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Undergraduate Program

Virginia Tech biological systems engineering students holding a lab outdoors

The Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) undergraduate program provides students with an opportunity to combine their interests in biology, chemistry, and engineering. 

Our undergraduate program offers many opportunities for professional development outside of classes, including undergraduate research, study abroad, and professional organizations. Most students also participate in internships or other work experience. The B.S. program in Biological Systems Engineering is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.

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There are many similarities between BSE and the Environmental and Water Resources (CEE-EWR) specialty area in Civil and Environmental Engineering and graduates from each department pursue similar career paths.  BSE emphasizes water quality and natural resources protection through sound watershed management.  Our students develop a foundation in both biology and chemistry and address engineering problems using a systems approach.  Students in CEE-EWR typically focus in wastewater treatment, water supply, hydraulic structures, stormwater management, groundwater remediation, or environmental policy and planning.  CEE-EWR students develop a broad civil engineering background, which includes classes in transportation, structures, geotechnical engineering, and construction.

The main difference between BSE and Chemical Engineering is that BSE uses biology as the scientific foundation of our engineering solutions.  While chemistry also provides an important scientific foundation, BSEs emphasize the use of biological systems/materials instead of chemicals or petro-based materials.  As in Chemical Engineering, students in BSE use biology and chemistry in “unit operations,” such as filtration, chromatography, and fermentation; however, BSE students can also learn food processing, biopharmaceutical production, biomaterials, metabolic engineering, bioenergy production, and animal waste treatment and utilization.

There are many majors at Virginia Tech that are good pre-med/pre-vet preparation.  Because BSE has a strong emphasis in biology and chemistry, BSE students take many of the preferred courses as part of their BSE program.  Pre-med/Pre-vet students should select technical electives from the recommended courses for the MCAT exam.