Program in Engineering Biology



  • Celeste M. Nelson

Executive Committee

  • Mark P. Brynildsen, Chemical and Biological Eng
  • Daniel J. Cohen, Mechanical & Aerospace Eng
  • A. James Link, Chemical and Biological Eng
  • Celeste M. Nelson, Chemical and Biological Eng
  • Z. Jason Ren, Civil and Environmental Eng
  • Kaushik Sengupta, Electrical Engineering
  • H. Sebastian Seung, Computer Science
  • Mona Singh, Computer Science
  • Corina E. Tarnita, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • Jared E. Toettcher, Molecular Biology
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Program Information

The Program in Engineering Biology is designed for those highly motivated students who are interested in pursuing careers or graduate education in the areas of biotechnology or bioengineering. The interface between engineering and the life sciences is an area of dramatic growth and intellectual vigor. Innovations and new developments in this area require multidisciplinary approaches and greater exposure to engineering fundamentals as applied to living systems than is currently available from a single department. For all students, the program offers a basic foundation in the language of living systems as well as in-depth study of bioengineering fundamentals at multiple length scales.

Admission to the Program

Generally, any student concentrating in the School of Engineering and Applied Science or concentrating in Chemistry, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Biology, Physics or Neuroscience is eligible to participate in the program. All other majors are also welcome to apply. A student planning to enroll in the program should submit an application, which is available in A201 EQuad or on the program's website. First-year students are encouraged to do this as early as possible to begin planning appropriate course sequences. Students are formally admitted to the program once they have declared a major.

Program of Study

An engineering biology student will normally satisfy both program and departmental requirements. The program will be developed by the student and his or her departmental adviser in consultation with the special adviser in engineering biology. In some cases courses taken under the program requirements may be applied toward the fulfillment of regular departmental requirements. The program requirements are as follows:

  1. One foundational course in molecular and cellular biology (MOL 214 or equivalent course) and one foundational course in computing (COS 126 or equivalent course).
  2. Three bio-engineering courses, selected from the approved list available on the program website. These courses should provide a coherent training in an area of bioengineering, such as biotechnology, molecular or cellular engineering, neuro-engineering, or systems biology. One of these courses must be from outside the student’s department of concentration, and at least one of these courses must not count as a departmental.
  3. One advanced life science course, selected from the approved list available on the program website. This course should provide additional insight into complex living systems and complement the bioengineering courses chosen by the student.
  4. Close collaboration with faculty is expected. Students are required to complete, with the grade of B- or better, at least one semester of independent work in an appropriate area of engineering biology. This independent work is coordinated with the student's department in order to satisfy departmental requirements for the senior thesis or senior independent research.

Program students are expected to demonstrate strong academic performance. To qualify for the engineering biology certificate upon graduation, a minimum grade average of B- in the program courses is required. Program courses may not be taken on a pass/D/fail basis.

Additional information can be obtained at the Program in Engineering Biology website.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the requirements of the program receive a certificate of proficiency in engineering biology upon graduation.



CBE 199 Foundations in Chemical and Biological Engineering Spring

This course provides students with a broad overview of concepts, cutting-edge research, and career opportunities within the discipline of chemical and biological engineering. The course is divided into three modules based on the pillars of chemical and biological engineering: thermodynamics, transport phenomena, and reaction engineering. Each module includes lectures and flipped classroom exercises on foundational concepts. Guest speakers from Princeton present research and visitors from local industries will describe their career paths. Optional: plant tours to local pharmaceutical and energy companies. Instructed by: A. Link

CBE 214 Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology (See MOL 214)

CBE 215 Quantitative Principles in Cell and Molecular Biology (See MOL 215)

CBE 228 Energy Technologies in the 21st Century (See MAE 228)

CBE 245 Introduction to Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Principles Fall SEN

Application of the principles of conservation of mass and energy to the design and analysis of chemical processes. Elementary treatment of single and multiphase systems. First law of thermodynamics for closed and open systems. Steady state and transient analysis of reacting and nonreacting systems. Three lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisite: CHM 201. Instructed by: J. Avalos

CBE 246 Thermodynamics Spring SEN

Basic concepts governing the equilibrium behavior of macroscopic fluid and solid systems of interest in modern chemical engineering. Applications of the first law (energy conservation) and second law (temperature, entropy, reversibility) to open and closed systems. Thermodynamic properties of pure substances and mixtures. Phase equilibrium and introduction to reaction equilibrium. Introduction to the molecular basis of thermodynamics. Applications include thermodynamics of protein stability, the Earth's energy balance, energy conversion schemes, and the binding of ligands to proteins. Prerequisites: CBE 245 and MAT 201. Instructed by: M. Webb

CBE 250 Separations in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Fall SEN

Fundamental thermodynamic principles and transport processes that govern separations in biotechnology and chemical processing. Staged operations, such as distillation and chromatography, are developed based on coupling phase equilibrium with mass balances. Transport processes driven by electric fields, centrifugal fields, or hydrodynamics provide the basis for understanding ultracentrifugation, membrane process, and electrophoresis. Three lectures. Prerequisites: CBE 245 and CBE 246. MAE 305 and CHM 301 may be taken concurrently. Instructed by: R. Prud'homme

CBE 260 Ethics and Technology: Engineering in the Real World (also
EGR 260
) Spring EM

An examination of engineering as a profession and the professional responsibilities of engineers. The ethics of engineering will be considered through case studies (e.g., automobile safety, pollution control), and the social responsibilities of engineering will be distinguished from those of science and business. Quantitative decision-making concepts, including risk-benefit analysis, are introduced and weighed against ethical considerations to compare technology options. Ethical conflicts between utilitarian theories and duty theories will be debated. Two lectures and one preceptorial. Instructed by: B. Koel

CBE 305 Mathematics in Engineering I (See MAE 305)

CBE 308 Engineering Mathematics (See EGR 308)

CBE 318 Fundamentals of Biofuels (See ENE 318)

CBE 335 The Energy Water Nexus (also
MAE 338
ENV 335
ENE 335
) Fall

Students will gain an awareness of challenges to sustainable water and energy and inter-linkages between these. Energy-water design trade-offs will be investigated for various energy and water processing facilities, e.g., electric power or desalination plants. Students will participate in a design and simulation project to analyze water and energy balances for selected processes. Lectures will include review of relevant unit operations, tools/methods for lifecycle environmental and economic analysis, and discussion of contemporary issues where the energy-water nexus plays a critical role. Instructed by: S. Sundaresan, E. Larson

CBE 341 Mass, Momentum, and Energy Transport Fall SEN

Survey of modeling and solution methods for the transport of fluids, heat, and chemical species in response to differences in pressure, temperature, and concentration. Steady state and transient behavior will be examined. Topics include fluid statics; conservation equations for mass, momentum and energy; dimensional analysis; viscous flow at high and low Reynolds number; thermal conduction; convective heat and mass transfer, correlations; diffusion and interphase mass transfer. Working knowledge of calculus, linear algebra and ordinary differential equations is assumed. Prerequisites: CBE 245, CBE 246 & MAE 305. Can take MAE 305 concurrently. Instructed by: C. Nelson

CBE 342 Fluid Mechanics Not offered this year

Elements of fluid mechanics relevant to simple and complex fluids. Topics include macroscopic balances; derivation of differential balance equations and applications to unidirectional flows; treatment of nearly unidirectional flows through the lubrication approximation; introduction to turbulent flow; flow through porous media; capillary flows; dispersed two-phase flows; and hydrodynamic stability. Three lectures. Prerequisite: CBE 341. Instructed by: S. Sundaresan

CBE 346 Chemical and Biological Engineering Laboratory Spring SEL

An intensive hands-on practice of engineering. Experimental work in the areas of separations, heat transfer, fluid mechanics, process dynamics and control, materials processing and characterization, chemical reactors. Development of written and oral technical communication skills. One lecture, two three-hour laboratories. Prerequisites: CBE 246 and CBE 341 or equivalents. Instructed by: J. Nunes, M. Brynildsen, S. Datta

CBE 351 Junior Independent Work Fall

Subjects chosen by the student with the approval of the faculty for independent study. A written report, examination, or other evidence of accomplishment will be required. Instructed by: M. Brynildsen

CBE 352 Junior Independent Work Spring

Subjects chosen by the student with the approval of the faculty for independent study. A written report, examination, or other evidence of accomplishment will be required. Instructed by: M. Brynildsen

CBE 411 Antibiotics: From Cradle to Grave (also
MOL 411
) Fall SEN

From treatment of infections to prophylactic use following surgery, antibiotics have transformed healthcare since their discovery and distribution. However, poor management of this medical resource has seen resistance whittle down their efficacies, and it is now recognized that antibiotics can disrupt the microbiota that keep us healthy. This course will use lectures, lab demonstrations, guest speakers, and primary literature to introduce how science, engineering, medicine, and policy have shaped the current age of antibiotics, which is characterized by a variety of treatment options, MDR bacteria, and a weak pipeline of new agents. Instructed by: M. Brynildsen

CBE 415 Polymers (also
CHM 415
MSE 425
) Fall SEN

Broad introduction to polymer science and technology, including polymer chemistry (major synthetic routes to polymers), polymer physics (solution and melt behavior, solid-state morphology and properties), and polymer engineering (overview of reaction engineering and melt processing methods). Two lectures. Prerequisites: CHM 301, which may be taken concurrently, and MAT 104, or permission of the instructor. Instructed by: R. Register

CBE 419 Enzymes Spring SEN

Enzymes are the engines that fuel life, catalyzing a vast array of different chemical reactions. This course will focus first on enzyme kinetics and the structural biology of enzymes. With these tools we will next move to a series of case studies about different enzymes and enzyme families. Instructed by: A. Link

CBE 421 Green and Catalytic Chemistry (also
CHM 421
ENE 421
) Spring

Concepts of heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis applied to industrial processes associated with fuel refining and manufacturing of commodity chemicals and petrochemicals. Available routes for similar conversions using alternative, more sustainable feedstocks and processes will be discussed in the context of green chemistry and engineering principles. These case studies will serve as platforms to the fundamentals of heterogeneous acid and metal catalysis, including techniques of catalyst synthesis and characterization, as well as understanding of how reactions occur on surfaces. Two lectures. Prerequisite: CHM 301 organic chemistry. Instructed by: M. Sarazen

CBE 422 Molecular Modeling Methods Spring SEN

This course offers an introduction to computational chem¬istry and molecular simulation methods. Computational chemistry involves using quantum mechanical models to obtain the electronic structure of atoms and molecules. Monte Carlo and Molecular Dynamics methods use input from quantum chemistry and empirical potentials to obtain equilibrium and non-equilibrium properties of fluids and materials. As computer power continues its exponential growth, these methods find increasing applications in engineering, chemistry, physics and biology. Instructed by: A. Panagiotopoulos

CBE 425 Polymer Rheology Fall

A systematic development of the principles and applications of the science of rheology with an emphasis on the development of stress-velocity constitutive equations. Vector and tensor mathematics and Newtonian fluid dynamics are reviewed. Develops the physical and mathematical nature of stress and deformations in materials. Covers the use of theory and application of rheological equations of state. Instructed by: F. Morrison

CBE 427 Environmental Biotechnology Spring SEN

This course will study aspects of the top 25 environmental disasters that lend themselves to analysis by application of fundamental principles from mass, momentum and heat transfer. Some examples include: dissolution from a pipe wall associated with lead contamination of the municipal water supply in Flint, MI, transport of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination into the sediments of the Hudson River, biodegradation of oil droplets created by the addition of surfactant following the Deepwater Horizon explosion, oxygen depletion in the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, and spread of methylisocyanate gas from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal. Instructed by: R. Ford

CBE 430 Squishy Engineering: Using Soft Materials to Solve Hard Problems (also
MAE 430
MSE 430
) Spring SEN

The milk we drink in the morning (a colloidal dispersion), the gel we put into our hair (a polymer solution), and the plaque that we try to scrub off our teeth (a biofilm) are all familiar examples of soft materials. Such materials also hold great promise in helping to solve engineering challenges like drug delivery, water remediation, oil recovery, and the development of new coatings, displays, formulations, foods, and biomaterials. This class will cover fundamental aspects of the science of soft materials, presented within the context of these challenges. We will also have industrial speakers describe new applications of soft materials. Instructed by: S. Datta

CBE 432 The Cell as a Chemical Reactor Not offered this year

Presents a framework for the analysis of cellular responses, such as proliferation, migration, and differentiation. Emphasis on mechanistic models of biotransformation, signal transduction, and cell-cell communication in tissues. Focuses first on unit operations of cell physiology transcription, translation, and signal transduction. Models of these processes will rely on tools of reaction engineering and transport. Process dynamics and control will then be used to analyze the regulatory structure of networks of interacting genes and proteins. Prerequisites: MOL 214 and MAE 305 or their equivalents. Instructed by: S. Shvartsman

CBE 433 Introduction to the Mechanics and Dynamics of Soft Living Matter (also
MSE 424
) Spring

This course introduces the concepts of soft condensed matter and their use in understanding the mechanical properties, dynamic behavior, and self-assembly of living biological materials. We will take an engineering approach that emphasizes the application of fundamental physical concepts to a diverse set of problems taken from the literature, including mechanical properties of biopolymers and the cytoskeleton, directed and random molecular motion within cells, aggregation and collective movement of cells, and phase transitions and critical behavior in the self-assembly of lipid membranes and intracellular structures. Instructed by: C. Brangwynne

CBE 434 Biotechnology (See MOL 433)

CBE 438 Biomolecular Engineering (also
MOL 438
) Not offered this year

This course will focus on the design and engineering of biomacromolecules. After a brief review of protein and nucleic acid chemistry and structure, we will delve into rational, evolutionary, and computational methods for the design of these molecules. Specific topics to be covered include aptamers, protein and RNA-based switches and sensors, unnatural amino acids and nucleotides, enzyme engineering, and the integration of these parts via synthetic biology efforts. Two lectures. Instructed by: A. Link

CBE 439 Quantitative Physiology Fall

A treatment of the quantitative tools to understand the human body. Course reviews cell biology and anatomy, then examines cells, tissues, and organs using principles from engineering kinetics and transport processes. Topics include: cell physiology; organ system physiology (including the cardiovascular, renal, and respiratory systems); and pathophysiology. Clinical treatments for human disease will also be analyzed. Instructed by: C. Nelson

CBE 440 The Physical Basis of Human Disease (also
GHP 450
) Spring

This course covers major diseases (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infectious diseases), the physical changes that inflict morbidity and mortality, the design constraints for treatment, and emerging technologies that take into account these physical hurdles. Taking the perspective of the design constraints on the system (that is, the mass transport and biophysical limitations of the human body), the course will survey recent results from the fields of drug delivery, gene therapy, tissue engineering, and nanotechnology. Two lectures. Instructed by: C. Nelson

CBE 441 Chemical Reaction Engineering Spring SEN

Stoichiometry and mechanisms of chemical reaction rates, both homogeneous and catalytic; adsorption, batch, continuous flow, and staged reactors; coupling between chemical reaction rates and mass, momentum, and energy transport; stability; optimization of reactor design. Application to environmental and industrial problems. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisites: CBE 246 and CBE 341. Instructed by: S. Shvartsman

CBE 442 Design, Synthesis, and Optimization of Chemical Processes Fall SEL

Introduction to chemical process flow-sheeting; process design, sizing and cost estimation of total processes; process economics; introduction to optimization, linear programming, integer programming, and nonlinear programming; heat integration methods, minimum utility cost, minimum number of units, network optimization. Two lectures, one laboratory. Prerequisites: CBE 341, CBE 346, and CBE 441. Instructed by: A. Panagiotopoulos, C. Smith

CBE 445 Process Control Not offered this year

A quantitative study of the principles of process dynamics and control. Dynamic behavior of chemical process elements; analysis and synthesis of linear feedback control systems with special emphasis on frequency response techniques and scalar systems. Two lectures. Prerequisite: MAE 305, which may be taken concurrently. Instructed by: S. Sundaresan

CBE 447 Metabolic Engineering (also
GHP 457
) Not offered this year SEN

Introduction to engineering metabolism. The objective of this course is to introduce students to current techniques and challenges within the field of metabolic engineering. Specific topics include introduction to metabolism, transcriptional regulation, signal transduction, flux balance analysis, and metabolic flux analysis. Designed for upper division students in engineering, chemistry, and molecular biology. Two lectures. Prerequisites: MOL 214 or MOL 215, or equivalent. Instructed by: M. Brynildsen

CBE 451 Senior Independent Work Fall

A one semester study of an important problem or topic in chemical and biological engineering. Projects may be experimental, computational, or theoretical. Topics selected by the students from suggestions by the faculty. Written report required. Instructed by: M. Brynildsen

CBE 452 Senior Independent Work Spring

A one semester study of an important problem or topic in chemical and biological engineering. Projects may be experimental, computational, or theoretical. Topics selected by the students from suggestions by the faculty. Written report required. Instructed by: M. Brynildsen

CBE 454 Senior Thesis Spring

A full year study of an important problem or topic in chemical and biological engineering culminating in a senior thesis. Projects may be experimental, computational, or theoretical. Topics selected by the students from suggestions by the faculty. Written thesis, poster presentation, and oral defense required. The senior thesis is recorded as a double course in the spring. Departmental permission required. Instructed by: M. Brynildsen

CBE 454R Senior Thesis-Resubmission Spring

An experimental, computational, and theoretical study of an important problem or topic in chemical engineering. Topics selected by the students from suggestions by the faculty. Written thesis and oral defense required. The senior thesis is equivalent to a yearlong study and is recorded as a double course in the spring. Instructed by: J. Benziger