Frequently Asked Questions
The answers below will help you discover more about a cutting edge approach to engineering—one that can be applied in the areas of medicine, the environment, or foods in rapidly growing fields such as biomedical engineering, biotechnology, biofuels, environmental engineering, water resources, food safety, biodegradable plastics, and more. Biological Systems Engineering will provide the interesting and challenging education you are looking for. Multidisciplinary in nature, this field of study allows you to search for the answers to engineering problems through research, team work, and inquiry.
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1. What does a Biological Systems Engineer do?
This depends on the emphasis area you select as an undergraduate. If one follows the biomedical engineering emphasis for example, you could be in medical school or practicing medicine; working on a medical device for a company such as Baxter (artificial heart manufacturer); designing a better shoe for Nike; or in graduate school doing research on heart disease. Those who chose environmental and water resources engineering likely would be working for an engineering consulting firm restoring streams and lakes, designing new drinking water treatment systems, or in graduate school studying improved methods of removing arsenic from drinking water supplies. The food and bioproducts emphasis has alumni involved in the production of pharmaceuticals, foods, and alternate fuels such as ethanol in companies such as Pfizer, ConAgra Foods, and Cargill, respectively.
2. What does the future of Biological Systems Engineering look like?
It looks very, very bright! The U. S. Department of Labor reports that overall job growth in biomedical engineering will average 15.2 percent through the end of the decade. The number of environmental engineering jobs is expected to grow by 54% during that time period. Worldwide, there is a shortage of food and bioprocessing engineers.
3. What is the most enjoyable aspect about being a Biological Systems Engineer?
Alumni indicate that they most enjoy seeing the fruits of their labor - for example, a successfully designed prosthetic device for a disabled veteran, a cleaner stream or lake, an improved low calorie food product, or an alternative energy supply for a community. Solving problems, developing ideas, equipment and working with people make this career very, very satisfying.
4. Is there a typical work environment for a Biological Systems Engineer?
Not really; Biological Systems Engineers work in a variety of environments ranging from clinical and office settings to outdoor projects around the world. A desirable aspect of the career, according to our graduates, is that the work environment varies and provides new challenges every day.
5. What salary range might a Biological Systems Engineer expect when beginning this career?
If working for a large corporation in an urban area, a beginning biological systems engineer might expect an annual salary of about $55,000. That salary will usually rise once licensure as a professional engineer has been attained. Working for a small company has many advantages that a large company can't offer, but the salaries are usually lower. The potential earnings over a lifetime will be determined by many factors, such as region, type of employment, and whether one chooses a managerial track or stays on the engineering staff.
6. What academic strengths does a student need to become a Biological Systems Engineer?
Mathematics and science form the basic underlying principles in all of engineering. So, first and foremost, one must be comfortable working with math and science to be successful in any engineering program. Biological Systems Engineering is unique, however, in its use of the biological sciences in addition to physics and chemistry. Thus, an interest in basic biology and subjects such as genetics, physiology, microbiology, or ecology is very helpful.
7. Where does the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at UNL rank nationally?
Nebraska's BSE Department is consistently regarded as one of the top six departments in the U.S. because of the success of its alumni and the reputation of its faculty for high quality teaching, advising, and research. In 2011, the Department recieved the the J.E. Lagerstrom Outstanding Department from the College of Engineering.
8. How soon, on average, do your students find jobs?
Most students secure employment before they graduate and have multiple job offers from which to choose. Others wait until graduation to decide between employment or graduate education. Some choose to travel abroad before seeking employment. Almost without exception within three to six months, graduates are working or pursuing graduate or professional study in their field of interest.
9. Is BSEN a small or large program?
BSEN is a mid-sized program within the College of Engineering (CoE) at Nebraska. BSEN class sizes range from about 70 in the freshman year to between 20 and 40 in the elective courses of the junior and senior years.
10. How many students graduate from Biological Systems Engineering?
Over the past five years, an average of 30 students graduated per year. Most graduates were typically able to complete the major in four years from the time he or she started the major.
11. Do students have the opportunity to be involved in research projects?
Yes, students have excellent opportunities to perform research in BSEN and related areas. A number of students work with BSEN professors on UCARE research projects. Others work part-time in research laboratories in BSEN and elsewhere on campus, for example in the Dental College and the Beadle Center for Biotechnology.
12. Can I study abroad as part of my program in Biological Systems Engineering?
Absolutely! Study abroad is encouraged in BSEN and, in most cases, academic credit for study abroad can be counted toward your graduation requirements. BSEN students have the advantage of participating not only in the study abroad program of the College of Engineering but also in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
13. Does your department offer scholarships for Biological Systems Engineering?
Our department has a long and proud record of helping students at all levels secure scholarships for their education. Because of donor restrictions, the majority of these funds are used for upper-class scholarships. Approximately 50 students in the department are awarded a scholarship each year. Incoming freshmen generally rely on UNL, College of Engineering and/or other local and national sources of financial aid.