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University of Pittsburgh    
2016-2017 Undergraduate Catalog 
  May 25, 2024
2016-2017 Undergraduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Bioengineering - Biomechanics Concentration, BSE

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Freshman Engineering Program

All engineering freshmen pursue a common academic program, selecting a major upon completion. The freshman-year curriculum includes two specially designed engineering-oriented courses (ENGR 0011 Introduction to Engineering Analysis  and Engineering 0012 Introduction to Engineering Computing ). These courses provide freshman students with an overview of the various areas of engineering, introduce certain engineering skills and tools, and acquaint students with the engineering problem solving process. Freshman students also participate in an engineering seminar, conducted in part by the Freshman Leadership Team’s Peer Advisors. These seminars provide general information on the transition to college and the improvement of study skills and provide an overview of the various engineering fields so that freshmen can make an informed choice of majors at the end of the first year. Students are also given several opportunities to visit the various programs in order to talk to the faculty and learn about the specific academic requirements. All engineering freshmen participate in the Freshman Engineering Conference during the Spring Term. Outstanding freshman students may also participate in the Fessenden Honors in Engineering Program (See Special Academic Opportunities/Programs for details). For more information on the Freshman Engineering Program, visit

The freshman-year curriculum is detailed below:

Credits: 17

Credits: 17


* Students choose electives from an extensive list of acceptable Arts and Sciences humanities and social science courses, including a large number of languages that students are encouraged to study. Students may not take self-paced, hybrid, or online courses to satisfy the humanities/social science requirement.

Honors Courses for Engineering Freshmen

Outstanding freshman engineering students are eligible to participate in the University Honors College (UHC). Entering freshman students who are in the top 5 percent of their graduating class and have a minimum SAT I score of 1450 are eligible for honors courses. Students participating in the University Honors College may take honors courses that substitute for regular required course offerings in their first two terms. For more information on the UHC, visit

Honors courses offered include:

First Term

Second Term

Credits: 18

*Students who earn a C or higher in MATH 0235  for the first term may take UHC MATH 0240  the second term and will be awarded advanced placement credit for MATH 0220 .

Students who opt to take Engr 0711 (Honors Engineering Analysis and Engineering Computing)  in the fall term of their freshman year have the opportunity to take a unique service learning course in the second term. This course, ENGR 0716 Art of Hands-On System Design and Engineering , is only open to students who successfully complete ENGR 0711  with a grade of C or better. In this course, students will explore tools and techniques for inventing, designing and prototyping systems. Students will gain an introduction to ‘smart systems’; i.e.,automated systems that can sense the world and automatically respond in useful ways.

Writing-Designated Course (W Course) Requirement

Engineering students must demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively. This includes both written and oral communication and the ability to make professional presentations. Upon admission, students with an SAT Critical Reading score below 500 will be required to take at least one English Composition Course during their freshman year that will not count toward the Swanson School of Engineering graduation requirements.

All students must take at least one W course as part of their humanities/social science requirements. Please note that students may also satisfy the W requirement by taking a science course with a writing component. In addition, each engineering program has substantial communications components throughout the curriculum. Some programs require a specific course in communications. It is important to refer to each program’s graduation requirements to identify requisite communication courses.

For students planning on a dual degree from the Swanson School of Engineering and an A&S major, it is important to note the following: The University of Pittsburgh Composition Program has agreed that there is no need for students who have taken freshman writing through the Freshman Engineering English Writing Program to take Seminar in Composition (ENGCMP 0200 ) as well. Taking just one of these courses to meet the A&S General Education requirement for composition is sufficient to meet the composition requirement.


The undergraduate program in Bioengineering combines education in engineering and biological sciences, forming a unique experience to prepare students for today’s technical challenges in medicine and biology. Our focus is on developing engineers who can apply an analytic approach to solving problems in living systems. Thus, we provide students with a comprehensive education in both engineering and the life sciences. Students enrolled in the program will be prepared for continued graduate studies or a career in a bioengineering-related industry. The program also provides a solid undergraduate education for further studies in a school of medicine. The bioengineering program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET,

In keeping with the two-fold mission of the Department of Bioengineering to

  • provide a high quality engineering education to both undergraduate and graduate students and
  • be a leader in research in specific areas encompassed by Bioengineering,

The Bioengineering undergraduate curriculum objective is to prepare students to achieve their post-baccalaureate goal of:

  • an industrial career in bioengineering or related field;
  • graduate school (MS and PhD programs related to bioengineering); or
  • professional school (Medical, Dental, Health Related, Business, and Law).

To achieve the objective, students are:

  • Provided both a broad knowledge of the technical and social principles of bioengineering as well as a focused education in one concentration area within bioengineering, and
  • Prepared through educational experiences beyond the classroom that deepen their understanding of the technical and non-technical issues in bioengineering, process and design.

The Bioengineering undergraduate curriculum has seven components:

  • Mathematics (6 courses)
  • Basic Sciences (7 courses/1 lab)
  • Humanities and Social Sciences (6 courses)
  • Basic Engineering (3 courses)
  • Core Bioengineering (11 courses, 6 seminars)
  • Bioengineering Concentrations (6 courses)
  • Advanced Engineering and Science (2 courses)

with options for

  • Dual Degrees, Minors and Certificates 


We require that students master basic mathematical skills in analytical geometry, calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and statistics as preparation for mastery of bioengineering applications. The basic math courses include


Current MATH course descriptions can be found at the DSAS Course Descriptions web site.

Basic Sciences

Engineering practice is frequently described as “applied science”. In addition to knowledge of and ability to use basic physics and chemistry, bioengineers need to be conversant with and able to use concepts of biology and physiology. Because of the importance of cellular processes in bioengineering applications, we have developed our own (required) 2-course sequence in cell and molecular biology. We DO NOT accept general biology (BIOSC 0150  and BIOSC 0160 ) as meeting the cell biology requirement or as advanced science courses. The basic science requirements include

Humanities and Social Sciences

The Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE) requires all undergraduates to complete at least six humanities and social science elective courses from the School’s list of approved courses in order to satisfy SSOE and ABET accreditation requirements for breadth and depth. Complete rules for breadth and depth can be found at the web site.

The Department of Bioengineering feels that ethics is such an integral part of societal practice of bioengineering that we have developed our own bioethics course (BIOENG 1241  (3 credits): Social, Political, and Ethical Issues in Bioengineering) that emphasizes the fact that we practice bioengineering in the real world and that we need to be aware of the broad societal impact of doing so.

BIOENG 1241  is a REQUIRED course for all bioengineering undergraduate students. Because of the strong humanities and social science basis, BIOENG 1241  is acceptable as one of the required six humanities and social science electives. Thus bioengineering undergraduates need at least five additional humanities and social science elective courses drawn from the School’s list of approved courses.

Please note that DSAS courses cross-listed with CGS that are designated as self-paced (self), online (www) or hybrid online (hybrid) are not acceptable for fulfilling the humanities/social science requirement.

“W” requirement: All students must have a “W”riting course, designated as such in their academic record, in order to satisfy graduation requirements. The “W” can be satisfied by a course in any DSAS department. However, most students choose to take a three-credit course in the humanities/social sciences. A one-credit “W” addition to a three credit course is also acceptable. A two-credit “W” course satisfies the”W” requirement, but cannot be used to satisfy a course requirement. Listings of “W” courses can be found at the DSAS Course Descriptions web site.


The common Freshman courses, ENGR 0011  and ENGR 0012  are integrated with the Freshman math, physics, and chemistry courses with the specific goals of (1) introducing students to fundamentals of engineering common to all engineering disciplines, (2) providing an overview of how engineers integrate math, physics, chemistry, and communications into solving practical problems of interest to society and (3) providing a rigorous foundation in design of computer programs to solve engineering problems.

ENGR 0135  is a basic course in statics and mechanics of materials that applies basic concepts from physics in understanding the effect of external forces acting on particles and deformable bodies with emphasis on how material responses to external forces impact engineering choices of appropriate materials to use to meet design specifications.


The core has been designed to provide students with exposure to the basic engineering disciplines that bioengineers use and are conversant with in practicing the bioengineering profession, BIOENG 1210  and BIOENG 1220  provide knowledge and applications in thermal/fluid engineering which are important in design and operation of tissue culture applications and artificial organs technology. BIOENG 1310 , BIOENG 1320 BIOENG 1255 , BIOENG 1580 , and BIOENG 1680  provide knowledge and applications in electrical engineering that are required for data acquisition, signal processing, imaging, and systems control. BIOENG 1630 , coupled with ENGR 0135 , provides knowledge and applications that are required to model and design solutions in such diverse areas as motion and balance, prosthetics design, and soft tissue mechanics. Both BIOENG 1002  and BIOENG 1150  are laboratory, research based courses that focus on communications skills; BIOENG 1002  on preparation and public presentation of research, BIOENG 1150  on analysis and written communication. Senior Design (BIOENG 1160  & BIOENG 1161 ) is a two-semester capstone sequence that challenges teams of students to develop and implement practical solutions to real problems. Finally BIOENG 1085  is used both as a vehicle for communication between the department and students and as a setting to provide diverse perspectives on the professional practice of bioengineering.

Bioengineering Concentrations

The Bioengineering Concentrations offer the student an opportunity to focus on an area of bioengineering practice in greater depth than is possible in the core course. The department offers four concentrations:

  • Bioimaging and Signals
  • Biomechanics
  • Cellular Engineering
  • Medical Product Engineering.

Each concentration consists of seven courses split between concentration requirements and concentration electives. Each concentration has an imaging course requirement that meets the needs of the concentration. Concentration requirements are courses that the concentration leader and faculty deem required knowledge for professional practice in the concentration. While narrower than the breadth reflected in the core bioengineering curriculum, each concentration can be further divided into tracks within the concentration with associated courses. Concentration electives are generally drawn from a restricted list of courses that offer greater depth in track of interest to the student.

Note: because of the large number of bioengineering students interested in medical school post-graduation, CHEM 0310  (Organic Chemistry1) and CHEM 0320  (Organic Chemistry 2) are accepted as a concentration elective in all concentrations.

Note: CHEM 0320  (Organic Chemistry 2) is a prerequisite for BIOENG 1620  (Introduction to Tissue Engineering) and BIOENG 1810  (Biomaterials and Biocompatibility). Students who want to take those courses need to take the CHEM 0310 /CHEM 0320  sequence prior to doing so.

Note: particular minors are easier to obtain through different concentrations. The key to obtaining a minor is to start planning early.

Advanced Engineering and Science

Students are required to take two advanced engineering or science elective courses. If the student has already taken a course in a discipline, the Advanced Engineering/Science elective must be at a more advanced level (depth) or cover a different aspect of the discipline (breadth).

Note: The University Bulletin states “Students may not earn credit for courses that substantially duplicate the content of other courses for which they have already received credit.” Other departments offer courses that substantially duplicate content in some BIOENG courses (which focus on engineering applications in biology, physiology, and medicine). Known courses that students cannot use for an advanced engineering or science elective under this prohibition include:


Note: Students MAY NOT use any natural science course (ASTRON, BIOSC, CHEM, GEOL, NROSCI, PHYS) with a course number less than 0100 to satisfy the Advanced Engineering and Science requirement.

Note: Students may use an ENGR study abroad experience, such as the Plus3 program, either as an Advanced Engineering/Science elective or as a humanities/social science elective.

Note: Students who successfully complete three co-op rotations can also apply that experience to satisfy one of the electives.

Dual Degrees, Minors and Certificates

We encourage our students to take full advantage of University of Pittsburgh resources and educational opportunities. Many of our students seek a dual degree that augments the bioengineering experience; sometimes another engineering degree, sometimes a degree in Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Almost all obtain minors and certificates that add value to their education and distinguish them as they move forward in their careers. Planning for minors and certificates needs to start as early as the sophomore year (perhaps, even, the freshman year)!

For more information on the bioengineering program, visit

Bioengineering Undergraduate Curriculum

Sophomore Year

Junior Year

Credits: 18

* BIOENG 1002  may be taken Fall or Spring Term in the Junior or Senior year.

Sixth Term

Credits: 16(17)

#Either BIOENG 1580  or BIOENG 1680  may be taken instead of BIOENG 1255 .

*Students who took CHEM 0320  in the fourth term must take ENGR 0020 .

Senior Year

Seventh Term

Credits: 15

Eighth Term

Credits: 15

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