Bioengineering, Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Mechanical Engineering

College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences

The Doctor of Philosophy in Bioengineering allows advanced students to pursue their academic interests and to develop their research skills while studying with faculty specialists in the broad field of bioengineering. Bioengineering research is highly interdisciplinary and facilitates collaborations among faculty and students from several departments across campus including Biology, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Physics, and Physical Therapy. Students from a wide range of science backgrounds can enter this program. The goal of the program is to educate future leaders in industry and academia in the field of Bioengineering.

This doctoral degree provides advanced training in research and technology development through focused coursework, extensive research experience, and industry collaboration. In this program, students will join a new generation of industry leaders, scientists, and engineers who will be uniquely trained to embrace opportunities in the Bioengineering field. The goal of this degree is to foster interdisciplinary, collaborative, and transformative research that lies between traditional science and engineering sub-disciplines. The program promotes professional development by emphasizing excellence in research and effective communication of ideas and findings.

The program focuses on biomaterials and biomechanics with emphases in informatics and computing and biophysics. Advanced research facilities available to doctoral students in the program include the Center for Bioengineering Innovation (CBI) and the Imaging & Histology Core Facility (IHCF), as well as industrial collaborations in Flagstaff, the state of Arizona, and nationwide.

  • To receive a Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses, from one or more disciplines, ranging from at least 60 - 109 units of graduate-level courses. Most plans require research, a dissertation, and comprehensive exams. All plans have residency requirements regarding time spent on the Flagstaff campus engaged in full-time study.

    The full policy can be viewed here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 60
Additional Admission Requirements Required
Dissertation Dissertation is required.
Comprehensive Exam Comprehensive Exam is required.
Oral Defense Oral Defense is required.
Research Individualized research is required.

Purpose Statement

The Bioengineering Program is uniquely broad in its objectives, as we envision that the majority of graduates from this program will fill the demand for leadership in industrial research and development.  The purpose of the program is to significantly expand NAU’s research strengths in the areas of biomaterials and biomechanics research, while building capacity for basic research in the life sciences to be translated into engineering solutions in the biotechnology sector.  Students will build skills and knowledge through formal course work and an original dissertation project. The goal is to foster students’ abilities to identify and synthesize fundamental principles of bioengineering and apply them to complex problems.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students will build skills and knowledge through formal course work and an original dissertation project. The goal is to foster students’ abilities to identify and synthesize fundamental principles of bioengineering and apply them to complex problems. NAU graduates with a PhD in Bioengineering will be able to: 

  • Critical Thinking
    • Apply graduate level critical thinking skills to formulate and solve advanced bioengineering problems
      • Disaggregate, reformulate and adapt principal ideas, techniques and/or methods to solve advanced bioengineering problems.
      • Solve advanced bioengineering problems by articulating the problem’s significant challenges, identifying and elucidating the relationships between theory and practice for problem resolution; and explore and/or implement approaches that synthesize ideas and methods to address the problem/challenge.  
  • Interdisciplinarity
    • Integrate information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice.
  • Research Design and Execution
    • Independently and creatively design and conduct research studies, including synthesis of the scientific literature in the field of study, design of dissertation research, and interpretation of complex quantitative analyses.
  • Oral Communication
    • Demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively the results of a comprehensive research project through oral presentations.
  • Written Communication
    • Compose and engage in highly effective written communication in bioengineering; demonstrate clear argumentation and logic in a variety of written communications, including published papers and grant proposals.

Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

    • GRE® revised General Test
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • Personal statement or essay
    • All applicants are expected to make contact (i.e. email communication or lab visit) with potential faculty members in the department BEFORE APPLYING. Applicants should only apply if a mentor agrees to support the applicant.
    • An earned degree in a bioengineering, biology, mechanical engineering, or appropriately related science. 
Doctoral Requirements
  • This Doctoral degree requires 60 units distributed as follows:

    • Bioengineering Foundation Coursework: 12 units
    • Biology, Engineering, and/or Other Electives: 33
    • Dissertation: 15 units

    Given the breadth of Bioengineering as a discipline, to best prepare you for your dissertation research, your Advisory Committee will approve our individualized Plan of Study at the end of your first year.  You must obtain an overall grade point average of at least a 3.0 to remain in the program in good standing.

  • Bioengineering Foundation (12 units):

    • Of the 33 units of electives, no more than 12 units of individualized study (608/685/697) may be used towards this degree. ME 608BIO 608, BE 608 is encouraged so that students obtain an internship with a local or regional industrial partner as part of your graduate training. However, no more than 3 units of 608 may be used towards your degree.  

      All electives must be approved by your advisor; dissertation/thesis units (799/699) may not be used towards fulfillment of any elective requirements.

  •  Dissertation (15 units):
  • Required Milestones: The focus of this program is to develop and execute an original research project in Bioengineering, along with excellent oral and written communication skills necessary for leadership in industry and academia. 

    • Prospectus (beginning of 3rd semester)
      You will be expected to complete a dissertation prospectus by the beginning of your third semester. Writing of the prospectus will commence in the first semester in BIO 698 Scientific Writing,or in BE/BIO 537, one of which is a required course for all incoming students. The prospectus will include a literature review of your proposed topic area, motivation and rationale for your proposed studies, detailed methods including hypotheses to be tested, expected results and interpretation, and expected impact on the field. After approval of your prospectus, you need to submit a completed and signed Dissertation Recommendation Form, available on the Graduate College's website.

      Advancement to Candidacy (end of 4th semester)
      After completion of your prospectus, you will form an Advisory committee in consultation with your major advisor. Departmental approval of your candidacy application will be based on evaluation of your written prospectus and an oral presentation to your Advisory Committee, based on the prospectus, which must be completed before the end of your second year as well as completion of the qualifying exam (which may be written and/or oral). The qualifying exam may be a separate examination or part of your prospectus defense. After receiving departmental approval, you need to submit a completed and signed Candidacy Application to the Graduate College.

      Dissertation Defense (end of final year)
      You will submit a written doctoral dissertation to your Advisory Committee, and present a public seminar based on your research. An oral examination will be administered by your advisory committee after completion of your public seminar.

  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.