What is the difference between Biomedical Engineering and Biological Engineering?

Biomedical Engineering & Biological Engineering
-- What is the difference?

Penn State offers two programs in the College of Engineering that have similar sounding names. Both combine engineering and biological sciences, yet have a quite different focus. This information is being provided so a student can decide if Biological Engineering is a good choice as an alternative to the Biomedical Engineering program.

Biomedical Engineering:
The application of engineering skills and analysis to innovation in the health care industry and to quantitative understanding of biological systems. Biomedical engineers develop new medical devices, design diagnostic and therapeutic tools, and model physiological systems.

Biological Engineering:
The application of engineering skills and analysis to developing products utilizing biological processes, including pharmaceutical products, food supplements, preservatives, and biomass-based energy. Biological Engineering also includes machinery development, protecting the environment from erosion and pollution, and structural design.
Students in the Biological Engineering major choose from one of three options:

  • Food and Biological Process Engineering option
    • Microbiological engineering, Food processing, Bioproduct development
  • Agricultural Engineering option
    • Power and machinery, Structural design and analysis
  • Natural Resource Engineering option
    • Stormwater management, Stream restoration, Bioremediation

Program Comparison
The curriculum of both programs require courses that are common and can be used for either program. Certain first year and sophomore year courses that are unique to Biomedical Engineering can still be used if a student switches to the Biological Engineering major, 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

CAS 100A/B - Effective Speech

EDSGN 100 - Intro. to Engineering Design

General education requirements are the same, including GA, GS, GH, GHW

How the Food and Biological Process Engineering Option of BE can use courses that are unique to the Biomedical Engineering program

Course taken for BME:

Counts in BE as:

MATH 230 - Vector Analysis

MATH 231 - Calculus of Several Variables

CHEM 112 - Chemical Principles II

Emphasis Elective

BIOL 141 - Introductory Physiology

Emphasis Elective

EMCH 210 - Statics, Strength of Materials

EMCH 211/213 - Statics, Strength of Materials

CMPSC 200 - Programming for Engineers

Technical Elective

BME 201 - Fundamentals of Cells and Molecules

BMB 211 or Technical Elective

A student pursuing the Food and Biological Process Engineering Option of the BE major can get the Biomedical Engineering or Environmental Engineering minor without taking extra credits, if the student plans carefully with help from a BE advisor