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Biological Engineering as an Alternative to Chemical Engineering

Are you interested in bio-processing, biological systems, want to be an engineer, and are looking for an alternative program to Chemical Engineering? The Biological Engineering major may be just the right choice for you! A student in Biological Engineering can specialize in the following areas:

Food Engineering

Unit operations, and heat and mass transfer are emphasized for the design of food processing and manufacturing systems, to bring food from the farm to the table with minimal nutritional losses. This also includes instrumentation to monitor quality and safety of the food products. Be offers Food and Biological Process Engineering as an option in the program.

Microbiological Engineering and Bio-energy

Production of value-added products by using microbial fermentation for food, feed, and pharmaceutical industries, and thermal and non-thermal processes for inactivation/control of pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms in food and other biological materials for food safety. Includes development of bio-based energy such as ethanol production.

Natural Resource Engineering

Soil and water characterization and evaluation, design of protection systems to reduce soil and chemical run-off, bioremediation, and other biological waste treatments such as composting, biogas production, and wetland construction.

Structural Design

Design of structural systems for plants, animals, biotechnological, and food production operations. Structural analysis and design of buildings and facilities, primarily utilization of engineered wood products.

Power Transfer and Machinery

Design of fluid power systems for power transmission and motion control, as well as power generation for off-road mobile equipment, food processing facilities, and feed handling.

The Biological Engineering program is attractively small (50 graduating students per year), which means there are great opportunities! Some highlights are:

  • Small classes
  • Excellent career opportunities
  • Great scholarship availability
  • Departmental computer lab available exclusively to B E students 24 hours a day
  • Internships, co-op, and/or departmental wage positions are readily available

Program Comparison

The two majors require courses that are common and can be used for either program. Certain first and second year courses that are unique to Chemical Engineering can still be used if a student switches to Biological Engineering, which has a great deal of flexibility in using credits from other engineering programs. This is illustrated in the two tables below:

First and second year courses that are common to both programs
ENGL 15 – Composition & Rhetoric ECON 102, 104 – Economic Principles
CHEM 110 – Chemical Principles I First Year Seminar
CHEM 111 – Experimental Chemistry I PHYS 211 – Mechanics
MATH 140 – Calculus I PHYS 212 – Electricity and Magnetism
MATH 141 – Calculus II MATH 251 - Differential Equations
EDSGN 100 – Intro. to Engineering Design CAS 100A/B – Effective Speech
General education requirements are the same, including GA, GS, GH, GHA
Application of Chemical Engineering Major courses to the Biological Engineering Major
Course taken for CH E::Counts in B E as:
MATH 230 – Vector Analysis MATH 231 – Calculus of Several Variables
CHEM 112 – Chemical Principles II Technical Elective (up to 6 credits)
CHEM 113 – Experimental Chemistry II Technical Elective (up to 6 credits)
CHEM 210 – Organic Chemistry I CHEM 202 or Technical Elective
CH E 210 – Material Balances Engineering Science/Design Elective
CH E 220 – Thermodynamics M E 300 – Thermodynamics

For more information about the Biological Engineering major, please contact:

Dr. Megan Marshall, Instructor
Biological Engineering Program Coordinator
University Park, PA 16802
814-865-3392
mnm11@psu.edu