May 19, 2024  
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Biomedical Engineering (PhD)

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs

Return to Department.   

Degree Requirements:

The PhD program in Biomedical Engineering consists of 39 credits of graduate level course work including at least 9 credits of Doctoral Dissertation. The program allows for considerable flexibility in course selection. The PhD program also requires completion of a Teaching Aid requirement, the Qualifying Exam, the Candidacy Defense and the Doctoral Dissertation. PhD students are required to take 5 core courses and a minimum of 4 technical electives.

Core Requirements:

Technical Electives:

Select 12 credits at the 600-level or higher from the following:


Courses not on the above Elective list can be substituted with permission of the Faculty Advisor and the BME Graduate Director. BME may waive the requirement for up to 18 credit hours of course work for students entering with a Master’s Degree or credits for graduate course work performed at another recognized graduate school. Waivers will only be granted for courses that cover subjects eligible for credit toward a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Delaware. Requests for a course waiver must be initiated by the student before the beginning of their third semester at UD. Waivers must be approved by the Faculty Advisor and the BME Graduate Director and will be contingent on the student’s demonstration of satisfactory performance in course work taken at UD.


PhD students must complete 27 credit hours of course work (described above), plus at least 3 credit hours of research (BMEG 868) and 9 credit hours of dissertation research (BMEG 969). 

Seminar Series:

Biomedical engineering is an emerging and rapidly expanding field where engineering and biological disciplines converge. To keep up to date with the wide variety of research encompassed by this field, students are required to attend 75% of the regularly scheduled departmental seminars.

Candidacy Requirements:

To qualify to be a PhD candidate, students must complete the following:

  • Complete a one semester Teaching Aid Requirement.
  • Pass the Qualifying Exam.
  • Establish a Dissertation Committee. 
  • Complete all coursework.

Once a student has completed all coursework required for the BME PhD degree, completed the Teaching Aid requirement, passed the Qualifying Exam, and established a Dissertation Committee, they will be considered a PhD Candidate eligible for sustaining status by the BME department. Once all these requirements are met, the student must submit a Candidacy Form to the Office of Graduate and Professional Education.

Teaching Aid Requirement:

The ability to communicate ideas, concepts, and factual information is an essential skill for all PhD graduates, even those who have no interest in an academic position. In recognition of this, all PhD students are required to fulfill a Teaching Aid Requirement for 1 semester that consists of serving as a Teaching Aid. Note that this is different from the Teaching Assistantships offered as financial aid (described in Financial Aid section). While fulfilling this Teaching Aid Requirement, students are expected to continue being actively involved in their research.

The responsibilities of the Teaching Aid Requirement will be defined by the course instructor and should not exceed approximately 10 hours per week. In general, the PhD student should not merely be assigned grading responsibilities. He/she should have an opportunity to plan and deliver lectures, lead discussion sections and lead laboratory exercises. Direct interaction with course students is highly encouraged.

The University requires that all first time Teaching Aids take a TA orientation class offered by the Center for Teaching and Learning. International students must also enroll in the ELIITA (English Language Institute International Teaching Assistant) program before performing their teaching requirement.

Although the exact timing of these appointments is flexible, it is highly desirable to complete all teaching responsibilities by the end of the 2nd year, although they can be extended to the 3rd year. The BME Graduate Committee assigns these positions in November (for the upcoming spring semester) and in May (for the following fall). Students are encouraged to submit their preferences for specific positions early to facilitate the process. Although every effort will be made to satisfy these requests, students should recognize that this is not always possible.

Qualifying Exam:

The Qualifying Exam must be taken in the summer after the first year (and after completion of at least 5 approved courses with a cumulative GPA of 3.00 or better). For students with non-fall matriculation or part-time study, the timing of this exam will be set based on course completion and approval by the Graduate Director.

The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is to evaluate the preparation of the student in the areas of background knowledge, methods and techniques, critical thinking, and oral and written scientific communication, and to develop a study and mentoring plan to address any shortcomings in this preparation.  These criteria will be evaluated through both a written exam and an oral exam

Written Exam:

The written exam requires the student to prepare an 5-7 page document, following standard NIH grant formatting rules, consisting of a literature review establishing the background and significance of their proposed area of research, a summary of important methods and measurements, together with their strengths and weaknesses, and identification of at least one important gap in the current knowledge that could be addressed through their research, with a separate Works Cited section (no page limit).  Correct citation style, conforming to the NIH SF424 guide requirements and the standards of the student’s field, should be used throughout. 

This document can be considered to be a draft of the introduction, background and significance, and methods sections of the student’s future dissertation and of papers anticipated to arise from their dissertation research.  Primary work on this document will occur during the month of July following the student’s first year, and the student must submit the document to the Graduate Director in PDF format by August 1. The student will still be expected to participate in research activities during this month.  

The student may consult their advisor, other faculty members, and other students regarding scientific questions during the preparation of this work. The written exam should be the student’s original and independent work. Any text or figures used from another source (including previously published works by the student) must be properly cited. Failure to do so would constitute plagiarism.
The written exam will be evaluated by a committee of 3 faculty members chosen by the BME graduate committee, including the student’s advisor and two other faculty members, one of which must be outside the primary area of the student’s research.  These committee members will evaluate the written exam to determine (1) whether the student demonstrates an acceptable knowledge of the scientific background and techniques relevant to their topic, and (2) whether the student demonstrates written scientific communication skills expected of a student completing the first year of a Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. program.  

The committee may provide the student with informal written feedback on the written exam prior to the oral exam date.

Oral Exam:

After the written exam has been evaluated, a 75-minute oral exam will be scheduled with the same committee that evaluated the written proposal.  The student should prepare a 15-minute oral presentation based on their written exam.  Following the presentation, there will be one hour for questions, which will be divided between Q&A relating to the written exam and questions on general biomedical engineering knowledge based on the student’s completed core and elective courses.  

Possible Outcomes:

The committee will submit a recommendation to the graduate committee that the student either Pass or Fail the Qualifying Exam. A decision of Pass means the committee feels that the student’s preparation is adequate such that, if suggested additional coursework and mentoring is completed, the student will be able to be successful in independent dissertation-level research.  If the committee recommends the student Pass, they should also prepare a proposed study and mentoring plan to address any identified areas of weakness or insufficient preparation.  A decision of Fail means the committee feels that the areas of weakness and insufficient preparation are significant enough that the student will not be able to be successful in independent dissertation-level research.  These recommendations will be reviewed by the Graduate Committee, who will make final recommendations to the BME Faculty. The Graduate Director will communicate the decision to the student, and provide and retain a written copy of the study and mentoring plan.

Progress made on the study and mentoring plan shall be documented on subsequent Annual Progress Reports, or earlier if specified in the plan.  Inadequate progress in the study and mentoring plan recommended by the committee may be grounds for dis-enrollment from the PhD program.  If the student Fails, he/she will be dis-enrolled from the PhD program, but may continue in the MS program if they meet all requirements.

Dissertation Committee:

As soon as possible, but no more than 1 year after passing the Qualifying Exam, the student must establish a Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee is selected by the Faculty Advisor and the student, and must have a minimum of 4 members including the advisor and at least 3 additional faculty. 3 members must have an appointment in BME (Primary, Joint, or Affiliated), at least one member must hold a Primary or Voting Joint appointment in BME, and 1 must be from outside the primary research area of the dissertation topic. 3 members must be from the University of Delaware.  The student must submit a 1-2 page research plan approved by the committee to the graduate director.  The research plan should contain a brief description of the student’s proposed research area including major questions to be addressed, a brief summary of research accomplishments so far, one paragraph justifying the committee composition, and a preliminary timeline for the completion of the degree. The Graduate Director must approve the committee, chair, and research plan, and any subsequent changes in committee members.

Dissertation Proposal:

The Dissertation Proposal requires a written proposal outlining the plan of research for the PhD and an oral presentation and defense of this proposal to the Dissertation Committee. The written proposal will follow a NIH R01 format, with a page limit of 15 pages. A curriculum vita, Progress Report Form and a graduate-level transcript should also be included. All materials should be distributed to the Dissertation Committee at least 2 weeks before the oral proposal. The defense will include a 30 min presentation by the student, followed by a 60 min Q&A discussion. The student must complete the Dissertation Proposal within 2 years of the Qualifying Exam or must petition the Graduate Director for an extension.

Completing the PhD:

To complete the PhD, students must pass a Dissertation Exam. This exam involves approval of the written dissertation and an oral defense of the dissertation. The written dissertation must be submitted to his/her Dissertation Committee at least 2 weeks before the defense. The oral presentation will be open to the public and will last ~45 min. After questions from the public not to exceed 15 minutes, a closed Q&A session with the Dissertation Committee of 30-60 minutes will follow. The student will be responsible for making corrections to the dissertation document and for meeting all Graduate School deadlines for submission. Student must complete the Dissertation Exam within 5 years of the Qualifying Exam (6 years after matriculation) or must petition the Graduate Director for an extension.

Last Revised for 2018-2019 Academic Year

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs