Starting in 2014–15, the bioengineering major has 4 concentrations (for the earlier curricula see Old Concentrations and Electives).  For detailed curricular requirements for each concentration, see the curriculum charts.

Biomolecular Engineering

The biomolecular engineering concentration is designed for students interested in protein engineering, stem cell engineering, and synthetic biology. The emphasis is on engineering of or with biomolecules (mainly DNA, RNA, and proteins) and cellular engineering, including stem cell engineering. Students need a thorough background in biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular biology, as well as enough bioinformatics to use DNA and protein databases effectively. Other subjects are touched on lightly, mainly to provide breadth. Students completing the biomolecular concentration also complete a bioinformatics minor.

Although the lower-level Physics 6 series is acceptable for this concentration, we will continue advising that students take the Physics 5 series.  Physics 6 is permitted primarily to allow easier transfer from the MCD Biology major, where students are not expected to take Physics 5.


The bioelectronics concentration is designed for students interested in the interface between organisms and electronic instrumentation or implants. The emphasis is on converting biological information into electronic signals, interfacing those signals to computer systems, and then processing and analyzing those signals. To a lesser extent, it also involves converting electronic signals into biological ones. Because many biological sensors result in color change or other optical signals, optoelectronics may also be important. Students needs a broad background in classical physics and electronics, with some chemistry.

The Physics 5 series is required for the bioelectronics concentration.

Assistive Technology: Motor

The assistive technology: motor concentration is designed for students interested in helping people with movement disabilities. The emphasis is on designing exoskeletons, robots, and mechanical devices to aid disabled people and enhance capabilities of non-disabled people. The underlying sciences are physics and anatomy.

Physics 5A and 5C are required for the bioelectronics concentration, as is CMPE 9 (Statics and Dynamics).

Assistive Technology: Cognitive/Perceptual

The Assistive Technology: Cognitive/Perceptual concentration focuses on technology that may support the life activities of people who have sensory deficits (such as visual or hearing impairments), people with cognitive impairments (such as learning disability or memory disorders), as well as people with communication deficits (e.g. needing speech therapy). There obviously are some common themes with the Assistive Technology: Motor concentration; indeed, stroke or traumatic brain injury survivors are likely to suffer from some form of motor, perceptual, and cognitive disabilities. However, while the Motor track has affinities with control and robotics and thus demands a solid foundation in physics and particularly in mechanics, the Cognitive/Perceptual builds an interdisciplinary background in psychology, computer science, and human factors.

This interdisciplinary background is reflected by the inclusion in the curriculum of courses such as CMPE 80A, a general introduction to disability, technology, and society; PSYC 20A, which covers basic concepts in cognitive psychology; PSYC 100, an introduction to research methods for human psychology investigation; and two out of five relevant upper-division psych courses. Computer-related courses include CMPE 131, introducing relevant issues in computer-human interface and usability design, and CMPE 161, which covers sensing and interaction using mobile platforms. The physics curriculum includes the optics course, which provides the underpinnings for understanding visual impairments. Although the lower-level Physics 6 series is acceptable for this concentration, we will continue advising that students take the Physics 5 series.

The computer programming courses emphasize higher-level programming than the bioelectronics and motor concentrations, as the student design projects are more likely to include cell-phone app programming than low-level sensor interfacing.