Bioengineering addresses unmet challenges that make a difference in the world

At UW Bioengineering, we devise innovative solutions to open-ended, unmet challenges in biology, health and medicine. Our faculty and students are exploring solutions in the following biomedical research areas:

  • “Smart” therapies for cancer
  • Biocompatible implants that resist infection
  • Nanoparticle contrast agents for enhanced imaging
  • Paper-based diagnostics for home healthcare and global health
  • Adaptable prosthetics for amputees
  • Engineered heart cells for improved cardiac function post-heart attack
  • Biomimetic materials to prevent gut infections
  • Miniature cell culture tools for studying neurobiology
  • Synthetic organisms for biofuels
  • “Catch” bonds for novel adhesives
  • Photonic biosensors for blood typing
  • High intensity focused ultrasound to stop bleeding
  • Computational methods for assessing brain growth and development
  • DNA, protein and glycan microarrays for drug development

The Bioengineering approach is integrative and innovative

Bioengineers have the tools to approach unmet challenges from multiple perspectives.

Neurological disorders, like stroke, affect over one billion people worldwide. Current treatments are limited and only partially effective for the majority of patients. In pursuit of developing efficient treatments and ultimately, cures,  bioengineers ask:

  • Can we develop new, sensitive and specific technologies to understand the underlying neural mechanisms causing these disorders?
  • Can we use novel technologies and devices to rehabilitate and ultimately cure these disorders?
  • Can novel bioengineering technologies enhance the properties of the nervous system?

The heart can be irreversibly damaged and fail due to diabetes, heart disease and heart attacks.  As they seek to repair broken hearts, bioengineers ask: 

  • Can we re-engineer heart proteins to pump more efficiently?
  • Can we design novel implantable medical devices that the body does not reject?
  • Can we grow new heart tissue to replace damaged tissue?

Diseases are often detected late, which can affect the efficacy of treatment. Also, in some places around the world, traditional disease diagnostic tools are too expensive, too complex for local physicians to use effectively, or otherwise out of reach. In search of ways to reduce the global burden of diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and the flu, bioengineers ask:

  • Can we design nanoparticles, biophotonics and paper to detect disease earlier, rapidly and inexpensively
  • Using paper or hand-held ultrasound, can we make low-cost, point-of-care diagnostics to move testing out of hospitals
  • Can we integrate diagnostics with smartphones to make a difference globally?

Bioengineering is richly collaborative and interdisciplinary

Bioengineering focuses on integrative applications and solves problems left unanswered by engineering and physical/life science disciplines.

Wheel diagram of how Bioengineering integrates other scientific and engineering disciplines

Bioengineering is the only degree that bridges engineering, biology and physical science

By studying bioengineering, students participate in a truly unique academic experience. Fields such as Applied Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering, and Electrical Engineering explore connections between engineering and the physical and quantitative sciences. Biochemistry and Oceanography form at the intersection of the life, physical and quantitative sciences. Civil and Environmental Engineering applies engineering principles to specific life science disciplines.

However, only Bioengineering reaches across the boundaries of nearly every scientific and engineering major available at the University of Washington.

Diagram describing how bioengineering integrates other scientific and engineering disciplines

Still interested in Bioengineering?

Here are eight questions to find out if our program is right for you.

    1. Solving open-ended problems: Do you want to develop novel solutions to challenging, real-world problems?
    2. Quantitative approach: Are you interested in employing quantitative tools, including simulation and mathematical modeling?
    3. Biology, health & medicine: Are you interested in solving problems in biology, health and medicine to improve human lives?
    4. Independent research & design: Are you eager to conduct cutting-edge independent research and design projects (in vitro, in vivo or in silico) mentored by leading bioengineers?
    5. Hands-on learning: Do you enjoy learning by doing, through labs, projects and research?
    6. Team-based problem solving: Do you enjoy working with smart, mature and diverse team members to solve problems creatively?
    7. Broad knowledge: Are you excited by the prospect of acquiring broad knowledge spanning engineering and the physical and biological sciences?
    8. Cohort experience: Are you excited to progress sequentially through a core curriculum with a cohesive, talented cohort of BioE peers?

If you answered yes to all the above questions, then Bioengineering at UW may be perfect for you! Do not hesitate to contact us to learn more.