MS leading to PhD Program

The MS leading to PhD program provides an opportunity for bright students who have not yet received a Master's degree to apply to PhD studies at Columbia Biomedical Engineering. Once accepted, students will complete their MS degree requirements in conjunction with their PhD research with a faculty advisor in the lab.

MS Degree Requirements

Students entering the PhD program without a masters degree must complete all masters requirements before entering the doctoral program. Graduate courses should be selected to prepare the student for the doctoral qualifying examination and include two semesters of master’s research.

Total credits: 30 credits = 10 clases

Required Courses (18 credits)

  • BMEN E6003 Computational Modeling of Systems
  • 1 Graduate Level Math Course
  • 4 BME Graduate Classes
  • 2 semesters BMEN 9700 Graduate Seminar (0 credit units)

Technical Electives (12 credits)

  • Content should be BME-related
  • 4 Courses in SEAS
  • 6 Credits may be research

Following completion and successful application for graduation with a master’s degree, students are transferred to the Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS) to continue with the doctoral program. It is recommended that M.S. diplomas be picked up immediately once they become available, as the transition between schools can affect tuition payments.

Doctoral Degree

Doctoral students must complete a program of 30 points of credit beyond the M.S. degree. The core course requirements (9 credits) for the doctoral program include the course in computational modeling of physiological systems (BMEN E6003), plus at least two graduate mathematics courses. If BMEN E6003 or a graduate level mathematics course has already been taken for the master’s degree, a technical elective can be used to complete the core course requirements. Students must register for BMEN E9700: Biomedical engineering seminar and for research credits during the first two semesters of doctoral study. Remaining courses should be selected in consultation with the student’s faculty adviser to prepare for the doctoral qualifying examination and to develop expertise in a clearly identified area of biomedical engineering.

All graduate students admitted to the doctoral degree program must satisfy the equivalent of two semesters’ experience in teaching (one semester for M.D./Ph.D. students). This may include supervising and assisting undergraduate students in laboratory experiments, grading, and preparing lecture materials to support the teaching mission of the department. The Department of Biomedical Engineering is the only engineering department that offers Ph.D. training to M.D./Ph.D. students. These candidates are expected to complete their Ph.D. program within 3.5 years, with otherwise the same requirements as those outlined for the Doctoral Degree program.  

Doctoral Qualifying Examination

Doctoral candidates are required to pass a qualifying examination. This examination is given once a year, and it should be taken after the student has completed 30 points of graduate study. The qualifying examination consists of an oral exam during which the student presents an analysis of assigned scientific papers, as well as answers to questions in topics covering applied mathematics, quantitative biology and physiology, and track-specific material. A written analysis of the assigned scientific papers must be submitted prior to the oral exam. A minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.2 is required to register for this examination.

Doctoral Committee and Thesis

Students who pass the qualifying examination choose a faculty member to serve as their research adviser. Each student is expected to submit a research proposal and present it to a committee that consists of three BME faculty members. The committee considers the scope of the proposed research, its suitability for doctoral research and the appropriateness of the research plan. The committee may approve the proposal without reservation or may recommend modifications. In general, the student is expected to submit his/her research proposal after five semesters of doctoral studies. In accordance with regulations of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, each student is expected to submit a thesis and defend it before a committee of five faculty, one of whom holds primary appointment in another department or school or university. Every doctoral candidate is required to have had accepted at least one first-author full-length paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal prior to recommendation for award of the degree.