What is Bioengineering?

Bioengineering is a relatively new engineering discipline when compared to the long-standing traditions of other fields of engineering. A bioengineer uses traditional engineering skills and tools to analyze and solve problems in biology and medicine. The difference between bioengineering and biomedical engineering is that bioengineering is a more global term which encompasses biomedical engineering and is applied to all life sciences and medicine while biomedical focuses primarily on medicine and healthcare. However, few universities, research institutes, and corporations adhere strictly to those definitions and, in fact, the terms are often used interchangeably.

Bioengineers interact with biologists, biochemists, physicians, physiologists, and therapists to design, develop and manufacture instruments, devices, and software, or to develop new procedures to solve clinical problems. Recent advances in bioengineering that you may be familiar with include artificial hearts and joints, laser systems used in corrective eye surgery, and miniaturized devices for detecting insulin levels and automating insulin injections.

Fields of specialization within bioengineering include:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Bioinstrumentation
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomechanics
  • Biomedical devices
  • Bio-Micro/Nano-Electro-Mechanical Systems
  • Cellular, tissue and molecular engineering
  • Clinical engineering
  • Medical imaging
  • Molecular imaging
  • Rehabilitation engineering


Why Become a Bioengineer?

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook states that employment opportunities for bioengineers are expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2012. The aging of the population and the focus on health issues will increase the demand for better medical devices and equipment designed by bioengineers. For example, rehabilitation engineering is growing rapidly to meet the increasing needs of aged patients and patients with disabilities. Current advances in computer-assisted surgery and molecular, cellular, and tissue engineering designed to minimize patients hospitalization time also bosst the demand for bioengineers.

In Spring 2004, the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicated that bachelor's degree candidates in bioengineering received starting offers averaging $49,753 a year and master's degree candidates averaged $52,000.

Combined with a growing job market and financial reward, bioengineers have the gratification that comes from working to meet the needs of society. They choose the bioengineering field to be of service to people, to be a part of the excitement of working with living systems, and to apply advanced technology to the complex problems of biology and medicine.

Who Hires Bioengineers?

According the the Occupational Outlook Handbook, bioengineers held about 7,600 jobs in 2002. Manufacturing industries employed 38 percent of all bioengineers, primarily in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing and medical instruments and supplies industries. Others were employed in universities, hospitals, research facilities of education and medical institutions, teaching, governmental regulatory agencies, or as independent consultants.

Companies and federal agencies that employ bioengineers include:


Bioengineers address challenges in the life sciences and medicine by applying their in-depth understanding of living systems and fundamental engineering knowledge, multidisciplinary communication and teamwork skills, and creativity. They are involved in performance and safety testing of new products as well as establishing the safety standards for medical devices.

Bioengineering at J.B. Speed School of Engineering

In 2004, the bioengineering program was formalized into a department by the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. In July 2005, the University of Louisville Board of Trustees approved the first and only five-year (including a cooperative education component), integrated Bachelor of Science - Master of Engineering Bioengineering degree program in Kentucky. Both the Bachelor of Science and the Master of Engineering degrees are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET,

As freshmen and sophmores, students will develop a solid foundation in engineering principles along with a diverse background in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences. Life science courses include Principles of Biology, Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Human Anatomy and Physiology. Lab courses are three semesters of on-the-job learning through the Cooperative Education Program provide hands-on experiences.

At the junior/senior level, students take core courses in Bioengineering Design, Biotransport Phenomena, Biomechanics Principles, Bioengineering Measurements Laboratory, Biomaterials and Biocompatibility, Biosystems Controls, Biosytems and Signals, Introductory Bioinformatics, and FDA Regulations and Bioethics.

Graduate students may tailor course selection according to their personal interests and specialize in one of the following areas:


Department Highlights

  • University of Louisville is the first and only university in Kentucky to offer both and undergraduate and graduate degree in bioengineering.
  • Courses are taught by faculty conducting leading-edge research and familiar with the current needs of the industrial sector.
  • The curriculum is designed to provide students with a strong engineering background and the ability to translate an idea from the "bench-top to the bedside."
  • Undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to become involved in research programs of faculty.
  • Students interface directly with clinical and medical faculty to address the needs of the biomedical community including Louisville's world-renown health care facilities, e.g. Alliant Health Systems, Frazier Rehabilitation Center, Jewish Hospital, Kentucky Lion's Eye Institute, Kosair Childrens' Hospital, and Norton Health Care Systems.
For Additional Information

J.B. Speed School of Engineering
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY 40292

Department of Bioengineering
Lutz Bldg., Suite 419
University of Louisville
Visit department website
Phone: (502) 852-7485
Email: Nancy Hansford

Bioengineering Co-op Program
Phone: 502-852-0397
Email Michael Keibler

Office of Admissions
Phone: (502) 852-4672