Graduate Study
Biomedical Engineering (PhD)

The Department of Biomedical Engineering offers only fall admissions for PhD candidates. To learn more about the admissions process for the PhD program please see the list of frequently asked questions below.

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Applications and Admissions

How do I apply for admission to the BME PhD program?

Applications for admission are submitted online through the Graduate School website.

When is the application deadline for fall admission?

The deadline for the submission of PhD applications is December 10th, 11:59PM Central Time.

Applications will not be reviewed until all required supplementary information is received and the application fee is paid to the graduate school.

Can I apply to the PhD program for winter or spring admission?

We do not admit PhD students for admission during the winter or spring quarter.

Before I apply, can I have somebody in the BME department review my qualifications and tell me if I have a chance of being admitted?

Due to the high volume of emails we receive during this time, we cannotBecause of the difficulty of accurately assessing qualifications of students in the absence of official transcripts, letters of recommendation and other information, we cannot honor these requests. Emails sent to the BME department requesting a pre-application analysis of admission chances will not be acknowledged.

Can I send supporting materials before my online application is complete?

All documents, including transcripts and letters of recommendation must be scanned and submitted online via CollegeNet only.

What factors are taken into consideration, and when are admission decisions made?

Past academic performance, work experience, research experience, letters of recommendation, your academic statement, and personal statement are all taken into consideration, and each case is unique. Admission decisions are made after review of applications by a committee of BME faculty, after which final approval of admission recommendations is granted by the Graduate School. Generally, most admission decisions are made by mid-March for fall admission.

I originally applied to the BME PhD program, but I have changed my mind and would like to be considered for the MS program. Can I automatically be considered for the MS program without reapplying?

In the online CollegeNet application, applicants can only apply to one program per year. Applicants CAN select if they would like to be considered for the MS program if they are denied to the PhD program. You cannot submit a separate application to the MS program after being denied from the PhD program.

Admissions Prerequisites and Testing

I do not have a degree in biomedical engineering. Am I eligible to apply for admission to the BME PhD program?

Students with undergraduate or MS degrees in other engineering fields or the quantitative sciences may apply for admission and are often admitted. At a minimum, students must have a background in advanced mathematics (through ordinary differential equations) and a basic understanding of biological sciences, physics and engineering related to their intended area of research.

Is there a minimum GPA for eligibility to apply?

The Graduate School minimum GPA for applicants is 3.0. The BME department follows this requirement. 

How many letters of recommendation are required?

We require at least two letters of recommendation, but three are preferred. The letters of recommendation should be provided via the online CollegeNet system. They can be turned in after the application deadline, but the application will not be considered without at least two letters.

Is there a form to be used for recommendation letters?

No. Persons providing letters of recommendation should comment on your past academic/research performance and future potential to perform independent research.

Do I need to take the GRE exam?

GRE scores will not be accepted.

Do I need to take the TOEFL?

Students whose first language is not English must take and submit the results of either the TOEFL, IELTS, or Michigan English Test exam. Official scores must be less than five years old. International students who completed a BS or MS degree from an institution where English is the medium of instruction do not need to submit a TOEFL score. TOEFL scores for PhD applicants must be 90 or higher. On the IELTS, the score must be 7.0 or higher. On the Michigan English Test, the score must be 61 or higher.

As a current MS student, how do I apply to the PhD program in BME at northwestern?

Please note that transitions from the MS program to the PhD program are very rare. The application for transfer is only open to students in the MS with thesis option, and only students who have already entered the second year of study will be considered. When applying, you must select the "TGS Transfer Student" application type. Interested students must have a MS GPA greater than 3.0 to be considered. Please submit the following additional materials with your application by the deadline:

  • 2 new recommendation letters: these should not be the same letters that you submitted with your MS application; one letter should be from the faculty member who will serve as your advisor
  • Letter of support: include a letter of support from your advisor with commitment of funding for your PhD career because MS transfer students are not eligible for school fellowships

Please conduct your MS thesis committee update by February 15th of the second year to evaluate research process.

As a current BS/MS student, how do I apply to the PhD program in BME at northwestern?

BS/MS students are considered coming out of their undergraduate careers, but you still must select the “TGS Transfer Student” application type. Your application will be reviewed and treated like any other outside applicant. Completing your undergraduate studies at Northwestern does not guarantee admission. 

Financial Aid and Funding

What kind of financial aid is available and how do I apply for it?

All admitted PhD students are supported by University/school fellowships, external fellowships, research assistantships, or teaching assistantships. External applications filed by the deadline are automatically considered for school and university-based fellowships. Exceptional students are encouraged to apply for external fellowships during the application process. The National Science Foundation , the National Institutes of Healththe Department of Defense, as well as several nonprofit organizations offer fellowships appropriate for graduate study in biomedical engineering. Many of these programs have application deadlines in the fall and winter for enrollment in a graduate program the following fall. More information on external fellowships for graduate study can be found on the Graduate School website.