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BE Advised

The place to go for undergraduate advising in biological engineering

Engineering Distribution and Field Courses

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(For new curriculum starting Fall 2015)

Required Courses

  • Mechanics of Solids (4 credits): ENGRD 2020
  • Engineering Probability and Statistics (3 or 4 credits): CEE 3040 (recommended) or ENGRD 2700


Required Biological Engineering Core Courses

  • ENGRI (3 credits): ENGRI 1XXX
  • Thermodynamics (3 or 4 credits): BEE 2220, ENGRD 2210, CHEME 3130, MSE 3030 or AEP 4230
  • Engineering Distribution (3 credits): BEE/ENGRD 2600 (recommended) or BEE/ENGRD 2510
  • Bio-Fluid Mechanics (4 credits): BEE 3310
  • Heat and Mass Transfer in Biological Engineering (3 credits): BEE 3500
  • Molecular and Cellular Principles in Biological Engineering (3 credits): BEE 3600
  • Design and Analysis of Biomaterials (3 credits): BEE 3400
  • Bioinstrumentation (3-4 credits): BEE 4500


Biological Engineering Focus Area Electives (to complete 46 credits)

To complete the curriculum, electives are chosen depending on individual interests. For industrial careers, higher studies or professional studies, electives can be chosen from any of the biological engineering Focus Areas. Five or more courses are picked from 1 or more of the 7  focus areas to complete the 46 credits in the Engineering Distribution and Field Courses category.

  • You may use up to a maximum of 4 credits of research, project team, teaching or independent study taken in an engineering department in place of 1 focus area course towards the 46 engineering credits in category 8. You must have an engineering role and be conducting engineering research, CEE 2550 does not count.
  • One course in this category must satisfy the engineering laboratory requirement. See Additional Requirements.
  • One course in this category must satisfy the capstone design requirement. See Additional Requirements.
  • One course in this category (or from specific liberal studies courses) must satisfy the College of Engineering technical writing requirement. See Additional Requirements.
  • A full list of the focus area courses may be found here.



  • All courses must be taken for letter grade.
  • BEE 2600 covers Mass and Energy Balances with a biological focus while BEE 2510 cover Mass and Energy Balances with an environmental focus.
  • Engineering distribution requirement is satisfied by ENGRD 2020 and ENGRD/BEE 2600 or ENGRD/BEE 2510.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: The website states that for the statistics requirement CEE 3040 is recommended over ENGRD 2700, and BTRY 3010 and 3080 aren’t even listed. What’s the reasoning behind that?

A1: ENGRD 2700 only covers classical (Fisherian, parametric) statistics that can give misleading results when used to analyze data that aren’t mathematically continuous (or example human demographic categories such as gender, land use categories such as urban/suburban/rural/wild, antibiotic resistance categories such as low/medium/high ) or data which don’t follow a normal distribution (lifespans, for example).  CEE 3040 covers parametric statistics too but adds “robust” and nonparametric statistical methods that give you a toolbox for these other cases, very common in the biological and environmental domains. And you learn to use R, the open source statistical programming language that is now the standard tool of data scientists worldwide.  BTRY 3080 is a probability course, not a statistics course; you need to take statistics. BTRY 3010 is indeed a fine statistics course but it’s not an engineering course. You may petition to use BTRY 3010 to satisfy your statistics requirement if you make up the engineering credits represented by CEE 3040 or ENGRD 2700 by pairing BTRY with a specific, quantitative engineering course (not unstructured credit) that will bring your total number of engineering credits to 48 or higher.  Finally, you could transfer in an engineering stats course from somewhere else – this will require prior approval from the department offering the equivalent course.  But CEE 3040 has exactly what the BEE faculty think you need to know in a first statistics course, so do try to take it if possible.

Q2: Should I take BEE 1200 or an ENGRI course? Which ENGRI should I take?

A2: If you entered Cornell via the College of Engineering, you’re expected to take an ENGRI course during your first year, plus ENGRG 1050. If you entered through CALS, you’re expected to take an ENGRI course during your first year, plus BEE 1200.  The ENGRI’s give you insight into the practice of engineering, and BEE 1200 has career-related and planning-related assignments that can help you get the most out of your four years here.  Try your best to take your ENGRI during your first year. If you delay past the second year you will have to take a replacement course, where the replacements are chosen to be both tough and out of your field.

As for which ENGRI: if you are not sure which engineering major you want, take an ENGRI that will help you decide.  If you are sure of your engineering major, we recommend taking an ENGRI in a contrasting area, to learn more about engineering as a profession and help you link up the subject matter of your major with subjects studied in other branches of engineering.

Q3. What is the difference between taking classes such as Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics in the MechE/CEE departments vs in the BEE department? Do both count toward graduation?

A3. BE students may take either ENGRD 2210 (mechanical engineering thermodynamics) offered in the Fall and Summer, or BEE 2220 (bioengineering thermodynamics and kinetics) offered in the Spring. Other thermodynamics courses (e.g. MSE 3030, transfer courses) may be approved by petition if there is a strong educational reason to do so. However, one should not petition lightly, or for that matter late, as petitions are not guaranteed to be approved.

BE students in the old curriculum may satisfy their fluid mechanics requirement using either BEE 3310 or CEE 3310. BEE 3310 is required in the new (class of 2018 and later) curriculum. Students switching from another engineering major may petition to use the fluids course from their former major; such petitions are customarily approved.

Q4. With the removal of concentrations, is there a way to focus on a certain aspect of biological engineering that I find appealing (e.g. biomedical engineering or bioprocessing)?

A4. Absolutely. Just pick courses within the focus areas that address your interests, and consider doing either a minor or some undergraduate research in the area that most interests you.

Q5. Are pre-requisites for upper level BME electives recommended or required? Can I take the course even if I don’t have the pre-reqs?

A5. Alas, it’s impossible to tell from a plain list of prerequisites which ones are cordial recommendations and which ones are essential for your success in the course. If you hope to take a course without a prereq, your first stop should be to consult with the instructor. Do this well before the course begins. The instructor can let you know what to expect about use of the prerequisite subject matter, how to prepare, whether s/he will be available to provide extra help, etc. You may be waved right in, or told to stay away until you complete the prereq. Whatever advice you’re given, follow it.

Q6. Can I count credits toward my minor (if engineering related) as electives for the BEE major?

A6. Engineering courses taken for your minor can always count as approved electives (section 9 on the Program Progress Form), but you are probably asking about Major-Approved Technical Electives (section 8d on the Program Progress Form, and a more restrictive category). If you’re following the old curriculum, the answer is yes: you can use any technical engineering course at the 2000 level and above. If you’re following the new curriculum, any courses you choose as Major-Approved Technical Electives should be on one of the focus area lists. The focus area lists are not carved in stone: courses can be added to the focus areas, and you may petition the department to do so well before you take the course.

Q7. What is the difference between BEE 2600 and BEE 2510? Both seem like introductory courses with little to no difference. 

A7. Both courses cover mass and energy balances and use of MATLAB to solve engineering problems. But the examples and emphasis are different. BEE 2600 focuses more on molecular/cellular biology and biomedical examples, whereas BEE 2510 focuses more on ecological and environmental examples and includes material on acid/base chemistry and the metabolic chemistry of anaerobic digestion.

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