Biological engineering

Biological engineering, or bioengineering/bio-engineering, is the application of principles of biology and the tools of engineering to create usable, tangible, economically viable products.[1] Biological engineering employs knowledge and expertise from a number of pure and applied sciences,[2] such as mass and heat transfer, kinetics, biocatalysts, biomechanics, bioinformatics, separation and purification processes, bioreactor design, surface science, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and polymer science. It is used in the design of medical devices, diagnostic equipment, biocompatible materials, renewable bioenergy, ecological engineering, agricultural engineering, and other areas that improve the living standards of societies. Examples of bioengineering research include bacteria engineered to produce chemicals, new medical imaging technology, portable and rapid disease diagnostic devices, prosthetics, biopharmaceuticals, and tissue-engineered organs[3]. Bioengineering overlaps substantially with biotechnology and the biomedical sciences[4] in a way analogous to how various other forms of engineering and technology relate to various other sciences (for example, aerospace engineering and other space technology to kinetics and astrophysics).

In general, biological engineers (or biomedical engineers) attempt to either mimic biological systems to create products or modify and control biological systems so that they can replace, augment, sustain, or predict chemical and mechanical processes.[5] Bioengineers can apply their expertise to other applications of engineering and biotechnology, including genetic modification of plants and microorganisms, bioprocess engineering, and biocatalysis. Working with doctors, clinicians and researchers, bioengineers use traditional engineering principles and techniques and apply them to real-world biological and medical problems[6].


Biological engineering is a science-based discipline founded upon the biological sciences in the same way that chemical engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering[7] can be based upon chemistry, electricity and magnetism, and classical mechanics, respectively.[8]

Before WWII, biological engineering had just begun being recognized as a branch of engineering, and was a very new concept to people. Post-WWII, it started to grow more rapidly, partially due to the term "bioengineering" being coined by British scientist and broadcaster Heinz Wolff in 1954 at the National Institute for Medical Research. Wolff graduated that same year and became the director of the Division of Biological Engineering at the university. This was the first time Bioengineering was recognized as its own branch at a university. Electrical engineering is considered to pioneer this engineering sector due to its work with medical devices and machinery during this time[9].When engineers and life scientists started working together, they recognized the problem that the engineers didn't know enough about the actual biology behind their work. To resolve this problem, engineers who wanted to get into biological engineering devoted more of their time and studies to the details and processes that go into fields such as biology, psychology, and medicine[10].The term biological engineering may also be applied to environmental modifications such as surface soil protection, slope stabilization, watercourse and shoreline protection, windbreaks, vegetation barriers including noise barriers and visual screens, and the ecological enhancement of an area. Because other engineering disciplines also address living organisms, the term biological engineering can be applied more broadly to include agricultural engineering.

The first biological engineering program was created at University of California, San Diego in 1966, making it the first biological engineering curriculum in the United States.[11] More recent programs have been launched at MIT[12] and Utah State University.[13] Many old agricultural engineering departments in universities over the world have re-branded themselves as agricultural and biological engineering or agricultural and biosystems engineering, due to biological engineering as a whole being a rapidly developing field with fluid categorization. According to Professor Doug Lauffenburger of MIT,[12][14] biological engineering has a broad base which applies engineering principles to an enormous range of size and complexities of systems. These systems range from the molecular level (molecular biology, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, protein chemistry, cytology, immunology, neurobiology and neuroscience) to cellular and tissue-based systems (including devices and sensors), to whole macroscopic organisms (plants, animals), and can even range up to entire ecosystems.


The average length of study is three to five years, and the completed degree is signified as a bachelor of engineering (B.S. in engineering). Fundamental courses include thermodynamics, bio-mechanics, biology, genetic engineering, fluid and mechanical dynamics, kinetics, electronics, and materials properties.[15][16]


Spread of Disease
Modeling of the spread of disease using Cellular Automata and Nearest Neighbor Interactions

Depending on the institution and particular definitional boundaries employed, some major branches of bioengineering may be categorized as (note these may overlap):


  • American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) is made up of 1,500 members. Their main goal is to educate the public about the value biological engineering has in our world, as well as invest in research and other programs to advance the field. They give out awards to those dedicated to innovation in the field, and awards of achievement in the field. (They do not have a direct contribution to biological engineering, they more recognize those who do and encourage the public to continue that forward movement.)[22]
  • Institute of Biological Engineering (IBE) is a non-profit organization, they run on donations alone. They aim to encourage the public to learn and to continue advancements in biological engineering. (Like AIMBE, they don't do research directly, they do however offer scholarships to students who show promise in the field).[23]


  1. ^ Biological engineering. Gale Virtual Reference Library. 2015. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-62968-526-7.
  2. ^ The Basics of Bioengineering Education. 26Th Southern Biomedical Engineering Conference, College Park, Maryland. 2010. p. 65. ISBN 9783642149979.
  3. ^ "What is Bioengineering?". Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  4. ^ "Biotechnology vs Biomedical Science vs Biomedical Engineering (Bioengineering)". Tanmoy Ray. 2018-07-19. Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  5. ^ Pasotti, Lorenzo; Zucca, Susanna (2014-08-03). "Advances and Computational Tools towards Predictable Design in Biological Engineering". Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine. 2014: 1–16. doi:10.1155/2014/369681. PMC 4137594. PMID 25161694.
  6. ^ Sheffield, University of. "What is bioengineering? - Bioengineering - The University of Sheffield". Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  7. ^ a b Biological Engineering. Gale Virtual Reference Library. 2015. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-62968-526-7.
  8. ^ Cuello JC, Engineering to biology and biology to engineering, The bi-directional connection between engineering and biology in biological engineering design, Int J Engng Ed 2005, 21, 1-7
  9. ^ Medical & biological engineering. Oxford ; New York: Pergamon Press. 1966–1976.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
  10. ^ Naik, edited by Ganesh R. (2012). Applied biological engineering : principles and practice. Rijeka: InTech. ISBN 9789535104124.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  11. ^ "Founder of UCSD Bioengineering Program". 1 Mar 2004. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  12. ^ a b "MIT, Department of Biological Engineering". Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  13. ^ "Utah State University, Department of Biological Engineering". Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  14. ^ "MIT Directory, Doug Lauffenburger". Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  15. ^ Linsenmeier RA, Defining the Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Curriculum
  16. ^ Johnson AT, Phillips WM. "Philosophical foundations of biological engineering". Journal of Engineering Education. 1995 (84): 311–318.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g "Bioengineering". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  18. ^ "Convention on Biological Diversity". Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Biomimetics: its practice and theory". Royal Society Publishing.
  20. ^ "Bioprinting". Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  21. ^ ABET Accreditation, accessed 9/8/2010.
  22. ^ "AIMBE About Page".
  23. ^ "Institute of Biological Engineering". Retrieved 20 April 2018.

External links

Agricultural engineering

Agricultural engineering is the engineering discipline that studies agricultural production and processing. Agricultural engineering combines the disciplines of mechanical, civil, electrical and chemical engineering principles with a knowledge of agricultural principles according to technological principles. A key goal of this discipline is to improve the efficacy and sustainability of agricultural practices. One of the leading organizations in this industry is the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) is a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, representing 50,000 individuals and the top 2% of medical and biomedical engineers.In addition, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering represents academic institutions, private industry, and professional engineering societies. It was founded in 1991 and its current vision is to provide leadership and advocacy in medical and biological engineering for the benefit of society.

Bioartificial liver device

A bioartificial liver device (BAL) is an artificial extracorporeal supportive device for an individual who is suffering from acute liver failure.

Biochemical engineering

Biochemical engineering also bioprocess engineering, is a branch of chemical engineering or biological engineering that mainly deals with the design and construction of unit processes that involve biological organisms or organic molecules, such as bioreactors. It has various applications in many areas of interest such as biofuels, food, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and water treatment processes.

Biological systems engineering

Biological systems engineering or biosystems engineering is a broad-based engineering discipline with particular emphasis on biology and chemistry. It can be thought of as a subset of the broader notion of biological engineering or bio-technology though not in the respects that pertain to biomedical engineering as biosystems engineering tends to focus less on medical applications than on agriculture, ecosystems, and food science. It involves aspects of genetic engineering, particularly regarding the agricultural applications. The discipline focuses broadly on environmentally sound and sustainable engineering solutions to meet societies' ecologically-related needs. Biosystems engineering integrates the expertise of fundamental engineering fields with expertise from non-engineering disciplines.

Biomedical technology

Biomedical technology broadly refers to the application of engineering and technology principles to the domain of living or biological systems. Usually inclusion of the term biomedical denotes a principal emphasis on problems related to human health and diseases, whereas terms like "biotechnology" can be medical, environmental, or agricultural in application. But most terms in this general realm still lack clear boundaries. Biomedical engineering and Biotechnology alike are often loosely called Biomedical Technology or Bioengineering. The Biomedical technology field is currently growing at a rapid pace. Required jobs for the industry expect to grow 23% by 2024, and with the pay averaging over $86,000.

Bioprocess engineering

Bioprocess engineering, also biochemical engineering, is a specialization of chemical engineering or Biological engineering, It deals with the design and development of equipment and processes for the manufacturing of products such as agriculture, food, feed, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, chemicals, and polymers and paper from biological materials & treatment of waste water.

Bioprocess engineering is a conglomerate of mathematics, biology and industrial design,and consists of various spectrums like designing of bioreactors, study of fermentors (mode of operations etc.). It also deals with studying various biotechnological processes used in industries for large scale production of biological product for optimization of yield in the end product and the quality of end product. Bioprocess engineering may include the work of mechanical, electrical, and industrial engineers to apply principles of their disciplines to processes based on using living cells or sub component of such cells.

Brill Publishers

Brill (Euronext: BRILL) (known as E. J. Brill, Koninklijke Brill, Brill Academic Publishers) is a Dutch international academic publisher founded in 1683 in Leiden, Netherlands. With offices in Leiden, Boston, Paderborn and Singapore, Brill today publishes 275 journals and around 1200 new books and reference works each year. In addition, Brill is a provider of primary source materials online and on microform for researchers in the humanities and social sciences.

Edwin N. Lightfoot

Edwin Niblock Lightfoot Jr. (September 25, 1925 – October 2, 2017) was an American chemical engineer and Hilldale Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is known for his research in transport phenomena, including biological mass-transfer processes, mass-transport reaction modeling, and separations processes. He, along with R. Byron Bird and Warren E. Stewart, co-authored the classic textbook Transport Phenomena. In 1974 Lightfoot wrote Transport Phenomena and Living Systems: Biomedical Aspects of Momentum and Mass Transport. Lightfoot was the recipient of the 2004 National Medal of Science in Engineering Sciences.

Eli Ruckenstein

Dr Eli Ruckenstein (born August 13, 1925)is a Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. His main research areas are catalysis, surface phenomena, colloids and emulsions, and bio-compatible surfaces and materials.

Francis J. Doyle III

Francis "Frank" J. Doyle III is the dean of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and John A. & Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering & Applied Sciences. He is an affiliated faculty member in the Division of Sleep Medicine in the Harvard Medical School, and is a faculty member in the Systems Biology PhD Program.

Gene targeting

Gene targeting (also, replacement strategy based on homologous recombination) is a genetic technique that uses homologous recombination to modify an endogenous gene. The method can be used to delete a gene, remove exons, add a gene and modify individual base pairs (introduce point mutations). Gene targeting can be permanent or conditional. Conditions can be a specific time during development / life of the organism or limitation to a specific tissue, for example. Gene targeting requires the creation of a specific vector for each gene of interest. However, it can be used for any gene, regardless of transcriptional activity or gene size.

International Union for Physical and Engineering Sciences in Medicine

The International Union for Physical and Engineering Sciences in Medicine (IUPESM) is the umbrella organization for the International Organization for Medical Physics (IOMP) and International Federation of Medical and Biological Engineering (IFMBE), and other affiliate organizations that represent the fields of physical and engineering sciences in medicine.It was established in 1980, following a discussion during the Combined Meeting of the 12th International Conference on Medical and Biological Engineering and 5th International Conference on Medical Physics held in Jerusalem in 1979.The IUPESM objectives are to contribute to physical and engineering science in medicine, to organise international cooperation, to coordinate activities by holding conferences, and to represent the professional interests and views of engineers and physical scientists in the healthcare community.

Kristi Anseth

Kristi S. Anseth is the Tisone Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, an Associate Professor of Surgery, and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her main research interests are the design of synthetic biomaterials using hydrogels, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.


In 1995, professor Massimo Grattarola of the Biophysics and Electrical Engineering Department (DIBE) at the University of Genoa, in Genoa, Italy, created an undergraduate and graduate program named neurobioengineering (also referred to as neuroengineering). The program was designed to amalgamate anthropomorphic robotics, artificial intelligence, bioelectronics, electrical engineering, molecular biology, physics, and medicine, into a single program with the aim of developing advanced bio-compatible neuro-prosthetic implants (man-machine interfacing) for a variety applications (e.g. nervous system interaction with artificial limbs, central and peripheral nervous system implants, directional neural grafting (neural engineering), electron harvesting from biological processes to power implanted devices, neural arrays cultured on CMOS sensors, etc.).Neurobioengineering deals with the study and application of bio-compatible neuro-prosthetic implants, neural sensors and interfaces with the nervous system.

The goal of that branch is to develop a bio-artificial brain of cultured neurons capable of replicating human behaviour in an artificial robotic system. The European Union F.E.T. funded the neurobioengineering department to pursue this ambitious project.

Robert S. Langer

Robert Samuel Langer, Jr. FREng (born August 29, 1948 in Albany, New York) is an American chemical engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, inventor and one of the 10 Institute Professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.He was formerly the Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering and maintains activity in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT. He is also a faculty member of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

He is a widely recognized and cited researcher in biotechnology, especially in the fields of drug delivery systems and tissue engineering. His publications have been cited over 273,000 times and his h-index is 261. According to Google Scholar, Langer is one of 7 most cited individuals in history. He is the most cited engineer in history. Langer's research laboratory at MIT is the largest biomedical engineering lab in the world; maintaining over $10 million in annual grants and over 100 researchers.In 2015, Langer was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

Shu Chien

Shu Chien (traditional Chinese: 錢煦; simplified Chinese: 钱煦; pinyin: Qián Xù; born June 23, 1931 in Beijing, China), is a Chinese–American physiologist and engineer. His work on the fluid dynamics of blood flow has had a major impact on the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis. More recently, Chien's research has focused on the mechanical forces, such as pressure and flow, that regulate the behaviors of the cells in blood vessels. Chien is currently President of the Biomedical Engineering Society and is one of only 11 scholars who are members of all three U.S. national institutes: the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

The Non-GMO Project

The Non-GMO Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focusing on genetically modified organisms. The organization began as an initiative of independent natural foods retailers in the U.S. and Canada, with the stated aim to label products produced in compliance with their Non-GMO Project Standard, which aims to prevent genetically modified foodstuffs from being present in retail food products. The organization is headquartered in Bellingham, Washington. The Non-GMO label began use in 2012 with Numi Organic Tea products.

Tiger team

A Tiger team is a term used for a team of specialists formed to work on specific goals.

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