PhD in Engineering

The Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering Science degree with a Concentration in Bioengineering is conferred on the basis of extended study and high scholarly attainment in the field of bioengineering. The entrance requirement for the Ph.D. program in Bioengineering is the M.S. in Bioengineering or another engineering field that meets the requirements of the Bioengineering Department. The M.D., D.D.S., and D.V.M. are acceptable, provided that the student presents evidence of an appropriate engineering background at the undergraduate level, including a minimum of two years of calculus through differential equations and one year of physics. Highly qualified B.S. engineering graduates can be admitted directly into the Ph.D. program. Direct admission students will not write and defend an M.S. thesis or receive an M.S. degree en route to the Ph.D. degree.

Any petition or request regarding a change of the terminal degree must be discussed and approved by the faculty advisor and the Graduate Committee. A Ph.D. student who chooses en route not to pursue the Ph.D. degree can only receive a degree from the Department by writing and defending an M.S. thesis. Moving from the Ph.D. program to an M.S. thesis option is contingent upon the approval of the faculty advisor and the Graduate Committee, and is not guaranteed.

In addition to coursework requirements, continuation within the Ph.D. program requires that the student pass two major examinations: (1) the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam and (2) the defense of the Dissertation Research Proposal. Completion of the Ph.D. degree requires the writing and defense of the Dissertation and presentation and publication of the research findings.


minimum of 90 semester credit hours of approved graduate coursework are required beyond the B.S. degree or 60 semester hours beyond the M.S. degree. For students directly admitted into the Ph.D. program with a B.S. degree, the M.S. coursework and the Ph.D. coursework requirements must be satisfied. All coursework must be approved by the student's advisor. Each student must meet the following minimum general coursework requirements beyond the M.S. degree requirements:

  • Register and attend the weekly Bioengineering Department seminar. Registration and attendance is mandatory every semester.
  • Complete 3 hours of Bioengineering core coursework if not previously taken.
  • Complete 3 hours of coursework to satisfy the mathematics requirement.
  • Complete 9-12 hours of elective coursework as approved by the advisor to support the research area.
  • Complete at least 45 semester hours of dissertation research. A student can register for dissertation research only after passing the Qualifying Exam and defending the Dissertation Research Proposal.

The Ph.D. curriculum requirements are designed to allow advanced students maximum flexibility in selecting coursework appropriate for the research area. Individual course selections are determined almost entirely by the student and the student's research advisor and/or dissertation committee. In some cases, individual faculty members serving on a dissertation committee may require specific coursework. Any course that is not acceptable for M.S. credit is not acceptable for Ph.D. credit. The curriculum requirements for the Ph.D. degree are summarized in Table 1. The time required for completion of the Ph.D. degree is not typically tied to the length of time required to meet coursework requirements, but depends on the student's research area, work ethic, and research results. The majority of the training that occurs in the Ph.D. curriculum occurs through the dissertation research.

Table 1: Curriculum for Ph.D. in Bioengineering. The Ph.D. curriculum requires a minimum of 60 credit hours beyond the M.S. degree, distributed among several categories. Courses selected should be relevant to the area of research while satisfying the minimum hour requirements within each category.

Category and Courses Credit Hours
    BIOE 8100 Computational Physiology 
    if BIOE 6100 not previously taken
3 hours
    MIME 8100 Adv. Engineering Mathematics II
3 hours
    no more than 3 hrs Special Topics courses
9 - 12 hours
BIOE 8960 Dissertation Research 45 hours
BIOE 5930 Bioengineering Seminar ---
Total (minimum) 60 hours

Graduate BIOE courses are rotated so that approximately 6-8 courses are offered yearly. In addition to graduate Bioengineering courses, students may take graduate level courses in other departments and colleges to satisfy the elective credit requirements as well as to gain knowledge needed for the completion of a dissertation degree. A sample curriculum for the Ph.D. degree is given in Table 2.

Table 2: Sample curriculum for the Ph.D. degree. Elective coursework as well as total dissertation hours will vary for each student.

Course Semester Category
Fall 1 Spr 1 Sum 1 Fall 2 Spr 2 &
BIOE 8100 Computational Physiology   3       Core
MIME 8100 Advanced Engineering Mathematics II   3       Math
BIOE 7/8XXX or other graduate level course 6         Elective
BIOE 8960 Dissertation Research 3 3 9 6 9 Research
BIOE 5930 Bioengineering Seminar R* R*   R* R*  
Total hours 9 9 9 9 9 60+
* Seminar is a no credit course offered Fall and Spring semesters.

Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination is used to assess a student's critical thinking skills and potential for success in the doctoral program. For students accepted into the Ph.D. program, the Qualifying Exam occurs after the completion of the second semester and before the end of the second academic year. For students enrolled in the M.S. program that are electing to pursue the Ph.D., the Qualifying Exam is taken at the time of application to the Ph.D. program, prior to completion of the M.S. degree (see coursework requirements for the MSBE degree).

The qualifying examination committee is chosen after the student has selected a faculty advisor. The committee consists of the student's faculty advisor and at least 2 additional graduate faculty members selected by the student and advisor. At least 2 of the committee members must be BIOE faculty. The BIOE Ph.D. Qualifying Examination Approval form must be completed, taken to the examination and submitted to the Bioengineering secretary at the conclusion of the examination.

The student assessment is a detailed analysis of the student by the committee to determine the student's potential for succeeding at the doctoral level in the field of bioengineering. The qualifying exam consists of two parts: a student assessment and an oral examination. Although all qualifying exams follow a similar format, the actual examination varies from student to student depending on the coursework taken and the composition of the qualifying examination committee.

The student assessment is a detailed analysis by the qualifying examination committee of the student's potential for succeeding at the doctoral level in the field of bioengineering. It is based on the student's entire record prior to joining the Department and on the student's performance while at UT. The assessment of the student's performance at UT includes not only the formal grades from courses, but also the ranking of the student in the classes, to be provided by the course instructor upon request from the examination committee.

The oral examination is approximately two hours in length. The exam includes subjects of importance to the student's program, and probes areas of strength and weakness. The questions are open-ended and student's responses are discussed in-depth. The exam is also used to evaluate the student's oral communication skills, ability to respond to questions extemporaneously, and ability to analyze problems both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Students either pass or fail the exam, to be decided at the sole discretion of the examination committee. Students that do not pass the exam have only one opportunity to retake the exam and pass or are dismissed from the program. Students that require reexamination must be retested within six months of the initial examination.

Ph.D. Dissertation Committee

Following the successful completion of the qualifying examination, the faculty advisor and the student will select a Ph.D. dissertation committee. The Ph.D. dissertation committee is composed of a minimum of 5 members including: the faculty advisor (who will serve as the chair), one additional full time faculty member from the Department of Bioengineering, one faculty member from outside the Bioengineering Department. Other committee members may be drawn from within or outside the Department as is appropriate to the dissertation topic.

Doctoral Candidacy and GRAD Form

All doctoral students must meet the following requirements before being admitted to doctoral candidacy:

  • Pass the Biomedical Engineering Qualifying Examination
  • Select a dissertation committee
  • Obtain at least a 3.0/4.0 for all graduate level coursework

The Ph.D. candidacy form must be completed and submitted to the College of Engineering Office of Graduate Studies.

Prior to initiating dissertation research, each student must complete and file a GRAD Form with the College of Graduate Studies. Students must complete this form and receive the required approvals prior to beginning any research for a thesis involving humans, animals, radiation, or biohazardous substances. Federal regulations do not allow retroactive approval. Completion of the GRAD form indicates that a student's committee has approved both a topic and an approach for the research, and is aware of federal requirements for institutional review of research methods. This form must be signed by the student, research advisor, and thesis committee members.

Dissertation Research Proposal Examination

The dissertation research proposal is a document written by the student describing the research to be undertaken for the dissertation. The oral examination consists of the presentation of the written proposal by the student to the dissertation committee in a closed forum. The dissertation research proposal must be written and presented within one calendar year of passing the Qualifying Examination. A student may request an extension of up to one additional calendar year with the approval of the faculty advisor.

The dissertation research proposal should describe the background, goals, hypotheses, and general methods of the proposed research. The proposal itself should be a clear demonstration of the student's ability to write and formulate an original research problem. The proposal should be structured in a manner similar to an NIH grant application and must contain the following components:

  • Table of Contents
  • Abstract
  • Research Plan
    1. Specific Aims
    2. Background and Significance
    3. Preliminary Studies
    4. Research Design and Methods
  • Literature Cited

The entire proposal should be double spaced using a 12-point font with one inchpage margins. The abstract is limited to one page, single-spaced. The research plan (items A-D) should not exceed 25 pages in length. The written research proposal must first be submitted to the faculty advisor for critical review. The Ph.D. proposal should be of high quality such that the faculty advisor could submit the final proposal to a funding agency in the same or modified form.

After the advisor's approval, copies of the proposal must be given to all members of the dissertation committee at least two weeks before the oral presentation. The dissertation proposal must then be formally presented to the dissertation committee and defended to their satisfaction. The presentation should be no more than 30 minutes, followed by questions to address specific issues related to the proposed research. The dissertation committee will evaluate the dissertation research proposal based on the appropriateness of the proposed research and the student's ability to complete it successfully. A vote of approval on the research proposal, possibly subject to requested modifications by the committee, indicates that the committee endorses the suitability of the proposed research and the student's ability to complete it successfully. An electronic copy of the final, approved proposal should be given to the faculty advisor. The student must submit a hard copy of the final version of the proposal, with the signed PhD Dissertation Proposal Approval form to the COE Graduate Studies secretary to be retained in the student's file.

A student who fails the dissertation research proposal examination may petition the BME Program Advisory Committee to retake the exam during the following semester. However, approval of the petition for an opportunity to retake the exam is not guaranteed.

Doctoral Program Proposal Form

All Ph.D. students must file a UT Doctoral Program Proposal form with the College of Graduate Studies following successful completion of the Dissertation Research Proposal Examination. The College of Engineering has an electronic version specific to engineering students posted on the College of Engineering web site; this is not the same as the general form posted at the College of Graduate Studies.

A student's Doctoral Program Proposal form should be completed in consultation with the faculty advisor and/or the Graduate Program Director. The Doctoral Program Proposal must be TYPED and include ONLY those courses that count toward the 90 hrs (60 hrs if an M.S. degree was previously completed) required for the degree, even if additional coursework hours are completed. Students are responsible for selecting approved courses that satisfy the curriculum requirements as outlined in Table 1. Any questions regarding whether courses will satisfy the degree requirements should be addressed to the Graduate Program Director. Future courses should be entered with the expected term to be taken and no grade entered. Doctoral Program Proposal forms should be saved electronically in case modifications are required. Completed proposals should be submitted to the College of Engineering Office of Graduate Studies for approval. Modifications to an approved Doctoral Program Proposal must be submitted on a revised proposal form.

Dissertation Committee Meetings

Dissertation research is to be conducted in residence. The research must be completed, and the dissertation written and successfully defended before the Ph.D. degree is conferred. The primary requirement of the dissertation is that it shows evidence of high scholarly attainment through original and independent research work. The acceptability of a dissertation depends on its quality, as is evident by publication(s) in peer-reviewed journals, rather than the time and credit hours spent on the research work. Publication of research findings in high quality journals is the metric by with our Ph.D. program is measured and is highly recommended for completion of the Ph.D. degree.

When the dissertation research is nearly completed, a final committee meeting, or Data Meeting, is scheduled. The purpose of the Data Meeting is for the student to summarize for the committee the accomplishments of the dissertation research, including the most recent results and the final experiments to be conducted. If all committee members are satisfied with the quality and quantity of the research presented at this Data Meeting, the student is given final recommendations and is given approval to begin writing the dissertation.

Ph.D. Dissertation and Defense

Dissertation research is to be conducted in residence. The research must be completed, and the dissertation written and successfully defended before the Ph.D. degree is conferred. The primary requirement of the dissertation is that it shows evidence of high scholarly attainment through original and independent research work. The acceptability of a dissertation research depends on its quality, as is evidenced by the potential of the developed business plan and/or publication(s) in peer-reviewed journals, rather than the time and credit hours spent on the research work. Publication of research findings in high quality journals is the metric by with our Ph.D. program is measured and is highly recommended for completion of the Ph.D. degree.

When the dissertation research is completed to the satisfaction of the faculty advisor, the student prepares a complete draft of the Ph.D. dissertation. This draft is submitted to the faculty advisor for critical review, evaluation, and revision before scheduling the final defense of the dissertation. The student should give the advisor sufficient time to review the draft. After the advisor approves the document, the student prepares the final draft of the dissertation and submits a copy to each committee member for his or her critical evaluation and review at least two (2) weeks prior to the defense. The dissertation document itself can be a compilation of publications combined with appropriate introductory and concluding chapters. Information concerning the required dissertation format, reproduction, and other regulations for preparing the dissertation is available from the UT College of Graduate Studies.

The defense is scheduled after the candidate has fulfilled all of the other requirements of the doctoral program. The student must coordinate with all of the dissertation committee members in scheduling a date and time for the dissertation defense. The minimum number and affiliation of the dissertation committee members that must be present at the defense is as defined in the Ph.D. Dissertation Committee section above. The BIOE conference room also must be reserved, and since reservations are made on a first-come, first-serve basis, plan on reserving the room at least two weeks in advance.

The dissertation defense is an open and announced public presentation by the student. Announcement of the dissertation defense is a formal procedure and is a requirement for the defense. A BIOE Announcement of Ph.D. Dissertation form should be completed and submitted to the Bioengineering Secretary and the College of Engineering Graduate Office at least two (2) weeks before the scheduled defense. In a situation where intellectual property disclosure is an issue, the dissertation defense can be closed to the public by request of the faculty advisor. The Announcement of Dissertation form is still filed, but with the notation that the defense is closed to the public.

The student's dissertation committee and all those attending the meeting administer the examination. The examination is restricted to the content of the dissertation and closely related subject matter. The student must bring the completed Ph.D. Dissertation Defense Approval form to the defense to be signed by the committee members following a successful defense. The dissertation defense itself consists of a 45 minute formal oral presentation by the student, followed by open and closed question sessions. In the open question session, all guests attending the defense are invited to ask questions. Following the open question period, all guests will be asked to leave and the committee and student will remain for a private question period. After all of the committee members have questioned the student in private, the student will be asked to leave the room while the committee discusses the student's dissertation in private. The dissertation committee then votes, and a majority of the committee must concur on the final decision. If the student does not pass the dissertation defense, then the dissertation committee, in consultation with the Graduate Program Director, will decide a course of future action.

A student who successfully passes the dissertation defense may be required to change or modify the dissertation as requested by members of the dissertation committee and the advisor. These corrections must be made by the student and approved by the faculty advisor before the student is certified as having completed the requirements for the dissertation. In this case, the committee members may sign the Ph.D. Dissertation Defense Approval form on the contingency that the faculty advisor certifies the final dissertation before signing the approval. The unbound original and a copy of the final dissertation must be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies. The student must check with the College of Graduate Studies to ensure that the corrected dissertation is received by the graduation deadline for the semester of the defense. In addition, two copies of the dissertation must be permanently bound and given to the Department (one for the advisor and one for the Department library). Students are responsible for the costs associated with the copying and binding of the dissertation.

Time Limit

Doctoral candidacy automatically terminates five (5) years after admission to candidacy. All requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed with seven (7) years of admission to the Ph.D. program (registration for first doctoral level class). To continue beyond the time limit, a written request for extension to the research advisor and the Dean of the College of Engineering must be submitted and approved.

Ph.D. Forms Check Sheet

Over the course of the Ph.D. dissertation, several milestones must be achieved. These milestones are typically documented with a specific University or Department form. The specific milestones, forms, and the times for submission of these forms are summarized in Table 3 below.

Table 3: Ph.D. Forms Check Sheet. The forms listed below must be completed and filed by the appropriate due dates as part of the Ph.D. degree requirements. All forms are available in electronic form on the Department, College and/or Graduate Studies websites.

Form Due date Return to
BIOE Advisor Selection End of 1st semester of enrollment Graduate Program Director
UT Doctoral Program Proposal Form Begin upon completion of Qualifying Examination; submit following completion of Dissertation Proposal Examination CoE Graduate Office
UT PhD Candidacy Form Upon completion of Qualifying Exam and selection of Dissertation Committee CoE Graduate Office
GRAD Form After advisor selection, prior to initiation of research involving humans, animals, radiation, or biohazardous materials CoE Graduate Office
Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal Approval Within 1 year from Ph.D. Qualifying Exam BIOE Secretary
UT Application for Graduation Beginning of final semester; check the Registrar's website for specific dates College of Graduate Studies
Announcement of Thesis/Dissertation At least two weeks prior to thesis defense BIOE Secretary
College of Engineering PhD Dissertation Cover Page Attach to front of completed dissertation
Ph.D. Dissertation Defense Approval Bring to the dissertation defense BIOE Secretary
BIOE Graduate Exit Interview Form Upon completion of dissertation degree requirements BIOE Secretary

Ph.D. Graduation

Students must apply for graduation using the UT Application for Graduation form. This form must be filed with the Student Records Office at or before the beginning of the semester during which the degree requirements are expected to complete.

To receive the Ph.D. degree, a student must:

  • Satisfy the coursework requirements summarized in Table 1.
  • Maintain a 3.0/4.0 GPA in all coursework (see Grade Requirements for Graduation).
  • Pass the Qualifying Examination.
  • Pass the Dissertation Research Proposal Examination.
  • Submit all appropriate degree forms according to Table 3.
  • Write and successfully defend the doctoral dissertation and make any corrections as required.
  • Submit the unbound original and one copy of the Ph.D. dissertation to the College of Graduate Studies by the graduation deadline for the semester of the defense. Each copy of the dissertation must include an original signed College of Engineering Ph.D. dissertation cover page.
  • Have all PR and IN grades removed from the transcript. The College of Engineering Graduate Office must see a copy of the final dissertation before grade change forms will be processed. A copy of the College of Graduate Studies cover page, COE cover page and abstract will be made for the College files to verify that the dissertation has been completed.
  • Show evidence that results from the research have been submitted for either publication or presentation at a conference.
  • Submit an electronic copy of the dissertation the faculty advisor.
  • Submit two permanently bound copies of the Ph.D. dissertation to the Bioengineering Department: one for the department library and one for the research advisor.

Additional Graduation Requirements

Individual faculty advisors may have additional coursework, conference presentation, or publication requirements that must be satisfied before the degree is granted. These requirements should be discussed and agreed upon with the faculty advisor at the beginning of the Ph.D. program of study. Written documentation of any additional graduation requirements must be signed by both student and advisor and filed in the student's file in the Department of Bioengineering.

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Last Updated: 6/27/22