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Bioengineering Degree Programs

Bioengineering is a discipline that applies engineering principles to analyze and design transformative biological and biomedical technologies. The Bioengineering major at UC Merced equips students with skills necessary for successful careers in health care, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, bioinstrumentation, food, and agriculture and in allied fields of government and policy.  Bioengineers are in high demand in industries such as health care, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, bioinstrumentation, food, and agriculture. The bioengineering undergraduate degree also provides a solid foundation for medical and graduate schools and for careers in allied fields of government and policy. Bioengineering has led to the development of biocompatible implants, functional prostheses, sensitive diagnostics, precision medicines, sustainable agriculture, scalable biomanufacturing, and tools that have accelerated the pace of research and development in biomedicine. Bioengineers thus contribute solutions to key challenges that effect human health and the well-being of society.

Learn more about our Bioengineering Program Learning Outcomes.

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Research Areas

Molecular and Cell Biophysics focuses on the structural, quantitative and functional characterization of biomolecules, including proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids, and their complex interactions, in vitro and in their cellular, tissular and/or organismal context with the final goal of elucidating the fundamental mechanisms of life.

Synthetic Molecular and Cell Biology focuses on the design and engineering of custom biomolecules, assemblies, cellular structures, and biological devices with applications in biomedical research, drug design, healthcare, sustainable energy production, and bioremediation.

Biological Imaging and Spectroscopy utilizes or develops advanced technologies to obtain, analyze and display images and/or structural and mechanistic information of biological systems at the molecular, cellular, tissue, and organismal levels.

Biological Modeling and Simulation involves the development and application of mathematical models, computational methods and simulations to describe complex biological phenomena with the goals of understanding the dynamics of biological systems and harnessing the capability of designing them.

Visit our Bioengineering graduate website for more research areas

Potential Careers

Genetic engineers rework genetic material to make organisms healthier and more efficient. They directly manipulate an organism’s genes using molecular tools to rearrange fragments of DNA. By altering those structural elements, genetic engineers can make a plant more resistant to disease or pests or modify bacteria to carry drugs to targeted tissues. While genetic engineers spend the majority of their time working in laboratories, they’re employed by universities, pharmaceutical companies, and the federal government.

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Biopharmaceutical specialists discover, design, manufacture, and commercialize protein-derived biotechnology products that include antibodies, vaccines, biosimilars, and cellular immunotherapies. Biopharmaceutical specialists can work at either end of the corporate scale—from the small startup firm to the multinational conglomerate.

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Biomedical engineers explore the intersection of living and mechanical processes. They design products such as artificial limbs, internal organs, devices that regulate insulin, and laser systems that can be used in corrective eye surgery, helping people to see, hear, and walk again. Biomedical engineers can work in variety of settings, from hospitals, to research facilities or the commercial industry.

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Biomedical and medical scientists conduct research intended to improve overall human health. They can design and conduct studies to investigate human disease, standardize drug delivery methods for mass manufacturing and distribution, or develop programs with health departments to improve overall patient outcomes. Biomedical researchers are largely funded by the federal government, but private pharmaceutical companies also employ a significant percentage.

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Bioinformatics merges biological science and computer science. As the complexity and scope of biological understanding continues to grow, so does the complexity of the tools necessary to analyze it. Modern day bioinformatics specialists take massive amounts of biological data—comparing multiple genes and their mutations, for example—and derive applicable insights from it through computational means. Whether developing the tools that mine the data, or analyzing the veracity of the results, this requires not only an understanding of biological processes, but also of statistical analysis, mathematics, and computer science.

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Biomanufacturing produces a wide range of biobased products for the emerging global bioeconomy. Biomanufacturing begins with bioprospecting – the discovery and commercialization of new products based on biologic resources. Bio-manufactured products range from biopharmaceuticals to industrial enzymes, human tissues and replacement organs, biofuels, ‘green’ chemicals and green products to replace those derived from petroleum.

Biotechnology is used in many ways in agriculture. Agricultural biotechnology companies work to supply farmers with tools to increase the yield of plant and animal products, while lowering the costs of production. Agricultural biotechnology can also include production of plants such as orchids for ornamental purposes and plants that can be used for fuel production (biofuels). To accomplish these goals, biotechnologists develop products to protect animals and crops from disease and help farmers identify the best animals and seeds to use in selective breeding programs.

Environmental biotechnology is the development, use, and regulation of biological systems to both repair contaminated environments and establish environment-friendly processes. Those in the field of environmental biotechnology look for natural solutions to environmental hazards; examples include producing biogas from food waste, remotely detecting landmines through bacterial sensors, or remediating the health and biodiversity of the area affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Our increasingly global food supply has increased the potential spread and harm from food-borne disease. Biotechnology methods are being applied in the food industry to identify pathogens and harmful chemical additives and locating their source. These methods are also used when the identity of the food itself is difficult to determine. Meat and fish for example are hard to identify once cuts have been prepared for consumption. Techniques like DNA barcoding, where DNA is isolated from the substance and sequenced, help investigators determine if the samples are correctly identified and if they were obtained illegally or poached.

Clinical Research Coordinators make sure new medicines are safe through rigorous clinical trials and sound scientific research practices. They screen clinical trial patients, develop research programs, or oversee an entire laboratory’s administrative procedures and policies. Clinical research coordinators usually work with large hospitals or independent research centers, but they can also work at an executive level in designing a pharmaceutical company’s overall strategy, or budgeting resources for projects that meet both fiscal demands and regulatory standards.

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