Carnegie Mellon University

Curriculum overview (108-117 units)

  • Background courses (0-18* units)
  • Core courses (51 units)
  • Biology elective courses (24 units)
  • Chemical engineering elective courses (12 units)
  • Additional elective courses (12-21* units)

* if a student waives more than 9 units of background classes, then they need to complete additional depth credits to reach a total of 108 units to graduate.

Curriculum at a Glance

Background Courses (0-18 units)

  • Material and Mass Balance (9 units, Fall)*
  • Metabolism, Cell Biology, and Molecular Biology (9 units, Fall)*

    * students may waive one or both of these classes.  If more than 9 units are waived, then the student needs to complete additional depth credits to reach a total of 108 units.

Core Courses (39 units)

  • Applied Cell & Molecular Biology (12 units, Fall of year 1)
  • Professional Skills (3 units, Fall of year 1)
  • Bioseparations (6 units, first half of Spring)
  • Spectoscopy & Characterization (6 units, second half of Spring)
  • Molecular biology lab (6 units, first half of Spring)
  • CPS Chemical Engineering Lab (6 units, second half of Spring)
  • Bioprocess Design (12 units, Fall of year 2)

Elective Courses (60-69 units)

To see how to view all current courses by department and view course descriptions, watch this 2 minute tutorial (YouTube):

Please note: many courses have pre-requisite knowledge and it is sometimes not explicit in the course description. Please contact the program academic advisor before planning to take any course.

  • 24 units of Biological Sciences Courses §
    • Example classes:
      • Genome Editing (course code: 03-728)
      • Synthetic Biology (course code: 03-738)
      • Advanced Microbiology (course code: 03-791)
  • 12 units of Chemical Engineering Courses §
    • Example classes:
      • Mathematical Modeling of Chemical Engineering (course code: 06-623)
      • Formulation Engineering (course code: 06-612)
      • Process Systems Modeling (course code: 06-665)
  • 12-21* units of other electives from either department, or selected classes from other departments, contact advisors for more information.

* if a student has waived more than 9 units of foundation courses, then they have to take additional depth courses to get up to a total of 108 units to the degree. These additional depth classes can be from either department.

§ some courses listed on department webpages may have pre-requisites or not count toward MS degree.  Contact us with questions about current electives.

Graduation Requirements

  • You must have a B average (GPA = 3.00) over all courses counted for graduation
  • These courses must total at least 108 units

  • Students who have an undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon: Courses counted for undergraduate degree certification cannot count for M.S. degree

Additional Curriculum Notes


Each semester, all students are encouraged to and attend some or all of the weekly Department of Biological Sciences Research Seminars and Chemical Engineering Department Seminars. Graduate students are strongly urged to meet the speakers to broaden their knowledge of cutting-edge biological science and to make useful contacts; the faculty host can arrange individual or small group meetings for interested students. Students may also count up to 3 units of seminar (typically 1 semester) as depth coursework.


Research is not required, but is allowed. Certain projects funded by or related to defense research or other sensitive US government areas (as determined by the Office of the General Counsel) are NOT permitted. At this time, no research ongoing in Biological Sciences, Computational Biology, or Chemical Engineering Departments falls under such restrictions, but some research in other departments in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Machine Learning, and some other departments does. Every mentor is required to verify with the CMU General Counsel that no sensitive topics are being researched in their lab before taking a student researcher; such verification is required in all departments (even those listed above as not currently involving sensitive topics.)

Students who are interested in research for credit may take M.S. Research for credit (06-600 or 03-699). Research is not required and there is no project capstone requirement. Students may take as many units of research as they want (up to 12 units per semester). However, only 12 units total may count toward depth electives. If the student plans to write an honors thesis, they may enroll in up to 12 units of M.S. Honors Thesis Research (03-700 or 06-700) in the final semester, these 12 units may also count toward graduation.

Students should contact faculty from biology and/or chemical engineering directly to learn about available research opportunities (or talk to the academic advisor). M.S. students are not eligible for research assistantships, but students can work or do research for an hourly pay within the limitations of number of hours and pay range. Typically, faculty expect students to work for credit the first semester of work as they are learning lab skills and then students may ask about hourl pay opportunities for subsequent semesters. Most faculty do not expect students to take any courses as pre-requisites for research, most expect to train you during the first semester of research for credit, regardless of your coursework or previous lab work background. Students can not get course credit and an hourly wage for the same work.


Students who are interested in doing an internship in industry or at a research lab not at CMU can take 03-601R, Biology Internship, for 3 units of credit.

International students who secure paid internships outside of Carnegie Mellon must register for both 03-601R and Curricular Practical Training (CPT). The Office of International Education (OIE) oversees CPT registration. Students will need the offer letter spelling out dates of employment, hours to be worked, and wages or stipend (if any). Note that, during the summer, tuition for 03-601R will not be assessed.

It is advisable to contact the Assistant Director (Internship and Job Placement) and/or the Assistant Department Head for Graduate Affairs during the fall semester to begin seeking and preparing for an internship (i.e. resumes, cover letters and making contacts).