How I Chose My Track

Every BIOE student must select a track focus for their final two years of study. Each track requires 15 hours of credit, so it is important to talk with your advisor about your track considerations to ensure you are taking the correct prerequisites for each track.

Read below to find how various students decided which track to pursue.

Imaging and Sensing Track

Imaging and Sensing Track on BIOE website

“Imaging and Sensing isn’t the typical pre-med BIOE track. However, it felt like the right fit for me and my interests. As a freshman, the research labs that seemed the most interesting to me all involved imaging, and my ECE 110 course freshman year helped deepen my interest in the field. I was interested in the positions available in industry for electrical engineers as a freshman and sophomore before I decided for sure to pursue pre-medicine, so Imaging and Sensing seemed like a practical choice in that regard. My research work in the Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory also deepened my interest in the field. I refined my interest in imaging to image processing with courses like Digital Signal Processing (ECE 310/311; highly recommend to take 311 lab with the 310 course) and Multimedia Signal Processing (ECE 417). Challenges: the courses are difficult. You will learn a lot, but that will come with sweat and tears. Benefits: You will develop very marketable skills for industry positions, and pain builds community in ECE. Also, for my medical school application, it gave me a unique research interest to talk about in the field of medicine, although do keep in mind that keeping a high GPA is pretty essential for medical school applications. And yes, I like math, imaginary numbers, and random Greek letters.”

Elisabeth Martin ’22
Oscilloscope reading of AM radio receiver to understand frequency domain and filtering in ECE 210

Building an EMG Circuit in BIOE 415

“Similarly to the majority of the bioengineering students in my class, when I first joined the bioengineering department I decided to pursue the cell and tissue engineering track. However, throughout the course of my freshman year, I found myself disinterested in such lab work that my other bioengineering classmates had a passion for. In contrast, I instead wanted to pursue a different path that would allow me to work on more project developments instead. This was mostly due to my highschool experiences with several engineering projects that first sparked my interest to pursue engineering. These reasons combined with my interest in medical devices and the aspects of biotechnology encouraged me to pursue the imaging and sensing track. I would definitely say that for my specific track the information that I learned thus far was intellectually appealing and interesting. Primarily the courses I have taken in the track merge with ECE courses allowing me to gain knowledge from both bioengineering and electrical engineering. In particular, ECE 110 and 210 allowed me to gain a stronger understanding of the field through lab experience and electrical engineering projects. However, I have faced issues with the specific track due to the required courses needed. Due to the necessary knowledge needed for high level electrical engineering courses that would have to be taken sometime before graduation, there can be difficulty in completing such prerequisites while also pursuing bioengineering requirements as well. Thus far though, the imaging and sensing track has been intellectually stimulating and incredibly useful as I plan out my plans for after graduation. After graduation, I plan to pursue jobs in the R&D engineering field with primarily focusing on jobs that incorporate project development with medical devices and biotechnology.”

Anish Peruri ’23

“Within Bioengineering, I chose to do the Imaging and Sensing track because I had minimal Electrical Engineering experience, wanted a challenge, and found signal processing interesting. I was able to learn not only more about signal processing, but fields & waves and analyzing / building circuits as well! With the Imaging and Sensing track, I minored in ECE. Additionally, I minored in Spanish as well because I love the language and the culture surrounding it in many different countries. Currently, I work for Abbott as a Clinical Associate in their Cardiac Rhythm Management division. I serve as a clinical interface between the patients and doctors with implantable cardiac rhythm management devices including pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), and implantable cardiac monitors (ICMs). This entails working in hospitals and clinics with doctors, nurses, patients, and techs in the Cath / Electrophysiology Lab during the implant of CRM devices and programming them appropriately.”

Vicky Krummick ’21
Computational and Systems Biology Track

“I majored in bioengineering because I could not just choose a single passion: biology or physics, medicine or math. Among the bioengineering tracks, there are focuses in electrical engineering, computer science, chemistry, physics, etc. How could I specialize in any one of these when I could see myself thriving in all of them? After taking my first ever programming classes here at UIUC, I knew Computational and Systems Biology would be the one. The application of computers to medicine and biology was so fascinating to me. How miraculous could the code that I type be turned into a series of 1’s and 0’s, and then somehow run applications that I built myself or power artificial intelligence algorithms to pick out a boat from a car from a horse. Now, I am using deep learning frameworks to produce lung cancer diagnoses or predict tumor growth over time. Albeit, the CS-heavy classes you will take can be pretty frustrating at times. If I had a nickel for every time my code failed from a missing semi-colon or for each hour spent in office hours… However, the reward you get from a small green check mark when all tests pass outweighs all the trouble getting there. I am already starting to see the different opportunities opening to me with the added CS background. I am involved in the UIUC-IBM Undergraduate Research in Artificial Intelligence program on campus and hope to continue fostering this relationship to either head into industry or grad school. Programming is such a strong skill to have as our world is growing so centered on the power of computers and the programmers behind them. “

Zach Cacini ’23
Therapeutics Engineering Track
Hands-on Image Guided Surgery Activity in BIOE 498 Surgical Technologies
Surgical Stapling Activity in BIOE 498 Surgical Technologies

“I have always enjoyed chemistry and biology courses and knew I wanted to go into industry after graduation. I didn’t have strong programming knowledge so I knew the computational and systems biology track wasn’t for me. However, I had trouble deciding between the others. If you are having trouble narrowing down tracks I recommend seeing how you enjoy your freshman and sophomore year classes. If you liked CS 101 and BIOE 210, computational and systems is a good choice. If you love physics and robotics, biomechanics could be a good fit. If you like bioinstrumentation and ECE topics from physics, imaging and sensing might be for you. I personally enjoyed BIOE 202 and BIOE 206 and wanted something more biology focused. After narrowing down to therapeutics and cell and tissue engineering, I looked at the curriculum maps and saw what elective courses are offered for each. Therapeutics has a ton of exciting courses to choose from like surgical technologies and immunoengineering. I also hope to land a job in pharmaceuticals or R&D in the future, and the quantitative pharmacology course sounded perfect. One benefit of the therapeutics track is that you do not need to take prerequisite courses to take many of the 300-400 level elective options. You can choose what electives you want to take and when to take them. Remember that it is also easy to switch tracks or take time to decide. If you have specific career goals, also consider what tracks will set you up for success. Track electives are meant to be fun, so pick something that interests you!”

Jackie Hagel ’23
Cell and Tissue Engineering Track

“In high school, I had always liked biology and chemistry more than physics. After my freshman year as a BIOE, I decided that biomechanics and imaging & sensing were not exactly my forte because I couldn’t envision myself designing medical devices or diagnostic tools. Additionally, as a pre-med, I felt that the track electives for computational and systems biology weren’t as beneficial for medical school applications and a career in medicine compared to those offered by other tracks. Because of this, I narrowed down my choices to therapeutics and cell & tissue engineering. After taking BIOE 202, learning about cell culture, protein and DNA extraction, and other assays led me to select cell & tissue engineering as my track. I will say that Design and Use of Biomaterials (MSE 470) was a very intriguing course because it expanded upon the chemistry behind concepts from BIOE 476. I hope to take awesome courses such as Stem Cell Bioengineering (BIOE 487) and Gene Editing Lab (BIOE 460) in the future. The one downside of cell & tissue engineering is that it’s particularly BIOE-specific, so the number of electives offered are limited per semester. Other tracks like imaging & sensing are less restrictive because they mainly take electives from other departments, such as ECE.”

Vincent Lam ’23
Lactate assay of media from breast cancer cells

“I chose Cell and Tissue because I was always interested in regenerative medicine. There was also the factor of course load, as I was somewhat behind on courses as a result of transferring in from PREP. Because of this, tracks such as biomechanics and CompBio seemed daunting and would require overloading some semesters or even pushing back my graduation. If you have interest in stem cells and biomaterials, then cell and tissue engineering material can be really fascinating as you learn about groundbreaking biotechnologies. This was definitely the case for me. One drawback is that Cell and Tissue is definitely geared towards research or medical school, as it seems to prepare you mostly for graduate research or medicine. If your focus is industry, then you will have a slightly harder time finding work relevant to cell and tissue engineering without a graduate degree. I hope to combine this information with a masters involving CompBio so I can explore the overlap between bioinformatics and tissue engineering. Other than that, I still gained a good overall education in all facets of bioengineering that gave me plenty of opportunities to work in different sectors of industry.”

Raafae Zaki ‘22
Biomechanics Track

Biomechanics Track on BIOE website

“Biomechanics is the bridge between physics and medicine, which made it an obvious choice for me as an aspiring orthopedic surgeon. In order to understand how to effectively repair joints and design prosthetics, it is important to have a solid foundation in mechanics and materials as well as anatomy and physiology. Bioengineering allows students to take a variety of STEM classes including physics, chemistry, and biology, however, the biomechanics track allows you to take theoretical and applied mechanics (TAM) classes. TAM 210 or 211, TAM 212, and TAM 251 are required, and students select 6-7 additional hours of coursework for this track. I have found these classes to be really interesting, and a lot of fun to attend. They are quite different from most of the BIOE courses, and provide the opportunity to meet students outside of the major. I would recommend this track if you have an interest in mechanics or are considering designing medical devices. In addition, the track electives include classes like Surgical Techniques and Whole-Body Musculoskel Biomech that I look forward to taking in the future.”

Eliza Lovrich ’23
 ME 481 Simulation in OpenSim used to analyze different walking patterns. Image by Stephanie Slowik.
ME 481 lab report figure showing the kinematics of the ankle, knee, and hip. Image by Stephanie Slowik.

“I chose the biomechanics track because the application of physics concepts in biology was always very interesting to me. It is exciting to learn the math behind movements and then observe how nature has optimized certain organisms to perform complex tasks in the simplest and most energy efficient ways possible. Taking TAM 212 was influential in my understanding of the math that governs dynamic motion present in the body. The math can sometimes be difficult to understand and even frustrating at times, however, once the math is understood, there are limitless ways to apply biomechanics concepts to describe natural motion. I plan on using my experience in biomechanics to pursue a degree in dentistry and then become involved in the development of new dental implements that will offer more patient comfort during procedures.”

Alex Bom ’23