Why Should I Choose Biosystems Engineering at UT?

What You Will Study

Three things make this biosystems engineering program unique, both among all UT engineering programs and other similar programs at other universities.

  • Program breadth: You will develop a very broad range of skills that will allow you to be successful in almost any field of engineering. That breadth is one of the primary program strengths cited by our graduates, and is reflected in the tremendous range of areas in which they are successfully working.
  • Emphasis on design: This emphasis is seen throughout the program but is strongest in the senior design sequence. This sequence extends over two semesters and takes a design from the initial problem statement through building and testing a prototype.
  • Application of engineering principles to complex biological systems: These complex systems require engineering application that is as much art as science, requiring true innovation and creativity.

You’ll never be just a number. We ensure that our students have access to our faculty for academic counseling and assistance with coursework. Graduating students consistently rank our outstanding, caring faculty as a departmental strength.

In addition to receiving career and personal development advice, the academic advisor assists the student in the selection of both required and elective classes and helps design a program geared to the student’s needs and career objectives. The student-advisor relationship provides an avenue for the student to become familiar with faculty and departmental activities, and to discover opportunities for internships and permanent employment.

Studying biosystems engineering at UT involves taking classes in the Tickle College of Engineering and at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA). The program of study is like all other engineering disciplines, with students completing a common set of courses in math, physics, chemistry, statics, fluid mechanics, and dynamics and strength of materials. Once these classes are completed, students take specialized biosystems engineering classes classes in biothermodynamics, biochemistry, mechanical systems, hydrology, bioprocessing, instrument and controls and engineering design on the UTIA campus.  

Substantial Scholarship Money

Biosystems engineering students are eligible for scholarship money from both the University and the Herbert College of Agriculture. While University scholarships are quite competitive, the Herbert College of Agriculture has one of UT’s best-funded scholarship programs. The College distributes more than $500,000 in scholarship funds. Approximately 40 percent of Herbert undergraduate students receive awards, with an average annual award well over $1,000.

Knowledgeable and Caring Professors

Dr. Andrea Ludwig with a student

Professors in our department are knowledgeable, as all biosystems engineering faculty are directly involved in teaching, research, and public service. Most classes are taught by professors who hold PhDs, and many also hold professional engineering licensure. Several professors have extensive experience in industry, and all are actively interested and involved in student development. Faculty members specialize in one or more of the following areas: irrigation, erosion control, bioprocessing, electronic data acquisition and controls, structures, food engineering, waste management, machine design, biosensors, chemical application equipment, and sensor design and development. Many of our faculty members have gained national recognition for their work and serve on national committees for standards development.

The student-faculty relationship is very strong. Professors assist the students in countless ways, sometimes working late into the night alongside the students to complete some project or prepare for a design competition.  

Opportunities for Biosystems Engineers in a Global Economy

Feeding the ever-growing world population is one of the world’s emerging challenges. While the US has an abundant and safe food supply, other countries are struggling to feed their people. Conserving our precious natural resources and protecting the environment are both national and global challenges. Biosystems engineers at UT are trained to tackle these and other grand challenges. Courses in biothermodynamics, biochemistry, mechanical systems, hydrology, bioprocessing, instrument and controls and engineering design provide the framework that allows for students to really become proficient in biosystems engineering, enabling them to comfortably tackle environmental conservation, implement design and sustainable production types of problems with breadth and depth. Biosystems engineering graduates typically work for equipment manufacturers, research agencies, and environmental consulting firms or industry. Will Rutemeyer, a 2009 alumnus, discusses how his biosystems background​ has laid the groundwork for his position as co-owner and brewer of a downtown Knoxville brewery.

Opportunity to Work on Exciting Projects as an Undergraduate

You won’t spend all your time learning from books in our biosystems engineering program. Our professors understand the importance of hands-on learning, and laboratory work is a crucial element of most classes. Many undergraduate students also have the opportunity to work as student assistants on a variety of projects. These student assistants work side by side with our professors, assisting them with research. This experience provides two things: 1) valuable engineering experience that will help you get a job, and 2) money to help pay for your tuition or provide a little extra spending money. All student assistants are paid on an hourly rate, with most working around ten hours per week. As a senior, you will work with other biosystems students on an engineering team to solve a real-life problem. Our two-semester capstone design experience requires student teams to select a problem, research its background and possible solutions, perform extensive engineering analyses, submit a written proposal, and then solve the problem as outlined in your proposal. This sequence culminates with a written summary, an oral presentation, and submission of the design to a national engineering competition. Final presentations from several past years are archived here. 

Image of a pond at an event.

Opportunity to Work with Soil Scientists

Biosystems engineering at UT is housed in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science (BESS). Faculty from the engineering and the soil science side of the department work closely together on common problems. This framework allows biosystems engineering students to work in soil science laboratories, providing understanding from a scientific perspective of the impact of engineering design decisions. We are the only department in the nation to combine biosystems engineering with soil science, which provides a unique training opportunity.