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Biological Engineering Major

An interdisciplinary approach to solving tomorrow’s challenges

As a Biological Engineering student, you’ll learn to combine the power of engineering principles and techniques with the rapidly developing science of biology. 

By integrating engineering and biology you can help tackle some of today’s most pressing local, national and global challenges. Some of our students and graduates are working to ensure safe and sustainable food and energy supplies, protect natural resources, develop devices to monitor or intervene in the mechanisms of living organisms and using biological materials in other new and innovative ways.

The BE program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET,  Students may seek engineering professional licensing after graduation.

Major in Biological Engineering

Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Our program emphasizes problem solving and design though biological engineering. You’ll be ready to keep pace in a constantly evolving field by developing a thorough grounding in engineering fundamentals and a broad grasp of modern biology. Your coursework will build on a base of seven core BE courses and as well as a wide range of electives. You’ll also find opportunities throughout the program to practice the soft skills of teamwork and technical communication needed in the modern engineering workplace. 

The Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering offers a bachelor degree program in Biological Engineering. Strong emphasis is placed on mathematics, the physical and biological sciences and engineering analysis and design. The Biological Engineering program in BEE follows the academic requirements of the Cornell College of Engineering.

CALS seeks students who maintain a rigorous high school curriculum and demonstrate an outstanding record of academic achievement. Admissions requirements include:

  • 4 Units of English

  • 4 Units of Mathematics (including calculus)

  • 3 Units of Science (biology, chemistry, and physics recommended)

  • Also recommended: an additional unit of science

A student earning a Bachelor of Science degree in the Biological Engineering Program must complete the academic requirements listed on the Curricula page. A minimum of 128 credit hours of courses is required.

BEE 3600 – Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering

Biotechnology viewed at the cellular and molecular level. Advances in biotechnology will be broken down to their functional parts using the tools of biological engineering (thermodynamics, transport, kinetics, etc.) to understand how and why they work with an emphasis on design. Particular attention paid to gene therapy, synthetic biology, protein engineering and nucleic acid engineering.

BEE 3500 – Biological and Bioenvironmental Transport Processes

Focuses on understanding the principles of heat and mass transfer in the context of biological systems. Emphasizes physical understanding of transport processes and simple reaction rates with application examples from plant, animal and human biology, in the bioenvironment (soil/water/air) and industrial processing of food and biomaterials.

BEE 4550 – Biologically Inspired Microsystems Engineering

This course covers fundamental mechanisms that nature uses to build and control living systems at micro- and nano- meter length scales; engineering principles for fabricating micro/nanometer scale devices; examples of solving contemporary problems in health sector and environment. The lab sessions will provide students with hands on experiences in cell culture, microfluidic device and live cell imaging techniques.

  • Molecular and Cellular Systems
  • Ecological and Microbial Systems
  • Nanobiotechnology
  • Computational Biological engineering
  • Synthetic Biology
  • Biomaterials
  • Sustainability

•     Identify, formulate and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science and mathematics.

•     Apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental and economic factors.

•     Communicate effectively with a range of audiences in written, oral and visual modes.

•     Recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts.

•     Function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives.

•     Develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.

•     Acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.

•     Demonstrate a working knowledge of chemistry and biology.

•     Apply their knowledge of engineering to biological systems.

Minor in Biological Engineering

Biological Engineering majors may participate in either the Biological Engineering minor or the Biomedical Engineering minor, but not both. Note that the Minor in Biological Engineering offered by BEE is NOT available to Biological Engineering majors.


Learn more about the Biological Engineering minor

Transfer Student Admissions

Biological engineers integrate engineering with biology to solve some of the grand challenges facing our world: ensuring an adequate and safe food supply, protecting natural resources and developing systems that monitor, replace or intervene in the mechanisms of living organisms. Biological engineers work in the development and sustainable manufacture of pharmaceuticals and other health care products. We design and manufacture foods and consumer products, and help advance agricultural techniques. Biological engineers study renewable fuels and chemicals, special-purpose biomaterials and biosensors for use in health care, food safety and environmental protection. We also devise techniques to study cells in their natural environments and to improve the speed and precision of genetic engineering techniques.


Transfer students are encouraged to apply to enter as sophomores because some of the second year requirements do not have equivalents at most other institutions.

Academic Record Required:

  • Strong academic record at the college level. Competitive applicants have at least a 3.0 (B) average.
  • CALS Required Coursework should be completed or in-progress with a “B” or better before applying.
  • The most competitive applicants are full-time students who have met the GPA and course requirements.

(Or transfers with two full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application):


  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology with labs or a score of 5 on the Biology AP exam, or General (Inorganic) Chemistry I with lab
  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses
  • Calculus equivalent to Cornell MATH 1910 (integral calculus for engineers) and 1920 (multivariable calculus including Green’s Theorem, Stokes’ Theorem and divergence)
  • Computer Programming at the level of CS 1110 (Python) or CS 1112  (MATLAB, preferred). Programming courses must use a modern scientific computing language (e.g. Java, R, C++) and must cover loops, I/O to and from files and creation of graphs

If you are missing a math or programming course, your acceptance may be contingent on taking a suitable course during the summer preceding your enrollment at Cornell.

(Or transfers with four full-time college semesters of study (post-high school) completed or in progress at time of application).


  • Two College Writing/English Composition courses
  • One full academic year of Introductory Biology with labs, or a score of 5 on the Biology AP exam
  • General (Inorganic) Chemistry I with lab or a score of 5 on the Chemistry AP exam
  • One semester of organic chemistry, typically 4 credits
  • Calculus equivalent to Cornell MATH 1910 (integral calculus for engineers) and 1920 (multivariable calculus including Green’s Theorem, Stokes’ Theorem, and divergence)
  • Physics I & II with labs (calculus-based), at the content level of PHYS 1112 (Mechanics) and PHYS 2213 (Electromagnetism)
  • Computer Programming at the level of CS 1110 (Python) or CS 1112  (MATLAB, preferred). Programming courses must use a modern scientific computing language (e.g. Java, R, C++) and must cover loops, I/O to and from files and creation of graphs
  • Differential Equations, equivalent to MATH 2930
  • Linear Algebra, equivalent to MATH 2940
  • Engineering Mechanics, equivalent to ENGRD 2020

Encouraged (but not required):

  • Principles of Biological Engineering, equivalent to ENGRD 2600 or an engineering course in mass and energy balances.
  • Thermodynamics or engineering physical chemistry
  • An introduction to engineering course
  • Engineering Statistics (calculus based)
  • Other engineering course work at the second-year level or higher (e.g., circuits)

If one or two required courses are missing (typically differential equations and statics, because Cornell’s courses go beyond material typically covered in such courses) they can possibly be made up during the summer prior to enrollment at Cornell, or the student may be admitted as a second-semester sophomore with the understanding that five semesters at Cornell, or four semesters plus summer work, may be needed to fulfill graduation requirements.

Careers in Biological Engineering

An electrical system


  • Biological research associate
  • Technical support administrator
  • Research analyst
  • Biomanufacturing associate


  • Associate consultant
  • Business analyst
  • Consulting analyst


  • Technical services analyst
  • Environmental engineer
  • Technical services


  • Medical scribe
  • Associate clinical account specialist
  • Healthcare research associate
  • Analyst


  • Medical research associate
  • Multiple Sclerosis research associate
  • Plant breeding research associate
  • Research technician
  • Research assistant


  • Data analyst
  • Technical problem solver


Engineered bacteria could be missing link in energy storage

Professor working in his lab

Explore your opportunities

A CALS education goes beyond the classroom and gives students frequent opportunities to apply what they learn in real-world settings.