Biomedical Systems Engineering

medical scan


Biomedical systems engineering combines life sciences with engineering and physical sciences to solve fundamental biological questions and challenging healthcare problems.

Engineers in this interdisciplinary and exceptionally broad field work in areas as diverse as bioinstrumentation, biomaterials, biomechanics and systems biology. They design artificial organs and prosthetics, and create biomaterials for drug delivery. They use mathematical models to optimize healthcare systems, and machine learning to improve microscopy and medical imaging.

EngSci's Biomedical Systems Engineering major prepares students for graduate studies and careers with an interdisciplinary curriculum in engineering and life sciences. Student learn to tackle complex problems and design challenges with a systems approach. They use chemical, mechanical, and electrical engineering to gain molecule-to-organ system understanding.

The major includes four focus areas: regenerative medicine and biomaterials; systems and synthetic biology; neuro sensory and rehab engineering; and sensors, nano/microsystems and instrumentation. Courses cover principles of embryonic development and tissue engineering, mathematical modelling in cell and molecular biology, biological and medical imaging, omic technologies, physiological control systems, biomechanics and rehabilitation engineering, and computational biology.

Students develop the strong analytical, communication and design skills needed to assess complex biological systems, work in interdisciplinary teams with clinicians and patients, and develop innovative advances in healthcare equipment, devices and processes.

This major was the first undergraduate program of its kind in Canada. Students benefit from studying in one of the world's most active hubs of biomedical research. They are taught by renowned professors and researchers from the internationally recognized Institute for Biomedical Engineering (BME), and departments within U of T's Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, Faculty of Medicine, and Faculty of Dentistry. Students have access to cutting-edge facilities, superb mentors, and outstanding research opportunities through the university and ten affiliated hospital partners.


Is this major the only way to study biomedical engineering at U of T?

EngSci's major is not the only way to study this subject at U of T or to enter the field's workforce.

Biomedical engineering is incredibly interdisciplinary, with chemical, mechanical, electrical, industrial, and materials engineers working in this sector.

All U of T Engineering students with an interest in applying their knowledge to health care, except those in EngSci's biomedical systems engineering major, may take a Biomedical Engineering minor. The minor provides interdisciplinary classes and projects, as well as research or a capstone course. It prepares students for direct entry to the biomedical engineering industry.

EngSci's major emphasizes a systems view of biological and medical systems, while in the minor the emphasis is on the tools and principles of biomedical engineering.

Several features of EngSci's Biomedical Systems Engineering major make it distinct from other programs:

  • EngSci's foundation years (Years 1 and 2) provide a rigorous grounding in science, mathematics, technology and design;
  • EngSci's major provides more depth, breadth, and rigor than can be achieved through the minor;
  • the major's curriculum teaches a 'systems level' approach in which students integrate different engineering and life science disciplines, and become well-prepared for inherently complex challenges in medicine and biology;
  • the large number of technical electives gives students the flexibility to tailor the curriculum to their particular interests within biomedical engineering;
  • the professors, facilities, resources, and extracurricular opportunities in biomedical engineering at U of T and its affiliated medical centres are among the best in the world.
Is biomedical systems engineering qualitative, involving a lot of memorization, like biology?

Biomedical system engineering is similar to other engineering disciplines in that it uses mathematics, physics, and engineering to tackle complex biological questions and healthcare challenges. To that end, some knowledge of basic concepts in cell biology and physiology is required. Most of the major's courses integrate engineering analysis with critical life science concepts. They emphasize engineering model development, quantitative analysis, and problem-solving skills, rather than memorization of facts.

Can I get into medical school from this major?

Yes, though it is certainly not the most direct route. The flexibility in this major's curriculum allows students to gain at least some medical school prerequisites as part of their normal course load. However, students must typically take additional courses to meet admission requirements, depending on the medical school.

While a small number of outstanding students are typically admitted to medical school directly from the major in many years, students interested in this path typically complete a graduate degree or other post-graduate training before being accepted to medical school.

What types of summer opportunities exist for students in this major?

In addition to support for summer research and employment offered through EngSci or the Engineering Career Centre, students in this major have close contact with professors at the Institute for Biomedical Engineering (BME). Many of these offer summer and PEY research positions. Students can also take advantage of BME's long-standing affiliation with internationally renowned research hospitals in the Toronto area to find summer employment.

How many students from this major do a PEY Co-op after third year?

Over half of students in the Biomedical Systems Engineering major have participated in the PEY Co-op Program in the past few years at companies like Baylis Medical Company, Harvard Medical School, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Research Institute, University Health Network, and more.

Did you know...?

Students can further their knowledge in student clubs
like CUBE, UT BIOME, and iGEM Toronto.

Find more student clubs here.

Sample Courses

BME344 - Modeling, Dynamics and Control of Biological Systems

Introduction to mathematical modeling of physiological control systems present in the human body, combining physiology, linear system modeling and linear control theory. Topics include: representation of physical systems using differential equations and linearization of these dynamic models; graphical representation of the control systems/plants; Laplace transforms; transfer functions; performance of dynamic systems; time and frequency analysis; observability and controllability; and close-loop controller design.

BME350 - Biomedical Systems Engineering I: Organ Systems

An introduction to human anatomy and physiology with selected focus on the nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and endocrine systems. The structures and mechanisms responsible for proper function of these complex systems will be examined in the healthy and diseased human body. The integration of different organ systems will be stressed, with a specific focus on the structure-function relationship. Application of biomedical engineering technologies in maintaining homeostasis will also be discussed.

BME395 - Biomedical Systems Engineering II: Cells and Tissues

Tissue engineering is largely based on concepts that emerged from developmental biology. This course introduces the study of animal development at the cellular and molecular levels. Topics include developmental patterning, differential gene expression, morphogenesis, stem cells, repair and regeneration. Considerable emphasis is placed on learning to read the research literature.

BME410 - Regenerative Engineering

The multidisciplinary area of regenerative engineering integrates regenerative medicine, clinical engineering, human biology & physiology, advanced biomaterials, tissue engineering, and stem cell and developmental biology to create new therapies. This course starts with the key concepts of stem cell biology and their properties at the cellular and subcellular levels working our way to complex tissues and organs. In the first half of the course, 2D and 3D tissue and organ formation will be our main focus. In the second half, we will discuss the integration of medical devices, technologies and treatments into healthcare as well as clinical trial logistics, ethics and processes. The course materials will integrate cutting-edge research and current clinical trials by inviting scientists and clinicians as guest lecturers. Students will have the rare opportunity to incorporate into their written assignments experiment-based learning via workshops, seminars, research facility tours, and independent projects integrated into the course.

MIE439 - Biomechanics I

Introduction to the application of the principles of mechanical engineering - principally solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, and dynamics - to living systems. Topics include cellular mechanics, blood rheology, circulatory mechanics, respiratory mechanics, skeletal mechanics, and locomotion. Applications of these topics to biomimetic and biomechanical design are emphasized through a major, integrative group project.

ECE445 - Neural Bioelectricity

Generation, transmission and the significance of bioelectricity for brain function. Topics covered include: (i) Basic features of neural systems. (ii) Ionic transport mechanisms in cellular membranes. (iii) Propagation of electricity in neural cables. (iv) Extracellular electric fields. (v) Neural networks, neuroplasticity and biological clocks. (vi) Learning and memory in artificial neural networks. Laboratory experiences include: (a) Biological measurements of body surface potentials (EEG and EMG). (b) Experiments on computer models of generation and propagation of neuronal electrical activities. (c) Investigation of learning in artificial neural networks.

BME595 - Medical Imaging

This is a first course in medical imaging. Students learn a physical and mathematical approach emphasizing engineering concepts and design. They explore magnetic resonance and ultrasound and X ray imaging in detail. These topics allow engineers to apply principles learned in the first two years in: computer fundamentals, dynamics, calculus, basic EM theory, algebra and differential equations, signals systems. The course will introduce students to the concept of measurement as an "inverse problem". The laboratory will involve hands-on NMR and ultrasound measurements as well as image analysis of MRI data.

Where this major can take you

Our graduates have contributed to tremendous advances in the biomedical sciences by improving the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases, and other health-related issues.  Meet some of our alumni.

About half of this major's graduates go on to graduate studies in biomedical engineering or related disciplines. Some pursue professional degrees in medicine, pharmacy, law, or business. Recent graduates have attended graduate school at Columbia University, ETH Zurich, Harvard & MIT joint program, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, UBC, U of T, and more.

Over half of our recent graduates ultimately work in the biomedical, biotechnology, or healthcare fields, including in biomedical engineering, biotechnology, or pharmaceutical companies; universities or research institutes; and in healthcare (medicine, pharmacy, etc.). Other graduates work in other engineering disciplines, consulting or finance. Employers for our recent graduates include Baylis Medical, GE Healthcare, Microsoft, and others.

Entrepreneurial graduates have started companies like Xpan and LSK Technologies.


Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez

Chair of the Biomedical Systems Engineering major

Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez (BME)

Professor Fernandez-Gonzalez uses uses bioengineering and molecular tools to study how wounds heal.  Read about his work on preventing scar tissue after hear attacks.

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