Biological systems engineering

Biological systems engineering or biosystems engineering is a broad-based engineering discipline with particular emphasis on biology and chemistry. It can be thought of as a subset of the broader notion of biological engineering or bio-technology though not in the respects that pertain to biomedical engineering as biosystems engineering tends to focus less on medical applications than on agriculture, ecosystems, and food science. It involves aspects of genetic engineering, particularly regarding the agricultural applications. The discipline focuses broadly on environmentally sound and sustainable engineering solutions to meet societies' ecologically-related needs. Biosystems engineering integrates the expertise of fundamental engineering fields with expertise from non-engineering disciplines.

Some biological molecular machines

Background and organization

Many college and university biological engineering departments have a history of being grounded in agricultural engineering and have only in the past two decades or so changed their names to reflect the movement towards more diverse biological based engineering programs.[1][2] This major is sometimes called agricultural and biological engineering, biological and environmental engineering, etc., in different universities, generally reflecting interests of local employment opportunities.

Since biological engineering covers a wide spectrum, many departments now offer specialization options. Depending on the department and the specialization options offered within each program, curricula may overlap with other related fields. There are a number of different titles for BSE-related departments at various universities. The professional societies commonly associated with many Biological Engineering programs include the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE)[3] and the Institute of Biological Engineering (IBE),[4] which generally encompasses BSE. Some program also participate in the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) [5] and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).[6]

A biological systems engineer has a background in what both environmental engineers and biologists do, thus bridging the gap between engineering and the (non-medical) biological sciences – although this is variable across academic institutions. For this reason, biological systems engineers are becoming integral parts of many environmental engineering firms, federal agencies, and biotechnology industries. A biological systems engineer will often address the solution to a problem from the perspective of employing living systems to enact change. For example, biological treatment methodologies can be applied to provide access to clean drinking water [7] or for sequestration of carbon dioxide.[8]


Academic programs in agricultural and biological systems engineering

Below is a listing of known academic programs that offer bachelor's degrees (B.S. or B.S.E.) in what ABET terms "agricultural engineering", "biological systems engineering", "biological engineering", or similarly named programs. ABET accredits college and university programs in the disciplines of applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.

North America

InstitutionDepartmentWeb site
Auburn UniversityBiosystems
CalPoly San Louis ObispoBioResource and Agricultural
Clemson UniversityBiosystems Engineering
Cornell UniversityBiological and Environmental
Dalhousie UniversityDepartment of Engineering (Agricultural Campus)
Florida A&M UniversityBiological Systems Engineering
Iowa State UniversityAgricultural and Biosystems
Kansas State UniversityBiological and Agricultural
Louisiana State UniversityBiological and Agricultural
McGill UniversityDepartment of Bioresource
Michigan State UniversityBiosystems and Agricultural
Mississippi State UniversityAgricultural and Biological
North Carolina State UniversityBiological and Agricultural
North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State UniversityChemical, Biological and Bioengineering
North Dakota State UniversityAgricultural and Biosystems
Ohio State UniversityFood, Agricultural and Biological
Oklahoma State UniversityBiosystems and Agricultural
Oregon State UniversityBiological & Ecological Engineering
Penn State UniversityAgricultural and Biosystems
Purdue UniversityAgricultural and Biological
South Dakota State UniversityAgricultural and Biosystems
Texas A&M UniversityBiological and Agricultural
University of ArizonaAgricultural and Biosystems
University of ArkansasBiological and Agricultural
University of California, DavisBiological and Agricultural
University of California, San DiegoBioengineering:
University of FloridaAgricultural and Biological
University of GeorgiaAgricultural Engineering / Biological
University of IdahoBiological and Agricultural
University of IllinoisAgricultural and Biological
University of KentuckyBiosystems and Agricultural
University of Nebraska-LincolnBiological Systems
University of ManitobaBiosystems Engineering
University of MinnesotaBioproducts and Biosystems
University of MissouriBiological
University of SaskatchewanBiosystems Engineering and Soil
University of TennesseeBiosystems Engineering & Soil
University of WisconsinBiological Systems
Utah State UniversityBiological
Virginia Polytechnic UniversityBiological Systems
Washington State UniversityBiological Systems

Central and South America

InstitutionDepartmentWeb site
Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, MexicoIrrigation
National University of ColombiaAgricultural
University of Campinas, BrazilAgricultural
University of São Paulo, BrazilBiosystems


InstitutionDepartmentWeb site
Polytechnic University of Catalonia, SpainBiosystems Engineering
Ankara University, TurkeyAgricultural
Atatürk University, TurkeyAgricultural Structures and
Harran University, TurkeyAgricultural
Harran University, TurkeyAgricultural Structures and
Leibniz University Hannover, GermanyBiosystems and Horticultural Engineering,
KU Leuven, BelgiumDepartment of
University College Dublin, IrelandBiosystems
University of Hohenheim, GermanyInstitute of Agricultural
Hamburg University of Technology, GermanyInstitute of Bioprocess and Biosystems


InstitutionDepartmentWeb site
China Agricultural UniversityAgricultural
Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, ChinaAgricultural Soil and Water
Shanghai Jiaotong University, ChinaBiological Engineering; Food Science and
Xi’an Jiaotong University, ChinaEnergy and Power
Yunnan Agricultural University, ChinaAgricultural Water-Soil
Zhejiang University, ChinaBiosystems Engineering and Food

See also


  1. For example the Department of Biological Systems Engineering Archived 2004-04-01 at the Wayback Machine. at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University was established as agricultural engineering in 1920, and renamed in 1992 to reflect new focus areas in the teaching, research and extension programs.
  2. The Department of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln began within Mechanical Engineering, awarded its first degree in Agricultural Engineering in 1908, and changed its name to Biological Systems Engineering in 1990.
  3. Website American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
  4. Website Institute of Biological Engineers
  5. Website Biomedical Engineering Society,
  6. Website American Institute of Chemical Engineers,
  7. Website Biological approaches for addressing the grand challenge of providing access to clean drinking water
  8. Website Addressing the Grand Challenge of atmospheric carbon dioxide: geologic sequestration vs. biological recycling

Further reading

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