Bioengineering PhD Model Program

Bioengineering a diverse and growing field for the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. It encompasses many topics including biomaterials, biomechanics including robotics, biophysics and neuromotor control.  

The Model Program given here forms a starting point for a discussion with the faculty about areas of interest. Students should work in close consultation with their advisors to develop an appropriate program plan that is consistent with the PhD Program's overall course requirements. Courses provide the background knowledge that is often needed to successfully complete research and allow students to learn more broadly about a field or related fields in a structured fashion.

Students should consult their field advisor and Professors Howe or Mooney for guidance in constructing a program in a track other than Cells, Tissues and Biomaterials.

Cells, Tissues, and Biomaterials track

Rationale: Students must achieve graduate-level competence in the following topics:

  • Cell biology
  • Organ-level physiology
  • Chemistry, at least through one year of organic chemistry
  • Transport mechanics

Core Courses

  • ES 222 Advanced Cellular Engineering
  • ES 230 Advanced Tissue Engineering
  • ES 221 Drug Delivery
  • ES 228 Biologically-Inspired Materials


Two courses from the following; at least one must be an Applied Math course.

  • AM 201 Physical Mathematics I
  • AM 205 Advanced Scientific Computing: Numerical Methods
  • AM 121 Introduction to Optimization: Models and Methods
  • AP 225 Introduction to Soft Matter
  • CS 289 Biologically-inspired Multi-agent Systems (formerly CS 266)
  • ES 220 Fluid Dynamics
  • MCB 212 Topics in Biophysics


Five courses selected for the student’s research and career plans.

  • Additional courses from the “Depth” list above; other 200-level technical courses from SEAS, Physics, Applied Physics, Chemistry, Biology; or MIT graduate-level technical courses (subject to CHD approval).
  • Up to one “Innovation” style course that broadens a student's perspective (e.g. ES 239), or relevant courses at a suitable level in non-science departments (e.g. technology transfer).
  • Up to two may be ES 299r independent study courses, if undertaken with different faculty.
  • At least eight of the ten courses must be graduate-level technical courses (200-level or equivalent). At most two courses in the entire plan of study may be undergraduate (100-level).


  1. Required Background
    • Students without prior background in organ-level physiology are required to take at least one appropriate course from an FAS biology department, Harvard Medical School, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, or the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.
    • Similarly, students without preparation in probability and biostatistics are required to take at least one course in this subject.
    • These courses should be selected in consultation with the advisor to match the student's background and research area.
    • Students whose preparation does not include prerequisites for graduate-level study in this area will take more than ten courses.
  2. Biophysics
    • Students with a biophysics focus may substitute suitable biophysics courses for the core courses above, e.g. AP 225.
  3. Electronics
    • For Program Plans in Engineering Sciences, Physics 223 Electronics for Scientists is considered to be a 200-level SEAS-equivalent technical course.

Typical Plan of Study

Year 1: Fall

  • ES 222 Advanced Cellular Engineering
  • AM 201 Physical Mathematics I
  • HST 030/031 Human Pathology
  • ES 299r Special Topics in Engineering Sciences (Independent Study)

Year 1: Spring

  • ES 230 Advanced Tissue Engineering
  • ES 228 Biologically-Inspired Materials
  • ES 221 Drug Delivery

Year 2: Fall

  • ES 220 Fluid Dynamics
  • AM 205 Practical Scientific Computing

Year 2: Spring

  • ES 240 Solid Mechanics
  • ES 249 Advanced Neural Control of Movement