Biological Systems Engineering, Bachelor of Science College of Engineering

The Biological Systems Engineering Undergraduate Program

Biological Systems Engineering is an engineering major that uses life sciences 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 food and fiber production, bioenergy, bioprocessing, biotechnology, food processing, agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, plant and animal production, natural resource management, and waste reduction all need engineers with strong training in biology. In the first two 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 courses, the major also includes courses in the life sciences and the application to engineering. Exclusive of General Education units, the Biological Systems Engineering major requires a minimum of 163 units (86 units in the lower division; 77 units in the upper division).

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

The Biological Systems Engineering program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.

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

See the Degree Requirements section.

Upper Division Requirements

If your career objective is a professional degree in the health sciences (e.g., medicine, veterinary medicine, nursing, or dentistry), you should consult with advisors from the appropriate 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. Advisors in the Office of Health Professions Advising can also assist students planning to pursue degrees in these areas.

Areas of Specialization

Biological Systems Engineering is a broad major with many possible areas of specialization, with some examples below. Each area of specialization includes recommended electives for planning purposes. Students in the major are NOT required to select or follow an area of specialization. Following the recommended electives for a specialization does not result in specialization or concertation notation on a student’s transcript or diploma.

  • Biotechnical Engineering.
  • Agricultural & Natural Resources Engineering.
  • Food Engineering.

Required Courses

Lower Division Required Courses

MAT 021ACalculus4
MAT 021BCalculus4
MAT 021CCalculus4
MAT 021DVector Analysis4
MAT 022ALinear Algebra3
MAT 022BDifferential Equations3
PHY 009AClassical Physics5
PHY 009BClassical Physics5
PHY 009CClassical Physics5
CHE 002AGeneral Chemistry5
CHE 002BGeneral Chemistry5
CHE 008AOrganic Chemistry: Brief Course2-4
or CHE 118A Organic Chemistry for Health & Life Sciences
CHE 008BOrganic Chemistry: Brief Course4
or CHE 118B Organic Chemistry for Health & Life Sciences
Biological Science
BIS 002AIntroduction to Biology: Essentials of Life on Earth5
ENG 017Circuits I4
or ENG 017V Circuits I
ENG 035Statics4
ECS 032AIntroduction to Programming4
or ENG 006 Engineering Problem Solving
Biological Systems Engineering
EBS 001Foundations of Biological Systems Engineering (Fall only)4
EBS 075Properties of Materials in Biological Systems (Winter only)4
Lower Division Composition/Writing; choose one; a grade of C- or better is required:4
Major Works of the Ancient World
Major Works of the Medieval & Early Modern World
Major Works of the Modern World
Major Works of the Contemporary World
Introduction to Literature
Introduction to Native American Literature
Introduction to Academic Literacies (Recommended)
Introduction to Academic Literacies: Online
Introduction to Academic Literacies
Choose one:4
Introduction to Engineering Design
Introduction to Engineering Design
Introduction to Public Speaking
Interpersonal Communication Competence
Interpersonal Communication Competence
Total Units86-88

Upper Division Required Courses

ENG 100Electronic Circuits & Systems3
ENG 102Dynamics4
ENG 104Mechanics of Materials4
ENG 105Thermodynamics4
ENG 106Engineering Economics (Winter only)4
Biological Systems Engineering
EBS 103/HYD 103NFluid Mechanics Fundamentals4
or ENG 103 Fluid Mechanics
EBS 125Heat Transfer in Biological Systems (Spring only)4
EBS 127Mass Transfer & Kinetics in Biological Systems (Fall only)4
EBS 130Modeling of Dynamic Processes in Biological Systems (Winter only)4
EBS 165Bioinstrumentation & Control (Fall only)4
EBS 170AEngineering Design & Professional Responsibilities (Fall only)3
EBS 170BEngineering Projects: Design (Winter only)2
EBS 170BLEngineering Projects: Design Laboratory (Winter only)1
EBS 170CEngineering Projects: Design Evaluation (Spring only)1
EBS 170CLEngineering Projects: Design Evaluation (Spring only)2
STA 100Applied Statistics for Biological Sciences4
Biological Systems Engineering Electives
Choose a minimum of 4 units from all upper division Biological Systems Engineering courses not otherwise required, with the exception of:4
EBS 189 series
Special Study for Advanced Undergraduates
Engineering Electives
Choose a minimum of 8 units; all upper division courses offered by the College of Engineering may be taken as engineering electives with the exception of the following:8
Urban Systems & Sustainability
Ethics in an Age of Technology
Fluid Mechanics
Environmental Physics & Society
All courses 190-197, 199; except ENG 190, may be taken for 2 units of engineering elective credit
Biological Science Electives
All upper division courses in the College of Biological Sciences may be used as biological science electives; with the exception of:9
Computational Genetics
Introduction to Motor Learning & the Psychology of Sport & Exercise
Clinical Exercise Physiology
Biomechanical Bases of Movement
Advanced Sport Psychology
Physiology of Maximal Human Performance
Neuromuscular & Behavioral Aspects of Motor Control
Theory & Practice of Exercise Testing
All 190-199
May also be taken as biological science electives:
Water Quality Management for Aquaculture
Fish Production
Pig & Poultry Care & Management
Beef Cattle & Sheep Production
Dairy Cattle Production
Avian Biology
Introduction to Biology: Principles of Ecology & Evolution
Introduction to Biology: Biodiversity & the Tree of Life
Human Gross Anatomy
Human Gross Anatomy Laboratory
General Entomology
Physiological Principles in Environmental Horticulture (Discontinued)
Global Environmental Interactions
General Ecology
Principles of Environmental Science
Wetland Ecology
Principles of Environmental Toxicology
Environmental Toxicology of Air Pollutants
Malting & Brewing Science
Food Microbiology Laboratory
Chemistry & Technology of Milk & Dairy Products
Food Toxicology
New Food Product Ideas
Infectious Diseases of Humans
Principles of Soil Science
Physiology of Fishes
Students may choose other upper division courses with substantial biological content offered by the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences; consultation with a faculty advisor and approval by petition is required.
Upper Division Composition Requirement
Choose one; a grade of C- or better is required:4
Advanced Composition
Advanced Composition
Advanced Composition
Writing in the Disciplines: Biology
Writing in the Disciplines: Engineering
Writing in the Disciplines: Food Science & Technology
Writing in the Disciplines: Environmental Writing
Writing in the Professions: Business Writing
Writing in the Professions: Business Writing
Writing in the Professions: Science
Writing in the Professions: Health
Writing in the Professions: Health
Writing in the Professions: Technical Writing
The Upper Division Composition Exam administered by the College of Letters & Sciences cannot be used to satisfy the upper division composition requirement for students in the Biological Systems Engineering program.
Total Units77

Total Units: 163-165

Areas of Specialization

Biological Systems Engineering is a broad major with many possible areas of specialization, with some examples below. Each area of specialization includes recommended electives for planning purposes. Students in the major are NOT required to select or follow an area of specialization. Following the recommended electives for a specialization does not result in specialization or concertation notation on a student’s transcript or diploma.

Biotechnical Engineering

Biotechnology involves the handling and manipulation of living organisms or their components to produce useful products. Students specializing in biotechnical engineering integrate analysis and design with applied biology to solve problems in renewable energy production, bioprocessing, control of biological systems, and production of biomaterials and bioproducts.

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, sensing, automation, and control.

Recommended Biological Science Electives

BIS 101Genes & Gene Expression4
BIS 102Structure & Function of Biomolecules3
BIS 103Bioenergetics & Metabolism3
BIT 160Principles of Plant Biotechnology3
BIT 161AGenetics & Biotechnology Laboratory6
BIT 161BPlant Genetics & Biotechnology Laboratory4
MIC 102Introductory Microbiology3
MIC 103LIntroductory Microbiology Laboratory2
MIC 115Recombinant DNA Cloning & Analysis3
MCB 120LMolecular Biology & Biochemistry Laboratory3
MCB 121Advanced Molecular Biology3
MCB 126Plant Biochemistry3
MCB 162Human Genetics & Genomics3
MCB 182Principles of Genomics3
PLS 152Plant Genetics4

Recommended Engineering Electives

BIM 109Biomaterials4
BIM 117Modeling Strategies for Biomedical Engineering4
BIM 118Microelectromechanical Systems4
BIM 140Protein Engineering4
BIM 143Biomolecular Systems Engineering: Synthetic Biology4
BIM 151Mechanics of DNA3
BIM 152Molecular Control of Biosystems4
BIM 161ABiomolecular Engineering4
BIM 162Introduction to the Biophysics of Molecules & Cells4
EBS 135Bioenvironmental Engineering4
EBS 161Kinetics & Bioreactor Design4
ECH 160Fundamentals of Biomanufacturing3
ECI 148A (Discontinued)4
ECI 149Air Pollution4
ECI 150 (Discontinued)4
ECI 153Deterministic Optimization & Design4
ENG 180Engineering Analysis4

Suggested Advisors

J. de Moura Bell, J. Fan, Y.-L. Hsieh, B. Jenkins, T. Jeoh, J. Mullin, D. Slaughter, G. Sun, R. Zhang

Agricultural & Natural Resources Engineering

With the world population continuing to grow over the next several decades, grand challenges exist in food security and social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Meeting the needs of agriculture and the effective use of natural resources will require continuing innovation. 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 to provide food, fiber, energy, pharmaceuticals, and other human needs.

Students may focus on automation and control of field operations and engineered systems, robotics, and 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 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
AVS 100Avian Biology3
ANS 112Sustainable Animal Agriculture3
ANS 143Pig & Poultry Care & Management4
ANS 144Beef Cattle & Sheep Production4
ANS 146Dairy Cattle Production5
NPB 101Systemic Physiology5
SSC 100Principles of Soil Science5
Aquaculture Emphasis
ANS 118Fish Production4
ANS 131Reproduction & Early Development in Aquatic Animals4
ABT 163Aquaculture Systems Engineering3
WFC 120Biology & Conservation of Fishes3
WFC 121Physiology of Fishes4
Biomechanics Emphasis
BIS 102Structure & Function of Biomolecules3
NPB 101Systemic Physiology5
CHA 101/EXB 106Human Gross Anatomy4
Plant Emphasis
ENT 100General Entomology4
ENH 102Physiological Principles in Environmental Horticulture (Discontinued)4
ESP 100General Ecology4
ETX 101Principles of Environmental Toxicology4
HYD 124Plant-Water-Soil Relationships4
MIC 120Microbial Ecology3
PLB 111Plant Physiology3
SSC 100Principles of Soil Science5
PLS 101Agriculture & the Environment3
PLS 114Biological Applications in Fruit Production2

Recommended Engineering Electives

EBS 128Biomechanics & Ergonomics4
EBS 145Irrigation & Drainage Systems4
BIM 109Biomaterials4
BIM 116Physiology for Biomedical Engineers 5
BIM 126Tissue Mechanics3
ECI 141Engineering Hydraulics3
ECI 142Engineering Hydrology4
ECI 144Groundwater Systems Design4
ECI 145Hydraulic Structure Design4
ECI 148A (Discontinued)4
ECI 171Soil Mechanics4
ENG 111Electric Machinery Fundamentals4
ENG 121Fluid Power Actuators & Systems4
ENG 180Engineering Analysis4

Additional Recommended Electives (Do not count towards major requirements)

ABT 150Introduction to Geographic Information Systems4
ABT 161Water Quality Management for Aquaculture3
ABT 163Aquaculture Systems Engineering3
ABT 165Irrigation Practices for an Urban Environment3

Suggested Advisors

A. Daccache, I. Donis-Gonzalez, M. Earles, F. Fathallah, J. Fernandez-Bayo, T-C. Hung, B. Jenkins, F. Khorsandi, I. Kisekka, K. Kornbluth, P. Larbi, A. Pourreza, D. Slaughter, S. Vougioukas

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

ANS 112Sustainable Animal Agriculture3
BIS 101Genes & Gene Expression4
BIS 102Structure & Function of Biomolecules3
BIS 103Bioenergetics & Metabolism3
FST 100AFood Chemistry4
FST 100BFood Properties4
FST 101AFood Chemistry Laboratory3
FST 101BFood Properties Laboratory2
FST 102AMalting & Brewing Science4
FST 104Food Microbiology3
FST 104LFood Microbiology Laboratory4
FST 107Food Sensory Science4
FST 117Design & Analysis for Sensory Food Science4
FST 119Chemistry & Technology of Milk & Dairy Products4
FST 123Introduction to Enzymology3
FST 123LEnzymology Laboratory 2
FST/ETX 128Food Toxicology3
MIC 102Introductory Microbiology3
MIC 103LIntroductory Microbiology Laboratory2
PLS 172Biology and Quality of Harvested Crops4
PLS 174Microbiology & Safety of Fresh Fruits & Vegetables3
PLS 196Postharvest Technology of Horticultural Crops3

Recommended Engineering Electives

EBS 135Bioenvironmental Engineering4
EBS 161Kinetics & Bioreactor Design4
ECH 160Fundamentals of Biomanufacturing3
ENG 180Engineering Analysis4

Suggested Advisors

G. Bornhorst, J. de Moura Bell, I. Donis-Gonzalez, T. Jeoh, N. Nitin, Z. Pan, D. Slaughter

Master Undergraduate Advisor

S. Vougioukas

Students graduating with a B.S. degree in Biological Systems Engineering from UC Davis are prepared to:

  • Apply life sciences in engineering at the biochemical, cellular, organism, and macro levels.
  • Solve biological systems engineering problems while employed in the private or public sector.
  • Consider the environmental, economic, and social consequences of their engineering activities.
  • Communicate effectively with professional colleagues and public constituencies.
  • Act in an ethical manner.
  • Continue their education to adapt and thrive in a changing professional world.