Engineering Biology

Program Offerings

Offering type

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 an interdisciplinary understanding of engineering fundamentals as applied to living systems. For all students, the program offers a basic foundation in the language of living systems as well as an in-depth study of bioengineering fundamentals at multiple length scales.

Goals for Student Learning

The Program in Engineering Biology is purposefully designed to integrate the fundamentals of traditional engineering disciplines and modern biology to understand and manipulate living systems at multiple length scales, from the molecular to the cellular, tissue, organismal and ecosystem levels. Living systems have several attributes that distinguish them from nonliving physical systems. Our program trains students to analyze and solve the unique problems encountered by living systems using both an engineering and a biological perspective. The undergraduate certificate Program in Engineering Biology provides a strong foundation in the engineering of living systems.

Admission to the Program

Generally, any student majoring in the School of Engineering and Applied Science or majoring in chemistry, ecology and evolutionary biology, molecular biology, physics or neuroscience is qualified 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. First-year students are encouraged to apply as early as possible to begin planning appropriate course sequences.

Program of Study

An engineering biology student will normally satisfy both program and departmental requirements. The program will be developed by the student and their 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 bioengineering 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 major, 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.


  • Director

    • 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 & Comp Engineering
    • 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.


CBE 214 - Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology (also EEB 214/MOL 214) Fall/Spring SEL

CBE 228 - Energy Technologies in the 21st Century (also EGR 228/ENE 228/MAE 228) Spring SEN

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. 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. 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. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisites: CBE 245 and CBE 246. CBE 341 may be taken concurrently. A. Link

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. B. Koel

CBE 305 - Mathematics in Engineering I (also EGR 305/MAE 305/MAT 391) Fall/Spring QCR

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. 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. 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, CBE 250, and CBE 341 or equivalents. J. Nunes, M. Brynildsen, E. Davidson

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. J. Avalos

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. J. Avalos

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 or CHM 337, which may be taken concurrently, and MAT 104, or permission of the instructor. 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. A. Link

CBE 421 - Green and Catalytic Chemistry (also CHM 421/ENE 421) Not offered this year

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. M. Sarazen

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. S. Shvartsman

CBE 434 - Biotechnology (also GHP 433/MOL 433) Fall SEN

CBE 438 - Biomolecular Engineering (also MOL 438) Spring

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. J. Conway

CBE 440 - The Physical Basis of Human Disease (also GHP 450/MOL 440) Not offered this year

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. 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, CBE 250, and CBE 341. M. Sarazen

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. C. Maravelias

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. 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 equivalent. 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. Departmental permission only. J. Avalos

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. Departmental permission only. J. Avalos

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. J. Avalos