Master of Science

Our program is designed to prepare graduates for engineering careers in both industry and academia by helping them: 

  • Develop expertise and mastery of knowledge in their fields 
  • Enhance their ability to develop and apply associated technologies to engineering problems

The centerpiece of the MS experience is conducting a research project in collaboration with our world-class faculty.  Students who complete  particularly strong research projects often publish in peer-reviewed journals with their adviser and present at conferences.

As part of their professional development, MS students are also encouraged to participate in professional organizations by becoming members and attending meetings. Many of our students also broaden their professional foundations through activities such as internships, fellowships, or assisting in grant preparation. Exceptional master of science students also have the opportunity to serve as teaching assistants.

The master of science curriculum is flexible and tailor-made by you, working in collaboration with your adviser and your three member graduate committee.

Degree Requirements

Course Requirement Notes

  1. No more than two undergraduate classes at the 300 or 400 level can be applied to the MS degree and a minimum of a B must be earned for them to count. Undergraduate courses at the 200 level and lower may be taken, but cannot be used to fulfill degree requirements. The only exceptions to this rule are for courses listed under approved life science electives and approved advanced math courses.
  2. Students may take up to 3 credits of independent study (BME 791) for a project or in lieu of research credits for an MS thesis.
  3. Students may take 3 credits of Master of Engineering, Master of Engineering Management or other business/management courses as an elective.
  4. Other elective courses must be selected from Engineering, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, mathematics or Computer Science.

BME Seminar

New matriculants must take one semester of BME seminar by registering for BME 702S (Fall only).

Project Evaluation

Non-thesis MS students complete their degree by presenting a lab/course research project to their committee either as an oral exam or poster presentation.

The project is an opportunity for students to practice effective research strategies. Projects must be related to biomedical engineering and approved by the student's adviser. The formulation of the project plan is a collaborative, mentored experience. Successful project plans are those in which students can do the following:

  • State a research problem in a chosen area of study and demonstrate the value of the solution to the research problem;
  • Apply sound research methods/tools to problems in an area of study and describe the methods/tools effectively;
  • Analyze/interpret research data;
  • Draw valid conclusions from data and make a convincing case for the contribution of those conclusions in advancing knowledge within that area; and
  • Communicate their research clearly and professionally in both written and oral forms appropriate to the field.

MS Thesis

MS students engaged in research are encouraged to prepare and defend a thesis.

Thesis Preparation

The Master's Thesis should follow the format defined in the Graduate School's Guide for Preparation of Theses and Dissertations, and should include the following items:

  • An abstract with objectives and clearly stated unique contributions,
  • A survey and discussion/synthesis of pertinent literature, 
  • Discussions of the completed research tasks, including theory development, data collection, analysis, and documentation, and
  • A set of conclusions that emphasize new theoretical, modeling, or experimental contributions; or novel applications of existing theories.

The quality of the Master’s Thesis should allow the material to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Learn more information on the master's thesis from Duke's Graduate School website.

Thesis Defense

Upon the completion of the written thesis, the student must defend it orally. The thesis adviser must approve the thesis for the defense before its final submission to the faculty committee. In a letter to the Graduate School, the adviser will indicate that the thesis is ready for defense. The student is responsible for asking the DGSA/DMSA to announce the thesis defense. The defense takes place no less than one week after the student has submitted the thesis to the Graduate School and has presented copies to the faculty committee members. The oral presentation is a public event. The faculty committee generally meets with the candidate in a closed meeting following the open oral presentation. During the defense, the faculty committee may question the student on both the content of the thesis and the student's course work.

The possible outcomes of the Master's Examination are:

  • The student passes. A majority of supporting votes are required, in addition to the approval of the Adviser.
  • The student fails. Re-examination might be permitted upon the recommendation of the Adviser and the approval of the Director of Master Studies.

Apply to Duke BME

Learn how to apply, get tips on your application and find our feedback schedule.

BME Seminars

As a first-year student, you will participate in a first-year seminar series that introduces you to the breadth of research in the field of Biomedical Engineering. The lead seminar is an orientation to our BME program. Subsequent seminars cover each of the areas of concentration in the Department to give insight into the activities of colleagues and future collaborators. Seminars are lead by faculty and graduate students and vary in depth and breadth to introduce you to new fields of study, to illustrate the content of scientific presentations, and to give you a chance to meet potential interdisciplinary collaborators.

Life Sciences Requirement

To help integrate biology into your engineering experience, we require that you take at least one life science course. You will work with your advisor and your committee to select the course that is most relevant to your career goals. Courses are typically selected from anatomy and physiology, cell and molecular biology, or biophysical chemistry. View courses.

Advanced Mathematics Requirement

You will learn the techniques of advanced mathematics for analysis and manipulation of data and the development and solution of mathematical models by taking an advanced mathematics course. The type of mathematics class you take depends upon your background and BME sub-discipline. Some students take statistical methods, numerical methods, or advanced analytical methods courses. You, your advisors and your committee will determine which classes are best for you. View courses.

Teaching Assistantships

We require that all doctoral students complete a total of two semesters of service as teaching assistants. Master's degree students are not required to serve as TA's but may be eligible after demonstrating a high level of performance in their coursework. For the doctoral students, we require you to complete a total of two semesters of TAing.

The TA experience is an important way to learn if you want to become a teaching faculty member. It also helps you learn leadership and management skills. At the same time, it helps solidify important core BME concepts and gives you an opportunity to work with other students and faculty members.