- Technologies we are developing
- Health and healthcare problems we are solving
- Clinical research examples
- Translational research
UW Bioengineering has top-ranked programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Educational opportunities for undergraduates include:
- BS in Bioengineering
- BS in Bioengineering with an Option in NanoMolecular Engineering (NME)
- Departmental Honors
- Five-year BS/MS degree program (master's with research thesis)
- Program on Technology Commercialization (set of courses)
- Popular minors include Global Health, Bioethics and Humanities, Applied Math, Math, and Chemistry--but also music and assorted liberal arts minors
The BS Bioengineering program at UW is a rigorous academic program in an intimate and supportive environment. Our students work hard, and they are well-supported by faculty and staff.
Bioengineers need to learn mathematics, the physical sciences, the organic sciences, and engineering. Our junior core is demanding, and long hours are not uncommon. In core you learn principles drawn from biochemistry, physiology, and electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineering. Senior concentrations allow you to go deeper in an area of interest. The senior capstone requires the integration and application of your knowledge and skills and the ability to organize and follow through with a longer term project. Design experiences are integral to engineering education. Innovation requires thorough knowledge of fundamental science and engineering plus plenty of practice with improvisation. Our pre-requisite and core courses teach you the fundamentals. Our design experiences provide important practice in improvisation.
At UW Bioengineering, we give our students plenty of practice with the design process, beginning in the freshman year with BIOEN 215, Introduction to BIOE Problem Solving. At the end of the junior core, students revisit design in BIOEN 345, Failure Analysis of Human Physiology, and in BIOEN 401, where they propose their capstone projects. Capstone involves a culminating design experience.
UW Bioengineering also offers the Bioengineering Student Design Fund (BSFD) to support groups of students who want to undertake design projects outside of class, anytime from the freshman year on. BSFD requires students to propose a project in the form of a small grant application and makes renewable awards of up to $500 to cover materials. Part of the success of BSDF is that freshmen and sophomores work with juniors and seniors and learn from their experience.
UW Bioengineering's curriculum offers flexible preparation for various career options:
- PhD-bound students receive optimal training in our research program.
- Pre-clincial students (such as future physicians) can find clinically relevant research in BIOE and in the School of Medicine, and they learn medically relevant science and engineering in the degree program.
- Industry-bound students are supported by the Affiliates Program, which brings local industry representatives in for networking, interviewing, and professional skill development.
- Presentation skills such as resumes and interviewing are built into the core curriculum. Our graduates work in biomedical and biotechnical companies, in hospitals, in research institutes, and with the FDA.
- Future entrepreneurs benefit from the Program on Technology Commercialization (PTC), BWB, and our design courses. Future lawyers with an interest in intellectual property can benefit from PTC as well.
- Future educators can take BIOEN 497, Bioengineering Educational Outreach, can be employed as graders in the department, and can be involved in countless mentoring and tutoring opportunities in the department and elsewhere at UW.