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Trying to go into engineering with non-engineering degree... Would taking engineering classes from local community college help?


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I have B.S. in molecular and cell biology (graduated in 2013) but I'm now considering going into BME. (phD if possible, otherwise Master's first)

I don't have experiences with any engineering (no research experiences related to engineering or have taken any engineering classes)
I've heard that its possible to go into engineering field without B.S. in engineering but I'm just worried that it is difficult with no experiences. Another thing is that I am not really interested in researches relating to molecular biology (such as tissue engineering, etc.) but more into ones like developing biosensors or prosthetic devices. I think I probably need to take a couple more math courses as well as computer science and basic engineering classes to make it up.

Since I have time until the application season, I'm thinking of taking an engineering class and a computer science class at a local community college. Do you think it's a good idea? Should I report that I have taken these classes to graduate schools I apply to in the future? Will it help with my chances of admission? or would it be better to just find a position (possibly unpaid) in an bioengineering lab and gain some experiences? (I'm thinking it's probably difficult to get a position though, considering there are so many engineering majors.)



Edited by citrus00
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I'll give a couple of tips since I did my undergrad in chemical engineering (with a BME minor). Taking some pre-requisite courses at a community college is not a bad idea to get you up to speed with the area of interest. Just an aside but tissue engineering is one of the faster growing fields of research in biomedical engineering, not really molecular bio (although it has aspects of it). I would make sure that you take some physics and mechanics courses (biomechanics if you can) since you seem interested in prosthetic devices. I would also suggest that you take some basic electrical system classes coupled with the computer science if you are thinking about biosensors. When applying to grad schools you will have to provide a transcript of all post-secondary courses taken, so these community college classes would count. They would also show that you are serious about transitioning to this area of study.


Also if you have time working as a lab tech (paid of course) in a bio related lab would be very beneficial since it would give you transferable skills when you try to pursue advanced studies in BME. Another option would be to get an internship or work in a medical device company to give you a better idea of what the field entails. Now since you are coming from a CMB background, you are at a disadvantage since you'd be competing against mostly other BME students; however, if you score well on your GRE (honestly you have to be scoring around the 90th percentile to be competitive), illustrate your understanding of the area of BME research in your statement of purpose, and get some strong letters of recommendation (preferably from previous professors who can attest to your research and scholastic ability) - then you should be able to gain admission into a BME graduate program. Just remember to research the various schools and see which profs are doing research in areas you want to pursue (rule of thumb is 3-5 profs per school) - big name schools are nice but don't only concern yourself with rank. 


Hopefully this helps and good luck with your endeavors. 

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  • 3 months later...

Hello Citrus00,


There have been many posts on this issue, if it helps please check out my post regarding my approach:


It's worked out well for me, having started out with a BA in English and French, now finishing with MS in Mechanical Engineering. Take as much as you can at your local community college. It's cheaper and you generally have good access to the instructors for when you (inevitably) have questions. I just powered through all the math and sciences, sat in front of class, and asked all the questions I needed to.


Keep your head in the game, you can do it!

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I started reading your post, citrus00, and wondered for a second if I was reading something I myself had written.


I graduated with a BS in Molecular & Cell Bio in 2010. Worked for a while in a biology lab, decided I wanted to do something different, settled on mechanical engineering. Took Multivariable Calculus and Differential Equations, then applied for MS programs. My situation is uncommon in that I was admitted to a number of well-ranked programs without ever taking an engineering course. To anyone in a similar boat, I would highly recommend taking as many undergraduate-level engineering prerequisites as possible. Not only will this make you a more realistic candidate for admission to any graduate program, it will require a lot less catching up to peers on your part when you start a program. My first two semesters were incredibly challenging, since I was struggling to learn for the first time things my fellow grad students had already been exposed to in heaps and droves. How is your math background? At the least, you'll want exposure to Multivariable Calc, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra. Some or all of basic engineering mechanics (statics/dynamics), fluids, thermodynamics, and mechanics of materials will also be invaluable. If you're interested in sensors, then you'll greatly benefit from basic courses in electrical engineering, electronics, and anything that involves programming.


It's unlikely (though, I suppose, not impossible) you would be admitted to a PhD program with a BS in biology--I would focus on Master's programs if I were you. The transition from biology to BME is, for the most part, smoother than bio-->ME, so that should give you a leg up. And it's certainly smoother than adamechanical's English/French-->ME! That's a hell of a switch, and I imagine adamechanical was at a great disadvantage compared to those with STEM Bachelor's degrees.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just (as in yesterday) graduated with my B.S. in Biochemistry and am going straight on to get my Ph.D. in BME from Johns Hopkins. If possible, I suggest working in a lab that is similar to your area of interest, getting an internship in BME (like others have mentioned), and taking a couple of classes (focus on math as opposed to engineering). I also recommend applying to both M.S. and Ph.D. programs. There are some schools that will flat out reject anyone who doesn't have an engineering degree for their Ph.D. program (UCSD, I'm talking about you), but other schools like Hopkins that will reject engineers that don't have any biology background. Play the field and contact some admissions representatives from various schools to try and determine whether you would be a good fit for their program before applying. 

Good luck! It's definitely possible!

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