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

Cornell students are not allowed to double major across colleges. 

CALS students majoring in Environmental or Biological Engineering may not double major in any other Engineering major. For BEE students wishing to double major with another major in CALS, please note: According to SUNY policy, CALS students majoring in a degree leading to professional licensure (Biological andEnvironmental Engineering) are forbidden to have significant overlap in coursework (more than 12 credits) with their other major. Due to the specific nature of engineering degree coursework, we do not expect significant overlap with other majors in CALS.

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 (BEE) offers a Bachelor of Science degree in biological engineering. 

Biological engineering is the biology-based engineering discipline that integrates life sciences with engineering in the advancement and application of fundamental concepts of biological systems from molecular to ecosystem levels. It incorporates the tremendous developments in quantitative, mechanistic and molecular level understanding and manipulation capabilities of biological systems.

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 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 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.

Biological engineers study characterization, measurement and representation of systemic processes within an organism; interactions between organisms and their environment; and engineering design to develop processes and systems that monitor, simulate, replace, modify, control, or utilize the mechanisms of living organisms and their products.

Core topics in biological engineering program include molecular and cellular principles, chemical and enzyme kinetics, thermodynamics, transport of water and energy, and biomaterials. The science core of the program includes mathematics, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, and introductory and advanced biology.

Beyond these there are electives to be chosen from several areas including biomaterials, nanobiotechnology, ecological and microbial systems, modeling and simulation, synthetic biology, molecular and cellular systems, and sustainability.

Throughout the curriculum, emphasis is placed on communication and teamwork skills. All students participate in a major design experience near the end of the curriculum.

Program Educational Objectives

The Program Educational Objectives (PEOs) of the biological engineering major are to prepare graduates who, within 3-5 years of graduation:

  1. Communicate effectively in a range of situations, both inside and outside of the biological engineering field.


  2. Engage in lifelong learning through both the pursuit of advanced degrees in engineering and related professional fields and opportunities for professional development outside of the classroom.


  3. Develop and exhibit leadership qualities in their professional engineering work.


  4. Contribute to the improvement of their communities, their profession, and the world by embracing a sense of civic responsibility.


  5. Demonstrate strong commitment to professional and ethical norms in all endeavors that prioritizes public health and safety and environmental protection.
  6. Apply fundamental engineering skills such as experimentation, computational modeling and design to solve complex problems across diverse settings.

Student Outcomes

Attainment of the following Student Outcomes prepares BE graduates to enter the professional practice of engineering:

  1. an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics
  2. an ability to 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
  3. an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences
  4. an ability to 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
  5. an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives
  6. an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions
  7. an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.
  8. an ability to apply engineering skills 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.