Independent Study

Independent study research projects are an integral and immensely popular component of undergraduate BME education at Duke. In any given semester, about one-third of the majors are taking an independent study course. Up to two such courses may be counted as BME electives if they are taken in the junior or senior years.

In an independent study course students work with a faculty supervisor to focus on a special topic of the student's choosing by self-guided readings, developing and/or running computer simulations, and/or laboratory experiments. Students interested in independent study are encouraged to approach faculty members to discuss opportunities. For ideas on whom to approach, look through the BME faculty list for professors whose research and interests match yours. Students participating in the Grand Challenges Scholar Program and/or contributing to the efforts of the Duke Smart Home may obtain independent study credits for their work if their project is supervised by a BME faculty.

BME student and Grand Challenge Scholar Kevin Mauro

Advantages of Independent Study

Independent study course work can be used to satisfy requirements toward Graduation with Departmental Distinction (GwDD), provided the student's GPA is at least 3.5.  In addition, the best research projects are eligible for the BME Departmental awards: the Helmholtz Award, the Clark Awards, and the Edward D. "Ned" Light Memorial Award.

Examples of Student Projects

  • Implementing a Rechargeable Battery for an Implantable Neural Acquisition System
  • Functional Endoscopic Imaging for Enhanced Detection of Cancerous Lesions
  • Electrophysiological Characterization of a Novel Genetically Engineered Biological Pacemaker
  • Biomechanics of Microbicide Gel Distribution and Efficacy
  • Improved In Vivo Visualization of Injected Anesthetics Using Ultrasonic Decorrelation Algorithms
  • Emergent Network Bursting and Synchrony in Computer Simulations of Neuronal Cultures
  • Evaluation of Pediatric Skull Fracture Imaging Techniques
  • Guidance of Surgical Robotics with 3-D Ultrasound
  • Uses of the Pratt Pouch with Antiretroviral Medication for the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV
  • Pitch Mismatch in Bilateral Cochlear Implants Using an Acoustic Mode
  • Nanotherapeutics: Dual Functional Nanoparticles for Gene Delivery and Tissue Engineering

Registration for Independent Study Courses

To register for a BME independent study course, each student should first meet with his/her project supervisor to discuss the project title, its description, biomedical and engineering content of the project, the nature of the final product, and the grading basis.  With this information in hand, the student fills one of the following requests forms:

  • BME Design Fellows: 3 semester + summer intensive design experiences. Students are required to take all three (3) semesters and complete the summer internship. The first course is a half-credit BME 390S Design Fundamentals class, followed by a guaranteed summer internship at either a BME-focused company in Research Triangle Park or at the hospital, where students will perform needs-finding followed by enrollment into the two-semester BME design course of their choice in the fall. Inquire by email
  • BME Independent Study Request Form: for BME juniors and seniors who are not Pratt Fellows. Courses: BME 394, 493, and BME 494 
  • Pratt Fellowship-BME Registration Request Form: for BME juniors and seniors who are Pratt Fellows. Courses: BME 394, BME 493, and BME 494
  • EGR Independent Study Request Form: for BME freshmen and sphomores. Courses: EGR 391 (183) and EGR 491 (184)

The deadline for submitting the request is two business days before the drop/add ends .The forms will not be active after the deadline, so make sure to submit your request on time.

After you've submitted the forms, learn how to check the status of your independent study request.

More information on BME Independent Study and Graduation with Departmental Distinction requirements is available in the BME Undergraduate Handbook (PDF).