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PhD Bioengineering


The interdisciplinary Bioengineering PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) program reflects departmental research strengths in multiple areas.  Students accepted to the bioengineering program will undertake a rigorous core curriculum in basic bioengineering science, followed by a flexible selection of electives tailored to their dissertation research. There are four key areas of research strength in our department (see below).

The Bioengineering PhD program is designed to take advantage of Northeastern’s considerable strength in multiple areas of bioengineering. Located in the heart of Boston, directly adjacent to the world-renowned Longwood Medical Area, Northeastern provides an excellent opportunity for students to combine engineering, medicine and biology.

Innovative Curriculum

Biology can inspire engineering. Increasingly, discoveries in the life sciences reveal processes, complexity, and control without analogy in the world of traditional engineering. Current methods of producing nanoscale control over molecules cannot reproduce the organization found in even the simplest organisms. Energy capture, robust control, remediation, and self-assembly are all employed by biosystems with efficiency unparalleled by anything in today’s laboratories. At the same time, traditional engineering disciplines struggle to find new approaches to the complex challenges of 21st-century technology. The last 50 years of basic life science research have gradually revealed the layers of complexity intrinsic to biological processes, unmasking the fundamental underpinnings on which biological systems are constructed. Bioinspired engineering has the potential to transform the technological landscape of the 21st century. Astonishingly, it represents merely one of the myriad opportunities presented at the interface of biology and engineering.

The field of bioengineering is broad and includes all research at the interface of engineering and biology—this includes bioprocesses, environmental microbiology, biomaterials and tissue engineering, bioelectricity, biomechanics, biomedical and biological imaging, nanotechnology in medicine and the environment, and engineering design for human interfacing. At Northeastern, bioengineering PhD students have an opportunity to be trained to appreciate advances in bioengineering across a wide range of disciplines while they perform highly focused and cutting-edge bioengineering research with one of our faculty members.

The PhD programs’ student learning outcomes are:

  • The ability to use basic engineering concepts flexibly in a variety of contexts.
  • Ability to formulate a research plan.
  • Ability to communicate orally a research plan.
  • Ability to conduct independent research.

Research Areas

Imaging, Instrumentation, and Signal Processing

The Imaging, Instrumentation and Signal Processing track reflects Northeastern University’s outstanding research profile in developing new technologies for visualizing biological processes and disease.  Our department has active federally funded research spanning a broad spectrum of relevant areas in instrument design, contrast agent development, and advanced computational modeling and reconstruction methods. Example research centers include the Institute for the Chemical Imaging of Living Systems, the Translational Biophotonics Cluster, and the B-SPIRAL signal processing group.

Biomechanics, Biotransport and MechanoBiology

Motion, deformation, and flow of biological systems in response to applied loads elicit biological responses at the molecular and cellular levels that support the physiological function of tissues and organs and drive their adaptation and remodeling. To study these complex interactions, principles of solid, fluid, and transport mechanics must be combined with measures of biological function. The Biomechanics, Biotransport, & Mechanobiology track embraces this approach and leverages the strong expertise of Northeastern faculty attempting to tie applied loads to biological responses at multiple length and time scales.
See Associated Faculty

Molecular, Cell, and Tissue Engineering

Principles for engineering living cells and tissues are essential to address many of the most significant biomedical challenges facing our society today. These application areas include engineering biomaterials to coax and enable stem cells to form functional tissue or to heal damaged tissue; designing vehicles for delivering genes and therapeutics to reach specific target cells to treat a disease; and, uncovering therapeutic strategies to curb pathological cell behaviors and tissue phenotypes. At a more fundamental level, the field is at the nascent stages of understanding how cells make decisions in complex microenvironments and how cells interact with each other and their surrounding environment to organize into complex three-dimensional tissues. Advances will require a multiscale experimental, computational and theoretical approaches spanning molecular-cellular-tissue levels and integration of molecular and physical mechanisms, including the role of mechanical forces.
See Associated Faculty

Computational and Systems Biology

We aim to understand the rules governing emergent systems-level behavior and to use these rules to rationally engineer biological systems. We make quantitative measurements, often at the single-cell level, to test different conceptual frameworks and discriminate amongst different classes of models. Our faculty are leaders in developing and applying both theoretical methods, e.g., control theory, and experimental methods, e.g., single-cell proteomics by mass-spec, to biological systems.  At the organ and tissue levels, 3D scans acquired through medical imaging methods (e.g. US, CT, MRI, etc.) may be used to reconstruct virtual models of targeted systems. Non-invasive measures of the physiological function can then inform numerical simulations to predict the behavior of biological systems over time, with the goal of estimating the progression towards pathological endpoints or to test the efficacy of targeted surgical procedures and pharmaceutical treatments (e.g., drug delivery).
See Associated Faculty

Experiential Learning

Northeastern combines rigorous academics with experiential learning and research to prepare students for real world engineering challenges. Co-op and internships are available. The Cooperative Education Program, also known as a “co-op,” is one of the largest and most innovative in the world, and Northeastern is one of only a few that offers a co-op program for graduate students. Through this program students gain industry experience in a wide variety of organizations, from large companies to entrepreneurial start-ups, while helping to finance their education. In addition to co-op, students can participate in the university’s Experiential PhD program. Northeastern is located in the nation’s biotech and academic hub and among the most renowned hospitals in the world.

Program Contacts

Mark Niedre
Professor and Associate Chair For Research and Graduate Affairs,  Bioengineering

Biomedical optics and non-invasive imaging, rare cell detection and tracking in the body, ultrafast time-domain diffuse optical imaging, image reconstruction and biomedical signal processing.

Academic Advising

For support with academic questions, contact the student services representative assigned to this program.

Admissions & Aid

Ready to take the next step? Review degree requirements to see courses needed to complete this degree. Then, explore ways to fund your education. Finally, review admissions information to see our deadlines and gather the materials you need to Apply.