BME PhD Qualifying Exam


The PhD Qualifying exam is the first of three oral examinations in the Biomedical Engineering PhD program. Students are eligible for to take the Qualifying Exam after they have finished the required BME core courses (usually after conclusion of their first year in the program). Students who have not yet finished their core courses, but are advanced in their research career (e.g., have already obtained an MS in another field), may elect to waive that requirement after discussing it with their PhD advisor. Although students must have identified a research advisor prior to the exam, they are not required to have formed their dissertation committee.


Goals of the Exam

The purpose of the QE is to ascertain if the student can formulate and communicate meritorious original research in the field of Biomedical Engineering. The exam has both written and oral components, and includes the review of one of three manuscripts, as well as the formulation of a proposal. More information is provided here. The student is evaluated on their basic knowledge of the emphasis area they are enrolled in, their ability to effectively communicate their ideas and knowledge, their scientific originality, and their ability to effectively plan a small research project.


Prior to taking the QE, students are required to attend an orientation with the BME Qualifying Exam Advisor. During the orientation, students will submit a memo with information about his or her undergraduate education, current degree program, and research advisor. See "Eligibility to Take the Oral Qualifying Exam in the BME Graduate Program" here. During the orientation session, the QE Advisor will discuss the exam procedure and format in detail, and answer any questions from the students at that time.


The QE consists of three parts:

  1. a written research proposal based on an NIH graduate student award,
  2. an oral critique of one of three published manuscripts in 3 areas of Biomedical Engineering,
  3. an oral presentation, including a question & answer session based on both of the preceding parts.

Each student's QE Committee consists of three faculty members. At the conclusion of the exam, each committee member will evaluate the student's performance according to a rubric. The performance of all students participating in the exam will be discussed at a faculty meeting, and all of the faculty will vote on its outcome. The students will then receive a memo with the conclusions of the exam's outcome, as well as any recommendations.


The BME QE is held twice each academic year, typically the week prior to the first day of the semester. The QE orientation session is held one month prior to the day of the exam. A more detailed checklist and schedule is given here on page 4 of the BME Student Qualifying Exam Forms pdf.

Manuscripts from Past BME Qualifying Exams:


Biomaterials Concentration: Sakurai, K., et al.; "Cells immobilized on Patterns Printed in DNA by an Inkjet Printer," Biomaterials 32 (2011) 3596-3602.

Molecular Assembly Concentration: Nagy, K.J., et al.; "Enhanced Mechanical Rigidity of Hydrogels Formed from Enantiomeric Peptide Assemblies," JACS 133 (2011) 14975–14977.

Tissue Engineering Concentration: Zheng, Y., et al.; "In Vitro Microvessels for the Study of Angiogenesis and Thrombosis," PNAS 109 (2012) 9342-9347.


Biomaterials Concentration: Agarwal, A., et al.; "Surfaces modified with nanometer-thick silver-impregnated polymeric films that kill bacteria but support growth of mammalian cells," Biomaterials 31 (2010) 680-690.

Molecular Assembly Concentration: Simonsson, L., et al.; "Continuous Lipid Bilayers Derived from Cell Membranes for Spatial Molecular Manipulation," JACS 133 (2011) 14027–14032.

Tissue Engineering Concentration: Wu, W., et al.; "Artificial Niche Combining Elastomeric Substrate and Platelets Guides Vascular Differentiation of Bone Marrow Mononuclear Cells," Tissue Engineering A 17 (2011) 1979-1992.


Biomaterials Concentration: Gomes, S.C., et al; "Antimicrobial Functionalized Genetically Engineered Spider Silk,"Biomaterials 32 (2011), 4255-4266.

Molecular Assembly Concentration: Brasch, M., et al; "Encapsulation of Phthalocyanine Supramolecular Stacks into Virus-like Particles," J Am Chem Soc, 133 (2011), 6878–6881.

Tissue Engineering Concentration: Pandey, A. and Aswath, P.; "Indentation Creep Reservoirs for Drug-Eluting Poly(L-Lactic Acid Scaffolds), J Biomat Sci, 22 (2011), 1591-1606.


Biomaterials Concentration: Wood, J.A., et al; "The Role Of Substratum Compliance Of Hydrogels On Vascular Endothelial Cell Behavior," 32 (2011) 5056-5064.

Molecular Assembly Concentration: Lee, W., et al; "Dynamic Self-Assembly And Control Of Microfluidic Particle Crystals," PNAS, 107 (2010), 22413–22418.

Tissue Engineering Concentration: Cheng, N., et al, "Mature Human Hepatocytes from Ex Vivo Differentiation of Alginate-Encapsulated Hepatoblasts," Tissue Engineering, 14 (2008), 1-7.