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Graduate Studies Overview


Biological Systems Engineering (EBS) is the branch of engineering that builds strongly on biology as a scientific base. In the coming age of biology and biotechnology, engineers will be needed to work side by side with life scientists to bring laboratory developments into commercial production. Industries in plant and animal production, tissue culture, bioprocessing, biotechnology, food processing, aquaculture, agriculture, and forest production will all need engineers with strong training in biology. Concern for our environment is opening new engineering opportunities as society strives to maintain a balance within the biosphere.

"Biological Engineering is an interdisciplinary area focusing on the application of engineering principles to analyzing biological systems (plant, animal, or microbial) and to solving problems in the interfacing of such systems with machines, structures, processes, and instrumentation" -David J. Hills, 2000, Former Department Chair

The program belongs to both the College of Engineering and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and is within the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department. As of 1992, the program focused exclusively on Agricultural Engineering, but was expanded to the current focus as the development of biotechnology necessitated skilled biological engineers. The program is the highest rated engineering program at UC Davis according to US News, ranking 4th for undergraduate and 7th for graduate studies in 2019.

Undergraduate Program (B.S.)

In the freshman and sophomore years, the Biological Systems Engineering major requires sequences of courses in mathematicsphysicschemistry, 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). 

In the junior and senior years, the Biological Systems Engineering major requires courses that focus on the integration of biology and physical sciences with engineering. Depending on your area of specialization, students may select elective courses from three areas specializations:

1) Biotechnology Engineering: 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.

2) Agricultural and Natural Resources Engineering: 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.

3) Food Engineering: 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. 

Students may also develop their own specialization in consultation with your adviser. The upper division requirements are listed following the areas of specialization.  

Many students in the major can be frequently found pulling all-nighters in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Computer lab in 3026 Bainer.

Graduate Programs (M.S, M.E., Ph.D, D.E.)

Two Master's degrees are available to graduate students in Biological Systems Engineering. Programs for Master of Science (M.S) emphasize the science or research features of engineering and are intended to provide the student with abilities to assist with furtherance of the fundamental knowledge of engineering. Programs for the Master of Engineering (M.Eng) emphasize design, analysis, economics, management, and/or labor, and are intended to assist the student with training that is useful to the professional engineer.

Two doctoral degrees are available to graduate students in Biological Systems Engineering. Programs for the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) emphasize the science or research features of engineering and are intended to provide the student with abilities to assist with furtherance of the fundamental knowledge of engineering. Doctor of Engineering (D.E.) programs emphasize design, analysis, economics, management, and/or labor, and are intended to assist the student with training useful to the professional engineer.


UC Davis biological systems engineering majors are well prepared for careers in industry, government and academia. Graduates work in areas as diverse as aquaculture plant design, biotechnology process development, and rehabilitation of disturbed ecosystems. The premedical/biomedical engineering specialization is designed specifically for students planning to attend medical school after graduation or to work in the biomedical industries.

Employers of BAE alumni and their disciplines are listed below:

Agricultural Engineering: ADVENT Engineering Services, Lucid Automation and Security, SyCal Engineering, Inc., Banks Integration, Case New Holland, Trimble

Biotechnical Engineering: Genentech, BioMarin, Agilent Technologies, Biogen,  Dupont Biosciences, Roche Molecular Systems, Bayer CropScience, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Full Cycle Bioplastics, Industrial Microbes, Zymergen, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Pacific Biosciences, Aurora Algae, Amgen, Biofiltro, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Boehringer Ingelheim, Chamness Biodegradables, Mango Materials, Anaerobe Systems, Inc., Grifols, Novozymes, ZeaChem, Inc.

Food Engineering: PepsiCo, E&J Gallo Winery, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Once Upon a Farm, Blentech Corporations, Diamond Foods Inc., Hillmar Cheese, The Morning Star Company, Bolthouse Farms

Natural Resources/ Environmental Engineering: California Department of Water Resources, Water Systems Consulting, Arcadis, California Air Resources Board, USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Services, CH2M Hill, US Forest Service, Terraphase Engineering

Biomedical EngineeringKaiser Permanente, Palo Alto Medical, St. Jude Medical, Intuitive Surgical, ACIST Medical Systems, UCSF Fresno Family Medicine, Advanced Cell Diagnostics, Cresilon, Inc.

Graduate SchoolCornell University, Purdue University, Johns Hopkins, UC Davis, UC San Diego, Texas A&M Vet School, Iowa State Vet School, Ross University School of Medicine, Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine, UC Irvine, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Rochester, Colorado State University, UC San Francisco, UC Davis School of Medicine

Academia: Auburn University, UC Davis, Penn State, NC State, University of Portland, Chalmer's University of Technology, University of Albany, Massey University, North Carolina State University, Silpakorn University (Thailand), NC A&T University

Clubs & Organizations

The Department is home to multiple clubs and organizations:


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