Choosing a Track

In choosing an appropriate track within the Biomedical Engineering major, students are encouraged to examine the course offerings in each track and to consider their personal interests, keeping in mind that the selection of a track does not dictate future career choices as well as medical school applications.

Biomedical Engineering applies methods from engineering, mathematics, and the physical sciences to problems in biomedical science and biology. One of the most exciting things about Biomedical Engineering is its diversity. Methods may be drawn from any area of engineering and applied to any area of biology or physiology.

This makes designing a curriculum in Biomedical Engineering very challenging. It is impossible to cover every area of engineering and every possible application. Instead, we ask students to choose an area of focus, or "track" that they find interesting as well as take core classes that are required for all BME students (e.g., BME Quantitative Physiology I & II, BME labs, BME Design). This choice of "track" (Biomechanics, Biosignals and Biomedical Imaging, Cell and Tissue Engineering) helps define which courses students will take. We encourage students to view choosing a track simply as choosing the courses that look most interesting.

All students in Columbia 's Biomedical Engineering Department learn basic principles of engineering through courses in Biomedical Engineering and other engineering departments. They then learn to apply these principles to biologic systems. In all tracks, we emphasize how to approach a problem rather than which problem to approach. This is because Biomedical Engineering is also a very dynamic field. Some of the most popular areas of current Biomedical Engineering research did not exist 10 years ago, and most researchers now working on Biomedical Engineering problems do not have degrees in Biomedical Engineering. Our graduates will go to graduate school, to medical school, to industry. They will switch fields, maybe several times. This is only the beginning of a lifelong on-the-job education.

So to the student about to choose a track, we offer the following advice. Relax. Choose something that looks like fun. Work hard. Take advantage of internships, volunteer experiences, and opportunities to work in research laboratories. Find out what interests you and then do it. To help with the choice, we list below the descriptions of the courses that best represent each track.

A Note for Premedical Students: The BME curriculum satisfies most pre-medical course requirements. The required course load for pre-medical students is the same in all three tracks of study.  Organic Chemistry II and Organic Chemistry Lab can be applied toward technical electives. Physics lab cannot be applied toward technical electives.

Biomechanics Track

Solid Biomechanics: This course introduces applications of continuum mechanics to the understanding of various biological tissue properties. The structure, function, and mechanical properties of various tissues in biological systems, such as blood vessels, muscle, skin, brain tissue, bone, tendon, cartilage, ligaments, etc., will be examined. The focus will be on the establishment of basic governing mechanical principles and constitutive relations for each tissue. Experimental determination of various tissue properties will be introduced and demonstrated. The important medical and clinical implications of tissue mechanical behavior will be emphasized.

Fluid Biomechanics: The principles of continuum mechanics are applied to biological fluid flows. Topics include flow in elastic vessels, pulsatile and turbulent blood flow, blood rheology and non-Newtonian properties, red blood cell behavior in capillaries, osmotic pressure, air flow and mixing in the lung, mucociliary and peristaltic flow, cardiac valve mechanics.

Advanced Musculoskeletal Biomechanics: Advanced analysis and modeling of the musculoskeletal system. Topics include advanced concepts of 3-D segmental kinematics, musculoskeletal dynamics, experimental measurements of joint kinematics and anatomy, modeling of muscles and locomotion, multibody joint modeling, introduction to musculoskeletal surgical simulations.

Cardiac Mechanics: Fundamentals of cardiac mechanics and physiology for the biomedical engineer. Lectures cover cardiac anatomy, passive myocardial constitutive properties, electrical activation, biophysics of calcium cycling and cross-bridge interaction, quantitative models of force generation, ventricular pump function, ventricular-vascular coupling, coronary blood flow, invasive and noninvasive measures of regional and global function, models for predicting ventricular wall stress. Alterations in muscle properties and ventricular function resulting from myocardial infarction, heart failure, and left ventricular assist are discussed. In the laboratory component, students will demonstrate force-length and force-velocity relationships in papillary muscles, conduct simulated ex vivo testing of myocardium, calculate strains from in vivo marker data, examine the impact of geometry and fiber orientation on model stress calculations, and conduct hands-on demonstrations of state-of-the-art ultrasound techniques for noninvasive measurement of cardiac function.

Biosignals and Biomedical Imaging Track

Biomedical Imaging: This course covers image formation, methods of analysis and representation of digital images. Measures of qualitative performance in the context of clinical imaging. Algorithms fundamental to the construction of medical images via methods of computed tomography, magnetic resonance, and ultrasound. Algorithms and methods for the enhancement and quantification of specific features of clinical importance in each of these modalities.

Wavelet applications in biomedical image and signal processing: An introduction to methods of wavelet analysis and processing techniques for the quantification of biomedical images and signals. Topics include: frames and overcomplete representations, multiresolution algorithms for denoising and image restoration, multiscale texture segmentation and classification methods to support computer-aided diagnosis (CAD).

 Cell & Tissue Engineering Track

Biological Transport and Rate Processes: Convective and diffusive movement and reaction of molecules in biological systems. Kinetics of homogeneous and heterogeneous reactions in biological environments. Mechanisms and models of transport across membranes. Convective diffusion with and without chemical reaction. Diffusion in restricted spaces. Irreversible thermodynamic approaches to transport and reaction in biological systems.

Tissue Engineering I: An introduction to the strategies and fundamental bioengineering design criteria behind the development of cell-based tissue substitutes. Topics include biocompatibility, biological grafts, gene therapy-transfer, and bioreactors.

Tissue Engineering II: An introduction to the strategies and fundamental bioengineering design criteria in the development of biomaterials and tissue engineered grafts. Material structural-functional relationships, biocompatibility in terms of material and host responses. Through discussions, readings, and a group design project, students will acquire an understanding of cell-material interactions and identify the parameters critical in the design and selection of biomaterials for biomedical applications.

Examples of Research in Different Tracks:

Sample Lecture Topics from BMEN E1001 Engineering in Medicine

Health Effects of Powerline Fields
The Engineering of Implantable Neurostimulators
The Clinical Application of Diagnostic Ultrasound
Advances in Imaging Technology
Basic Kinematics for Joint Motion
Engineering and Ergonomics in the Operating Room
Advances in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
Cardiac Replacement Therapy
Advances in Vision Research
Artificial Joints
Cartilage Tissue Engineering       
Biomedical Imag/Cell Eng
Biomedical Imag
Biomedical Imag
Biomedical Imag
Biomedical Imag
Cell Eng

More research can be found at the Departmental website under the Research icon.

500 W. 120th St., 351 Engineering Terrace, New York, NY 10027    212-854-4460                 
©2012 Columbia University