Engineering Biological Systems Engineering

Quick points
Attribute Value
College: Engineering
Degree Offered: Bachelor of Science in Biological Systems Engineering
Hours Required: 133
Minimum Cumulative GPA: 2.4 for graduation
Minor Available: No
  1. Intro

Biological Systems Engineering

COLLEGE: Engineering

MAJOR: Biological Systems Engineering

DEGREE OFFERED: Bachelor of Science in Biological Systems Engineering


MINIMUM CUMULATIVE GPA: 2.4 for graduation




Department of Biological Systems Engineering

Head: Mark Riley

Professors: Dvorak, Hoy, Irmak, Jones, Koelsch, Kranz, Martin, Meyer, Weller, Wolstad, Yang, Yoder

Associate Professors: Bashford, Franti, D. Keshwani, Kocher, Liska, Othman, Pannier, Stowell, Subbiah, Woldt

Assistant Professors: Ge, Gilmore, Haghverdi, Heeren, Iverson, J. Keshwani, Luck, Munoz-Arriola, Pitla, Rudnick, Schmidt

Assistant Professor of Practice: Mabie

Lecturer: Heithold


Biological systems engineering (BSEN) is one of two engineering degree programs offered in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. BSEN students emphasize engineering course work in one of three areas; biomedical engineering, bioenergy and food engineering, or environmental and water resources engineering. A biological systems engineer could work on systems to micropropagate tissue culture, develop biomaterials and biofibers, design equipment and processes for producing foods and biofuels, or design devices for performing minimally invasive surgery. Still another could be responsible for developing biological sensors and imaging devices for detecting diseases in humans, for measuring plant and animal stress, or for controlling the environment of greenhouses and animal facilities. Biological systems engineers could also be involved in resolving environmental issues associated with waste management, water quality and sustainable energy production. Job opportunities for graduates are available in industry, public agencies, consulting, and private practice. A significant number of graduates pursue graduate school or studies in medical or law school.

By two to six years after graduation, BSEN alumni will share the attribute of improving the organization for which they work, and the community and country in which they live. They will do this whether they are involved in biomedical engineering, environmental or water resources engineering, bioenergy and food engineering, or other professional endeavors such as business, law or medicine. In doing so, they will:

  • provide innovative and effective solutions to problems in a variety of work environments through the use of their unique background in biological systems engineering and the biological sciences;
  • look beyond components in isolation thereby providing holistic solutions to complex issues involving (for example) interactions at the ecosystem, organism, organ, cellular or subcellular level;
  • think logically using appropriate elements of mathematics, science, and engineering to develop, manage, and interpret data, to correctly interpret new research findings, and to design new systems for the benefit of society;
  • successfully integrate technical knowledge with organizational, listening, communication, and interpersonal skills to lead and work effectively in teams, and to respectfully articulate the role of engineering decisions in the workplace, community, and world;
  • responsibly address issues such as health and safety, personal and professional ethics, cultural diversity, as well as the social, environmental, and global impacts of their work; and
  • continue their personal growth, professional development, and professional and community service through various opportunities provided by institutions, professional organizations and other venues.

The Department of Biological Systems Engineering is located in Chase Hall on East Campus. BSEN students participate in classes and laboratories on both the East and City Campuses. BSEN courses are offered on the East Campus. Basic courses in math, chemistry, physics, engineering sciences, computers, and electives in mechanical, civil, electrical, and chemical engineering are taken on the City Campus. Convenient bus transportation is available between campuses.

Students benefit from small classes and personal acquaintances with faculty. In consultation with their advisor, students select electives that permit specialization in an emphasis area applicable to their career aspirations. Many students work part-time on departmental research projects, gaining valuable experience for employment in industry and for graduate or professional studies. Students also benefit from summer jobs, internships and co-op programs. These opportunities give students practical experience to learn about careers in engineering. Students also gain valuable experience through participation in professional organizations such as the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, the Water and Environmental Federation, the Soil and Water Resources Club, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Nebraska Society of Professional Engineers and the Society for Women Engineers.


Pre-professionally admitted COE students majoring in biological systems engineering (BSEN) have their records examined for advancement to professionally admitted status during the fall, spring, and summer immediately following the term in which 43 or more credits applicable to the BSEN degree have been completed. Students must be professionally admitted in order to enroll in AGEN 470/BSEN 470.

To be professionally admitted to BSEN, the student must first meet the general Professional Admission criteria of the College of Engineering (i.e., completion of at least one semester in the College, a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or greater, and not having been already declined admission by two other engineering majors). BSEN Professional Admission criteria require consistent grades of C or better in calculus, calculus-based physics, chemistry, communications, and engineering science courses. Specifically, the student must have completed MECH 223 and AGEN 225/BSEN 225 or BSEN 244 with grades of a C or better to gain Professional Admission to BSEN. In addition, the student must complete the AGEN/BSEN Writing Assessment Exam (i.e., Grammar Slammer) before Professional Admission is granted.

Students who meet the above criteria with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or greater with all grades above a C in UNL mathematics, science, engineering, and communications courses, and scoring 70 percent or higher on the AGEN/BSEN Writing Assessment Exam may be professionally admitted without further review by Department faculty. Students scoring less than 70 percent on the AGEN/BSEN Writing Assessment Exam must agree to a writing improvement plan with their academic advisor in order to be granted Professional Admission. Students not meeting the 3.0 GPA standard, or having grades below a C in the listed areas, will have their record reviewed by Department faculty for evidence of ability to succeed in BSEN. Under special circumstances, the Department may elect to defer Professional Admission for an additional term.

The Department faculty may recommend provisional admission and specify deficiencies and performance criteria to transition out of provisional status. If a student has not met the admission criteria and has not, in the opinion of the Department faculty demonstrated a minimum standard of good professional judgment in the pursuit of their academic program as expected of degreed engineers, they may be denied Professional Admission to the degree program. The student may appeal this decision to the BSE Department Head and then, if necessary, to the College of Engineering Curriculum and Academic Standards Committee.


Specific Major Requirements

First Semester

BSEN 100 Introduction to Biological Engineering & Agricultural Engineering (AGEN 100)1

CHEM 113 Fundamental Chemistry I4

CHEM 109 may be substituted with permission of advisor.

ENGR 10 Freshman Engineering Seminar0

MATH 106 Calculus I5

ACE Electives6

Choose one course from not yet satisfied ACE outcomes 5, 6, 7, or 9.


Second Semester

BSEN 112 Computer-Aided Problem-Solving (AGEN 112)2

CHEM 114 Fundamental Chemistry II3

CHEM 110 (4 cr) may be substituted with permission of advisor.

MATH 107 Calculus II4

PHYS 211 General Physics I4

Organizational Skills Elective3

Choose from a list of 40+ courses available from advisor.


Third Semester

BSEN 225 Engineering Properties of Biological Materials (AGEN 225)3

CHEM 251 & CHEM 253 or CHEM 255 & CHEM 257 or CHEM 261 & CHEM 263 Organic Chemistry & Lab4

ENGR 20 Sophomore Engineering Seminar0

JGEN 200 Technical Communication I3

MATH 208 Calculus III4

MECH 223 Engineering Statics3


Fourth Semester

BSEN 130 Computer-Aided Design (CIVE 130)2

BSEN 244 Thermodynamics of Living Systems3

LIFE 120 & LIFE 120L Fundamentals of Biology I & Lab4

MATH 221 Differential Equations3

MECH 373 Engineering Dynamics3

Computer Programming Elective1

Choose from: BSEN 212A, BSEN 212B, BSEN 212E


Fifth Semester

LIFE 121 & LIFE 121L Fundamentals of Biology II & Lab4

CIVE 310 Fluid Mechanics (MECH 310) or CHME 332 Transport Operations I3

MECH 321 Engineering Statistics & Data Analysis or MATH 380 Statistics & Applications (STAT 380)3

PHYS 212 General Physics II4

BSEN Emphasis Elective3


Sixth Semester

BIOC 321 Elements of Biochemistry or BIOC 431 Structure & Metabolism3

BSEN 344 Biological & Environmental Transport Processes (AGEN 344)3

ACE Elective3

Choose one course from not yet satisfied ACE outcomes 5, 6, 7, or 9.

BSEN Emphasis Elective3

ELEC 211 Elements of Electrical Engineering I3

Oral Communication Elective3

Choose one from: ALEC 102, COMM 209, COMM 210, COMM 283, COMM 286, ENGR 100, GERM 303, JAPN 202, JGEN 300, RUSS 304, SPAN 303


Seventh Semester

BSEN 206 Engineering Economics (CONE 206)3

BSEN 460 Instrumentation & Controls (AGEN 460)3

BSEN 470 Design I in Agricultural & Biological Systems Engineering (AGEN 470)1

ACE Elective3

Choose one course from not yet satisfied ACE outcomes 5, 6, 7, or 9.

BSEN Emphasis Elective3

Engineering or Science Emphasis Elective3


Eighth Semester

BSEN 480 Design II in Agricultural & Biological Systems Engineering (AGEN 480)3

ENGR 400 Professional Ethics & Social Responsibilities1

Biological Science Electives4

BIOS 203 is not acceptable; a minimum of two BIOS, BIOC or equivalent laboratory courses, or two courses with laboratories, is required within the 15 hrs of biological sciences and biochemistry courses

BSEN Emphasis Elective3

Engineering or Science Emphasis Elective3

Engineering Emphasis Elective3


Total Credit Hours Required133

Emphasis Area Requirements

An emphasis area requires a student to take 21 hours of engineering and science-based courses. A minimum of 15 hours must be selected from courses offered by the College of Engineering. Within the 15 hours, a minimum of 12 hours must be BSEN courses or engineering courses crosslisted with BSEN. Of the BSEN or BSEN crosslisted courses, one must be a 300-level course of a primary emphasis area, one must be a 300-level course of a secondary emphasis area and one must be a 400-level course of a primary emphasis area. Water and Environment emphasis requires BSEN 350 and either BSEN 326 or BSEN 355, Bioenergy and Food emphasis requires BSEN 303, and Biomedical emphasis requires BSEN 317 as primary emphasis area courses.

BSEN Primary Emphasis Area Courses

Bioenergy and Food

BSEN 303 Principles of Process Engineering (AGEN 303)

BSEN 444 Biomass & Bioenergy Engineering and BSEN 446 Unit Operations of Biological Processing (AGEN 446)


BSEN 317 Introduction to Biomedical Engineering

BSEN 311 Biomedical Signal & System Analysis or BSEN 414 Medical Imaging Systems or BSEN 416 Introduction to Biomaterials or BSEN 418 Tissue Engineering

Water and Environment

BSEN 326 Introduction to Environmental Engineering (CIVE 326) or BSEN 355 Introduction to Ecological Engineering

BSEN 350 Soil & Water Resources Engineering (AGEN 350)

BSEN 441 Animal Waste Management (AGEN 441) or BSEN 453 Irrigation & Drainage Systems Engineering (AGEN 453) or BSEN 455 Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Engineering (CIVE 455) or BSEN 458 Groundwater Engineering (CIVE 458)


Grade Rules

A grade of C- or better is required for all Biological Systems Engineering required courses and electives that are to count toward graduation, with the exception of ACE 5, 6, 7, and 9 electives.

Bulletin to Use

In addition to the “Bulletin Rule” of the College of Engineering, students transferring into the Department of Biological Systems Engineering must follow the bulletin in effect at the time of their transfer into the department.


College Admission

College Admission

College Entrance Requirements

Students must have high school credit for (one unit is equal to one high school year):

1. 4 units of mathematics: 2 of algebra, 1 of geometry, 1 of precalculus and trigonometry.

2. 4 units of English.

3. 3 units of natural science that must include 1 unit of physics and 1 unit of chemistry (chemistry requirement waived for students in construction management).

4. 2 units of a single foreign language.

5. 3 units of social studies.

6. Students having a composite ACT score of 28 or greater (or equivalent SAT score) will be admitted to the College of Engineering even if they lack any one of the following: trigonometry, chemistry, or physics.

7. Students having an ACT score of 19 or less in English (or equivalent SAT score) must take ENGL 150 or ENGL 151.

A total of 16 units is required for admission.

Students must have an ACT (enhanced) score of 24 or greater (or equivalent SAT). Students who lack entrance requirements may be admitted based on ACT scores, high school rank and credits, or may be admitted to pre-engineering status in the Exploratory and Pre-Professional Advising Center. Pre-engineering students are advised within the College of Engineering.

Students for whom English is not their language of nurture must meet the minimum English proficiency requirements of the University.

Students who lack entrance units may complete precollege training by Independent Study through the UNL Office of On-line and Distance Education, in summer courses, or as a part of their first or second semester course loads while in the Exploratory and Pre-Professional Advising Center or other Colleges at UNL.

Students should consult their advisor, their department chair, or the Office of the Dean if they have questions on current policies.

Other Admission Requirements

Students who transfer to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln from other accredited colleges or universities and wish to be admitted to the College of Engineering (COE) must meet COE freshman entrance requirements and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 for Nebraska residents or 3.0 for non-residents. Students not meeting either of these requirements must enroll in the Explore Center or another UNL college until they meet COE admission requirements.

The COE accepts courses for transfer for which a C or better grade was received. Although UNL accepts D grades from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and at Omaha, not all majors in the COE accept such low grades. Students must conform to the requirements of their intended major and, in any case, are strongly encouraged to repeat courses with a grade of C- or less.

All transfer students must adopt the curricular requirements of the undergraduate bulletin current at the time of transfer to the COE—not that in use when they entered UNL. Upon admission to UNL, students wishing to pursue degree programs in the COE will be classified and subject to the policies defined in the subsequent section.

College Degree Requirements

Grade Rules

Grade Appeals

In the event of a dispute involving any college policies or grades, the student should appeal to his/her instructor, and appropriate department chair or school director (in that order). If a satisfactory solution is not achieved, the student may appeal his/her case through the College Academic Appeals Committee on his/her campus.

Bulletin Rule

Students must fulfill the requirements stated in the bulletin for the academic year in which they are first admitted at UNL. In consultation with advisors, a student may choose to follow a subsequent bulletin for any academic year in which they are admitted to and enrolled as a degree-seeking student at UNL in the College of Engineering. Students must complete all degree requirements from a single bulletin year. The bulletin which a student follows for degree requirements may not be more than 10 years old at the time of graduation.


This is the site for old bulletin data. Please head to UNL's Course Catalog for updated course and program information.