Undergraduate Degree Program for Biological Engineering

The biological revolution of this century has given rise to a growing demand for engineers who can tackle local, national, and global challenges by combining the power of engineering principles with the constantly evolving science of biology. To solve the daunting problems confronting society today, engineers need strong math and science skills, effective communication abilities, and an appreciation for the scope and complexity of the challenges they are facing.

If you have a strong aptitude for the sciences and math and an interest in solving engineering problems that relate to living systems, biological engineering (BE) at Cornell is definitely worth investigating. The field places you at the intersection of three great challenges facing humanity today:

  • protecting and remediating Earth’s natural resources, including water, soil, air, and energy;
  • ensuring an adequate and safe food supply in an era of expanding world population, and;
  • developing engineering systems that monitor or intervene in the mechanisms of living organisms (micro-organisms, plants, and animals) and ecosystems.

You can focus your studies in biomaterials, nanobiotechnology, ecological and microbial systems, computational biological engineering, synthetic biology, molecular and cellular systems, and/or sustainability. You will take courses in basic and advanced biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, computing, design, engineering applications, and fundamental engineering sciences (fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, thermodynamics, and transport processes).

Depending upon your interests, you will choose advanced BE courses in areas such as biomaterials, bioprocessing, bioinstrumentation, biotechnology applications, engineering ethics, computer-aided design, renewable energy systems, and watershed engineering. You will also select other courses in the College of Engineering that strengthen to your academic focus area or allow you to pursue any of the engineering minors.

Planning to go to medical school? You will find an excellent fit between your required pre-med courses and the BE major. With proper planning, you can complete the biomedical minor at the same time.

The BE major emphasizes developing communication and teamwork skills. As an undergraduate, you may engage in research, work as a teaching assistant, compete as a member of an engineering student-design team, complete an engineering co-op or internship, or study abroad.


Graduates pursue career opportunities in private industry, public agencies, and educational institutions. Recent graduates are working in biotechnology and at companies that focus on food, energy and consumer products, environmental consulting, international projects, public health and the pharmaceutical industry. Roughly one-third of the bachelor-level graduates pursue advanced study in engineering, science, business, or law.

The BE degree program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology and graduates may become registered professional engineers through formal examination and professional employment.

Master of Engineering Program

The one-year master of engineering (M.Eng.) degree will prepare you to hit the ground running and stand out in the career of your choice.The M.Eng. program in the graduate field of Biological and Environmental Engineering (BEE) is flexible, allowing candidates to select their courses and project area to meet their individual goals.M.Eng. candidates in the field of BEE choose their design project and complete appropriate courses in one of the following areas: bioenergetics and stress factors, biomechanics, controlled-environment agriculture, energy systems engineering, engineering to solve global challenges, food process engineering, metabolic engineering, micro-bioreactors, microbial fuel cells, molecular engineering, nucleic acid engineering, physiological engineering, and soil and water engineering.

Some Areas of Faculty Research

  • biological transport processes
  • biomaterials design
  • bioprocess engineering
  • bioremediation
  • biosensors and instrumentation
  • cellular engineering
  • controlled environment agriculture and aquaculture
  • ecosystem management and pollution control
  • environmental systems analysis
  • food processing engineering
  • international development
  • microbial fuel cells
  • microbial soil dynamics
  • nanoscale bioengineering
  • soil and water engineering
  • sustainable energry systems

Biological Engineering by the Numbers

Biological Engineering undergraduate students: 226

  • College of Engineering: 22
  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: 204

Starting salaries of B.S. Biological Engineering graduates (three-year average):

  • Median salary: $55,000
  • High salary: $105,000

Post-graduate plans for biological engineering graduates at the time of graduation (three-year average):

  • Employed 43% 43%
  • Attending Graduate School 50% 50%
  • Seeking Employment 3% 3%
  • Seeking Admission to Graduate School 4% 4%