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The Biological Systems Engineering Undergraduate Program

Biological Systems Engineering is an engineering major that uses biology as its main scientific base. With rapid advances in biology and biotechnology, engineers are needed to work side by side with life scientists to bring laboratory developments into commercial production or field application. Industries in bioenergy, bioprocessing, biotechnology, food processing, aquaculture, agriculture, plant production, animal production, and forest production all need engineers with strong training in biology. The heightened concern for environmental resources and their preservation generates many engineering opportunities as society strives to maintain balance within the biosphere.

In the freshman and sophomore years, the Biological Systems Engineering major requires sequences of courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering science, and humanities, similar to all accredited engineering programs. In addition to these course sequences, the Biological Systems Engineering major also requires courses in the biological sciences. Exclusive of General Education units, the Biological Systems Engineering major requires a minimum of 161 units (90 units in the lower division; 71 units in the upper division).

Biological Systems Engineering graduates take jobs in the biotechnology, energy, food, and medical industries; work for state and federal agencies; or pursue graduate work. Students also can use the program as a pathway to professional schools in medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, or business.

The Biological Systems Engineering program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET; see http://www.abet.org.

Students are encouraged to adhere carefully to all prerequisite requirements. The instructor is authorized to drop students from a course for which stated prerequisites have not been completed.

Lower Division Required Courses

Mathematics 21A-21B-21C-21D
Mathematics 22A-22B 6
Physics 9A-9B-9C 15
Chemistry 2A-2B 10
Biological Sciences 2A-2B-2C 15
Engineering 6, 35, 17 12
Biological Systems Engineering 1 4
Biological Systems Engineering 75 4
University Writing Program 1, 1Y or 1V 4
Communication 1 or 3 4
Upper Division Requirements:  
If your career objective is a professional degree in the health sciences (e.g., medicine, veterinary medicine, or dentistry), you should consult with advisers from the ap-propriate school to plan for successful admission and to ensure that you take specific courses that may be required and that you have the necessary experience. The upper division requirements are listed following the areas of specialization:  
  • Biotechnology Engineering
  • Agricultural and Natural Resources Engineering
  • Food Engineering
Areas of Specialization  
Biotechnology Engineering. Biotechnology involves the handling and manipulation of living organisms or their components to produce useful products. Students specializing in biotechnology engineering integrate analysis and design with applied biology to solve problems in renewable energy production, large-scale biotechnical production, control of biological systems, and bio-based materials production.
Students may focus on the mechanisms and processes for the sustainable production and use of energy from renewable biological sources. Students may also focus on the challenges in scaling up laboratory developments to industrial production, including production, packaging, and application of biocontrol agents for plant pests and diseases; genetically altered plants; plant materials and food products; and microbial production of biological products, tissue culture, and bioremediation. Students may also focus on the development of biosensors to detect microorganisms and specific substances, useful in the development of products based on biological processes and materials.
Biotechnical engineers work in the biotech industries on process design and operation, scale-up, and instrumentation and control.
Recommended biological science electives:
Biological Sciences 101, 102, 103
Microbiology 102
Molecular and Cellular Biology 120L
Plant Biology 113
Recommended engineering electives:
Biological Systems Engineering 161
Chemical Engineering 161B, 161C, 161L
Civil and Environmental Engineering 143, 148A, 149, 150, 153
Engineering 180
Mechanical Engineering 161, 162, 163
Suggested advisers. J. Fan, K. Giles, M. Grismer, B. Jenkins, T. Jeoh, N. Nitin, N. Pan, D. Slaughter, J. VanderGheynst, R. Zhang
Agricultural and Natural Resources Engineering. With the world population expected to grow over the next several decades, major concerns lie with meeting the needs of agriculture and with the sustainable use of limited natural resources. Students specializing in agricultural and natural resources engineering combine analysis and design with applied biology to solve problems in producing, transporting, and processing biological products leading to food, fiber, energy, pharmaceuticals, and other human needs.
Students may focus on automation and control of field operations and engineered systems, robotics, and on the biomechanics of humans and animals. They may also focus on engineering issues related to the sustainable use of natural resources, particularly energy and water, but also land and air. Agricultural and natural resources engineers design machinery, processes, and systems for productive plant and animal culture, while improving overall sustainability.
Agricultural and natural resources engineers are employed as practicing professionals and managers with agricultural producers, equipment manufacturers, irrigation districts, food processors, consulting engineering firms, start-up companies, and government agencies. Graduates with interest in biomechanics work in industry on the design, evaluation, and application of human-centered devices and systems, as well as on improving worker health and safety.
Recommended biological science electives:
Animal Emphasis
Avian Sciences 100
Animal Science 143, 144, 146
Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior 101
Soil Science 100
Aquaculture Emphasis
Animal Science 118, 131, 136A
Applied Biological Systems Technology 163
Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology 120, 121
Biomechanics Emphasis
Biological Sciences 102
Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior 101
Exercise Biology 103
Cell Biology and Human Anatomy 101
Plant Emphasis
Entomology 100
Environmental Horticulture 102
Environmental Science and Policy 100
Environmental Toxicology 101
Hydrologic Sciences 124
Microbiology 120
Plant Biology 111
Soil Science 100
Plant Sciences 101, 110A, 114, 142
Recommended engineering electives:
Biological Systems Engineering 128, 145
Biomedical Engineering 109, 116, 126
Civil and Environmental Engineering 140, 141, 142, 144, 145, 148A, 171
Engineering 111, 121, 180
Additional recommended electives:
Applied Biological Systems Technology 150, 161, 165
Suggested Advisers. J. Fan, F. Fathallah, K. Giles, M. Grismer, T-C. Hung, B. Jenkins, K. Kornbluth, D. Slaughter, S. Upadhyaya, S. Vougioukas, J. VanderGheynst, R. Zhang
Food Engineering. Producing the food we eat every day constitutes the largest industrial sector of the U.S. economy, and this production involves the work of engineers in a wide variety of food industries, both at home and around the world. Students specializing in food engineering design food processes and operate equipment and facilities for production of high quality, safe, and nutritious food with minimal impact of these operations on the environment.
Students learn to apply engineering principles and concepts to handle, store, process, package, and distribute food and related products. In addition to engineering principles, the food engineering specialization provides an understanding of the chemical, biochemical, microbiological, and physical characteristics of food. Students study concepts of food refrigeration, freezing, thermal processing, drying, and other food operations, food digestion, and health and nutrition in food system design.
Food engineers work as practicing engineers, scientists, and managers in the food industry.
Recommended biological science electives:
Biological Sciences 101, 102, 103
Environmental Science and Policy 110
Environmental Toxicology 101
Food Science and Technology 104, 104L, 119, 128
Plant Sciences 172
Recommended engineering electives:
Biological Systems Engineering 161
Chemical Engineering 157
Mechanical Engineering 171, 172
Suggested Advisers. G. Bornhorst, J. de Moura Bell, T. Jeoh, M. McCarthy, N. Nitin, Z. Pan, D. Slaughter

Upper Division Required Courses

Chemistry 8A or 118A 2 or 4
Chemistry 8B or 118B 4
Engineering 100, 102, 104 105, 106 18
Biological Systems Engineering 103, 125, 127, 130, 165, 170A, 170B, 170BL, 170C, 170CL 29
Biological Systems Engineering electives—Select a minimum of 4 units from all upper division Biological Systems Engineering courses not otherwise required, with the exception of Biological Systems Engineering courses 189-199 4
Statistics 100 4
Engineering electives—Select a minimum of three units. All upper division courses offered by the College of Engineering may be taken as engineering electives with the exception of the following:
Civil and Environmental Engineering 123, Computer Science Engineering 188, Engineering 103, 160, all courses numbered 190-197 and 199 (except Engineering 190, which may be taken for 2 units of engineering elective credit) 3
Biological science electives—All upper-division courses in the College of Biological Sciences (with the exception of Biological Sciences 132, Evolution and Ecology 175, Exercise Biology 102, 112, 115, 118 through 149L, Microbiology 100 and all courses numbered 190-199) may be used as biological science electives. The following courses may also be taken as biological science electives: Applied Biological Systems Technology 161; Animal Science 118, 143, 144, 146; Agricultural Management and Rangeland Resources 110A; Atmospheric Science 133; Avian Sciences 100; Cell Biology and Human Anatomy 101, 101L; Entomology 100; Environmental Horticulture 102; Environmental Science Policy and Management 120, 182, 185 (offered at UC Berkeley); Environmental Science and Policy 100, 110, 155; Environmental Toxicology 101, 112A, 131; Food Science and Technology 102A, 104L, 119, 120, 121, 128, 159; Infectious Diseases 141; Soil Science 100; Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology 121. Students may choose other upper division courses with substantial biological content offered by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; consultation with a faculty adviser and approval by petition is required) 3
Upper Division Composition Requirement* one course from the following: University Writing Program 101, 102B, 102E, 102F, 102G, 104A, 104E, 104F, 104T 4
*The Upper-Division composition exam administered by the College of Letters and Sciences cannot be used to satisfy the upper-division composition requirement for students in the Biological Systems Engineering program. A grade of C- or better is required in this class.
Master Undergraduate Adviser. T. Jeoh

Energy Minor Programs

There is an urgent need to develop and commercialize technologies for the sustainable conversion and use of energy. The goal of these minors is to prepare students for careers that require training in energy science and technology, efficiency, and policy. Clean technologies and green technologies including energy are some of the fastest growing markets for new investments. Well trained individuals in all related fields are needed to provide the level of expertise required to advance technology and policy and to satisfy national and global objectives for greater energy sustainability. The minors are designed to accommodate persons of diverse backgrounds with educational interests in areas that may include engineering, science, policy, economics, planning, and management.

Energy Science and Technology Minor

All courses must be taken for a letter grade. A grade of C- or better is required for all courses used to satisfy minor requirements with an overall GPA in the required minor courses of 2.000 or bettertter.

Minor Requirements:

Energy Science and Technology
Engineering 105 or Chemical Engineering 152B 4
Applied Science 188 4
Select 12 units from: Biological Systems Engineering 161; Chemical Engineering 146, 158C, 161A, 161B, 161L, 166; Civil and Environmental Engineering 125, 143, 162, 163; Mechanical Engineering 161; Agricultural and Resource Economics 175; Food Science and Technology 123; Applied Biological Systems Technology 182; Atmospheric Science 116; Plant Science 101; Environmental Science and Policy 167 12
Minor Advisers. B. Jenkins (Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering), K. McDonald (Department of Chemical Engineering), C. van Dam (Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering)

Energy Policy Minor

All courses must be taken for a letter grade. A grade of C- or better is required for all courses used to satisfy the minor requirements with an overall GPA in the required minor courses of 2.000 or better.

Minor Requirements:

Energy Policy
Applied Science 188 and Environmental Science and Policy 167 8
Select 10 units from: Civil Engineering 125; Environmental Science and Policy 171, 163, 168A, 169B; Political Science 105, 109, 122, 164 143, 162, 164 10
Minor Advisers. D. Niemeier (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), J. Ogden (Environmental Science and Policy)

Energy Efficiency Minor

All courses must be taken for a letter grade. Grade A grade of C- or better is required for all courses used to satisfy the minor requirements with overall GPA in the required minor requirement courses of 2.000 or better.

Minor Requirements:

Energy Efficiency 20
Engineering 188 and Civil Engineering 125 8
Select 12 units from: Civil Engineering 126, 127, 128, 143; Environmental Science and Policy 167; Design 136A, 136B, 137A 12
Minor Advisers. F. Loge (Civil and Environmental Engineering), D. Sperling (Institute of Transportation Studies), M. Modera (Western Cooling Efficiency Center)

The Graduate Program in Biological Systems Engineering

Integrated B.S./M.S, M.S., M.Engr., D.Engr., and Ph.D. in Biological Systems Engineering
Designated Ph.D. emphasis available in Biotechnology

Graduate students in Biological Systems Engineering focus on finding economically and environmentally sustainable solutions to many of the most important global issues of our time-the safety, security and abundance of our food, detection of pathogens, development of bioenergy and other sustainable energy systems, control of insect-borne disease and damage, as well as the preservation of our land, air and water resources.

We enjoy the strategic advantage of being located in California, the national leader in agricultural production and crop diversity, and a major center for biotechnology. With the unique status of belonging to both the College of Engineering and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the program benefits from a wide diversity of collaborations across multiple disciplines. We interact with colleagues in both engineering and the life sciences to create multidisciplinary approaches to our teaching and research. Students benefit from this dynamic environment that combines the strengths of nationally ranked engineering, agricultural and environmental programs.

Financial support is available in the form of research assistantships, teaching assistantships, fellowships and financial aid.
Research Highlights:
  • Automation and Control
  • Bioenvironmental engineering
  • Renewable energy
  • Industrial biotechnology
  • Food safety
  • Biosensors
  • Bioprocess engineering
  • Bioinstrumentation
  • Ergonomics, health and safety
  • Aquacultural engineering
  • Ecological systems engineering
  • Food engineering
  • Forest and fiber engineering
  • Postharvest engineering
  • Remote sensing
  • Robotics and autonomous systems
  • Soil and water engineering
  • Machine systems and precision agriculture
Research Facilities and Partnerships:
  • Agricultural Ergonomics Research Center
  • Fish Conservation and Culture Laboratory
  • GIS Visualization Lab
  • Energy Institute
  • Bodega Marine Lab
  • Western Center for Agricultural Equipment
Complete information is available on the departmental website.
Page content manager can be reached at Catalog-Comment@ucdavis.edu.

Updated: November 21, 2017 12:17 PM