Independent Study

About a third of BME majors take an independent study course

Independent study research projects are an integral and immensely popular component of undergraduate BME education at Duke. 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 participating in the NAE 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.

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


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 should first meet with their 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.

Independent Study Courses and Programs

After meeting with the project supervisor, and developing a project title, description, biomedical and engineering content of the project, the nature of the final project and the grading basis in hand, the student can then approach:

BME Design Fellows

An intensive design program for BME juniors, which spans three semesters and a summer session. The program may include:

  • Medical Device Design 1 & 2
  • Advanced Design and Manufacturing Skills
  • A summer internship at a BME-focused company or Duke University Medical Center

The application becomes available in September.

BME Design Fellows: How to Apply

BME Independent Study Request

  • For BME juniors and seniors who are not Pratt Research Fellows.
  • Courses: BME 394, 493, and BME 494

BME Independent Study: Make a Request

Pratt Research Fellow-BME Registration

Pratt Research Fellow: Register with BME

EGR Independent Study

  • For BME freshmen and sophomores
  • Courses: EGR 391 and EGR 491
  • 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

EGR Independent Study: Submit a Request

More Information