BSE Strong Together

The Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) program provides students with an opportunity to combine their interests in biology, chemistry, and engineering. The 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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Currently, biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech is offered as a minor or a graduate degree (MS or PhD).  There are three options at Virginia Tech for undergraduate degrees which provide a good foundation for biomedical engineering – Biological Systems Engineering, Engineering Science and Mechanics, and Mechanical Engineering.  BSE has a stronger emphasis in chemistry, biology, and systems than either ESM or ME.  Both ESM and ME have a stronger emphasis on structures and mechanics.  Students pursuing an undergraduate degree in BSE with a minor in biomedical engineering select technical electives from courses recommended by the School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, based on their particular area of interest within biomedical engineering.

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 should select technical electives from the recommended courses for the MCAT exam:

Requirements for the 2015 MCATs

  • BIOL 1105/1115: Principles of Biology I (required by BSE) + Lab (BSE Technical Elective)
  • BIOL 1106/1116: Principles of Biology II (required by BSE) + Lab (BSE Technical Elective)
  • CHEM 1035/1045: General Chemistry I + Lab (both required by BSE)
  • CHEM 1036/1046: General Chemistry II (required by BSE) + Lab (BSE Technical Elective)
  • CHEM 2535/2545: Organic Chemistry I (BSE CHEM Elective) + Lab (BSE Technical Elective)
  • CHEM 2536/2546: Organic Chemistry II (BSE CHEM Elective) + Lab (BSE Technical Elective)
  • PHYS 2305: Foundations of Physics I (required by BSE)
  • PHYS 2306: Foundations of Physics I (required by BSE)
  • SOC 1004: Introduction to Sociology (CLE Area 3)
  • PSYC 2004: Introduction to Psychology (CLE Area 3)
  • Either BCHM 2024: Concepts of Biochemistry or BCHM 3114: Biochemistry for Biotechnology (BSE Technical Elective)

Highly recommended

  • BIOL 2104: Cell and Molecular Biology (BSE Technical Elective)
  • BIOL 2004: Genetics (BSE Technical Elective)
  • Any 2000 or 3000 level English course (literature/creative writing) (CLE Area 2 and/or 7)


Priscilla Baker
Undergraduate Academic Advisor
307 Seitz Hall

Dr. Tess Thompson
Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Studies
213 Seitz Hall
(540) 231-2454