What is BME?
BME stands for BioMedical Engineering and is a field focused on applying engineering techniques and skills to real-world medical opportunities.
What makes Hopkins BME unique and so great?
Hopkins BME is unique because of two distinct reasons. Firstly, Hopkins BME sits in the middle of our Whiting School of Engineering, mixing techniques from a wide range of engineering disciplines and applying them to the medical field. Hopkins BME includes everything from the focus of regenerative medicine, focused on the more cellular and tissue level, to the topic of computational medicine, which utilizes advances in computer science to improve modern medicine, to so many more disciplines (see focus areas below for more info). This multifaceted approach allows for so much innovation and discovery to occur because of gaining exposure and background to such a plethora of skillsets and problem-solving techniques. I personally really love the mixture of people from so many different passions and disciplines working together for a common goal. Secondly, Hopkins BME has a strong focus on translational research. I appreciate that as an undergraduate we have the opportunity to work on design teams, which are groups of 5-7 BME students, to solve real-world clinical challenges proposed and mentored by Johns Hopkins clinicians (see out-of-the-classroom opportunities for more information!) I think it is so important to have not only a rich understanding of theory, but also the opportunity to apply that in an effort to improve other people’s lives.
How are the BME professors?
Hopkins BME professors come from a wide range of backgrounds: electrical engineering, biology, physics, and many more, but they all share a common desire to improve the medical field and also help educate the next generation of BME students. They do this through making themselves accessible through office hours ever single week, where you can ask them about material in the class you might be confused about or topics beyond the class that you are curious to know more about. Many of them also are involved in their own research projects and are excited to take you into their lab or recommend you to one of their peers.
What classes do BMEs take as underclassmen?
On the department website exact credit counts and details are given, which is helpful when considering things like AP and transfer credits, but as just sort of a general overview and also a bit of current student perspective:
- BME Modeling and Design: During your first fall on campus you’ll get the opportunity to meet your fellow BME classmates and dive right into learning about what it means to be a biomedical engineer. This class is a really fun way of learning how to use mathematical and physical models for biological systems.
- BME Design Team: Starting your freshman spring and continuing on until you graduate, you have the opportunity to participate on a design team (see out-of-the-classroom opportunities for more information!)
- Core Engineering Basis Classes: Continuing on the math sequence, wherever you are in that from Calculus I to Linear Algebra/Differential Equations, Physics, Introductory Computer Science, and Chemistry, these are essential foundational classes that the rest of your BME classes will be built on.
- Molecules and Cells: This fall class gives the basis for many of the biological systems that we end of modeling during our time at Hopkins. It has 3 instructors and is broken into three primary sections, each focusing on a different emphasis within the wide field of biology. Topics range from electrical gradients and other transport between and within cells, signaling pathways in cells, and how cancer evolves and is treated.
- Statistical Physics: This half-semester class is the first part of fall semester. For most of us, this was our first real class focused on describing biological systems with mathematical expressions. It’s a really cool mixture of calculus, probability, and physics. Even though it is only about 6 weeks long, we covered topics ranging from how an engine works to why some liquids mix at certain concentrations but separate at others.
- Systems and Signals: This class fills in the other half of the fall semester after Statistical Physics and is an introduction into signal theory. This class is the foundation for Systems and Controls and SBOC in the spring.
- Models and Simulations + Nonlinear Dynamics of Biological Systems: These two classes (again, one in the first half of the spring semester, the other in the second half) focus on utilizing differential equations in particular to model biological systems. These classes also start implementing some practice with programming to solve some of these problems. These classes include everything from modeling how blood flows in our arteries to some of the very same cell-cycle behaviors we learned in Molecules and Cells.
- Systems and Controls + Systems of Biology of the Cell (SBOC): These are another set of two half-semester classes and build on the foundation laid in Signals and Systems. Systems and Controls has been my favorite class of sophomore year because I loved how we learned so many different techniques to analyze the same problem: going between different representations and learning how to implement feedback into a model to solve problems ranging from digitals controlling a medical coma to behavioral gambling models. SBOC also builds on this basis and applies it to signaling cascades within the cell amongst other models.
- Beginning to take focus area classes (see focus area question below!)
Junior + Senior Year:
- During Junior year you finish up core BME classes with a series of four half semester classes (2 in the fall and 2 in the spring) that will end up representing 4 of the 6 of the focus areas in BME (see the focus area question below for more info!)
- During your Senior year you will also continue to take upper level classes that correspond with your focus area. These classes will be the core of your upperclassman education in the BME department.
What are some out-of-the-classroom opportunities do I have as a BME?
As a student at Hopkins you can participate in research either at the medical campus, the Applied Physics Lab (APL), and of course the Homewood campus. There is such a wide range of research topics spread across all of these labs. BME Design Team is another great opportunity to apply engineering knowledge to solve real-world problems at Hopkins Hospital and beyond with a group of fellow undergraduates and a clinical lead, and while it is a class also, I include it here because many students choose to continue their team after the class has ended or spend much more time than simply required by the class on it. Additionally, internships are an important part to many students’ undergraduate experience and the department is always sharing dozens of position openings each week with us and helping us prepare for these. For many people research and internships might be the same thing also because of grants available through Hopkins and lab funding.
How do I apply to BME?
All you need to do to apply to BME is list Biomedical Engineering as your first choice major on the undergraduate application. For more questions about your application check out the details listed at bme.jhu.edu/undergradate/apply.
Can I be BME and Pre-Med/Do I have to be Pre-Med if I am BME?
I get this question a lot on tours, and I want to clarify that the program is a great preparation for medical school, I have lots of friends who are BME and on the pre-medical track, but the program is also a really great fit if you, like me, are planning on going into industry, research, or consulting!
I hear about focus areas: what are those? Do I need to know which one I want to do right away?
Essentially, because BME is such a broad field and there are so many different but equally valid ways to tackle medical opportunities, the department but equally valid ways to tackle medical opportunities, the department has these concentrations called “focus areas”, which are essentially just a subcategory of BME that you are personally interested in and want to focus on in more depth. Most people choose their focus area around sophomore spring and the department hosts a few information session nights to give students time to learn more and ask questions, but it isn’t binding, and many people take classes outside their focus areas still just because they want to learn more about a topic! They are more just guidelines than restrictive groupings. We currently have six focus areas:
- Biological Data Science
- Computational Medicine
- Biomedical Imaging & Instrumentation
- Genomics & Systems Biology
- Regenerative & Immune Engineerings
Can I still double major if I am BME?
One of the benefits of both the credit distribution and the fact that almost each BME focus areas overlap very heavily with another Whiting major, double majoring is pretty doable if you plan ahead and talk to your advisor!
I still have more questions!
Feel free to comment on this post or ask questions via the Hopkins Insider Instagram: @jhuadmissions.