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Guide to BME: Biomechanics

Guides to BME List


Biomechanics is a very exciting field that has been around a long time. Biomechanics encompasses both industry and research disciplines and can be used to design medical instruments from surgical tools to cardiopulmonary bypass machines, or to study human movement such as gait patterns with motion capture. Until recently, the biomechanics industry has been filled by professionals in more traditional forms of engineering, such as mechanical engineering. If you choose this track, you can work in industry with a B.S. in BME, however, the one year M.S. in BME that UW offers is a great opportunity to become more specialized.


Take Dynamics (EMA 202, ME 240) and Dynamic Systems (ME 340) early!
Most of the Biomechanics Area Tech Electives require these courses as a prerequisite. Take them sooner as opposed to later, to make scheduling easier!

Enroll in LOTS of core mechanical engineering courses
Biomechanics BMEs often market themselves as specialized Mechanical Engineers when applying for internships, co-ops, and full time jobs—be sure to take ME and EMA courses, so you can prove to employers that you are knowledgeable in core engineering concepts. Make the most out of your degree, and take as many of the following as possible: Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, Dynamic Systems, Thermodynamics, Advanced Dynamics, Design of Machine Elements, Fluid Dynamics (aka pretty much anything involving the word “Dynamics”). They might not be easy, but hey, you’re in engineering, and you’re used to it. It’s definitely worth it.

Pay attention to the BME 603 Topics
Two out of the three topics are GREAT for Biomechanics BMEs—Biomechanics of Movement and Orthopedic Biomechanics. Watch for when these are offered, so you can plan to take the in the correct semester. These will satisfy your advance BME Area Elective requirements!

Learn CAD

Computer aided design is a core aspect of many Biomedical Engineer’s training and is especially true in the Biomechanics track. Mastering programs like Solidworks or NX Unigraphics early in your undergraduate career will prove incredibly useful not only for design projects but also in the real world if you choose to pursue a career in industry. ME 331 (Geometric Modeling for Engineering Applications) is a great course to introduce you to the basics of Unigraphics, and if you succeed in the course be sure to mention your expertise in interviews. Companies like Biomet love BME students who can model in Unigraphics as co-op positions with them focus almost entirely on surgical instrument and orthopedic implant designs in Unigraphics.


Even if you think you know exactly what you want to do post-graduation it is a good idea to expose yourself to as many new opportunities as possible. Getting involved with a research lab as an undergraduate can lead to incredible networking and future employment opportunities. Several prominent labs here on campus are open to undergraduate help such as Dr. Thelen’s Neuromuscular Biomechaincs lab, Dr. Chelser’s Vascular Tissue Biomechanics lab, or Dr. Ploeg’s Bone and Joint Biomechanics lab. Search online for more information about each and if any spike your interest don’t be afraid to contact the professor and get your name out there! They are all incredibly receptive and love to help students.

CS 310 OR 302

Computer Science requirement decisions are notoriously confusing—within the Biomechanics track, both are fine! If you are not entirely decided on your track, and consider Bioinstrumentation to be a possibility, take CS 302 (Java). This class is a good opportunity to “feel out” Instrumentation. However, Biomechanics BMEs historically take CS 310 (Matlab, Maple). If you choose to take 302 be aware that it is still almost a guarantee that you will be required to use Matlab at some point during your undergraduate career either for BME electives, general engineering electives or research. It is imperative that you leave this university with a basic understanding of Matlab’s programming and utilities whether you enroll in CS 310 or not.

Take Advantage of the Advising Book & Advisors

Valuable for all BMEs regardless of specialization, the BME Complete Advising Booklet and Advisors are excellent resources. Make sure you’re taking the right courses—ones that both interest you and satisfy requirements!

Class Specifics

To satisfy a track in biomechanics, you must take 12 technical electives in biomechanics, and one advanced technical elective in biomechanics that doesn’t count towards the other 12. Courses that count toward biomechanics technical electives are: BME 505, BME 564, BME 603, BME 615, or any ME or EMA course.

BME Courses

BME 505: Biofluidics
Prereqs: EMA 201; EMA 202 or ME 240; Physiol 335; or cons inst
Professor: Naomi Chesler
Student Center Description: Introduction to blood rheology, blood flow dynamics in arteries, capillaries and veins, airflow in the lungs, and other physiological flow phenomena. Healthy and diseased states will be considered. Special topics may include ocular flow dynamics and electro-chemical-fluidics in cartilage.
Notes:Typically offered Spring semester, counts towards Advanced Technical Elective
Personal Experience: Have a basic understanding of vector calculus.

BME 564: Occupational Ergonomics & Biomechanics
Prereq: Ind Engr 349, Grad st or cons inst
Professor: Robert Radwin
Student Center Description: Introduces engineers how to design manufacturing and industrial operations in which people play a significant role, so that human capabilities are maximized, physical stress is minimized, and workload is optimized. Examples and topics emphasize industrial applications.
Notes: Typically offered Spring semester
Personal Experience: Has an individual project.

BME 603: Biomechanics of Movement (Fall) OR Orthopedic Biomechanics (Spring)

  • Biomechanics of Movement: This course is a mix of undergraduate and graduate students and is cross-listed with Mechanical Engineering. The course mainly revolves around current research techniques used in biomechanics today. Basic physiology and mathematical models are covered in the curriculum. PLEASE NOTE - this course has a LAB SECTION, which is not listed in the Student Center. There are NO exams, but 60% of your grade is based on 6 homework assignments, which are based on the 6 labs throughout the semester. The rest of your grade is based on a research project, which you can do with a partner. It’s recommended that you take CS 310 because the class revolves a substantial amount of Matlab programming. I didn’t take CS 310 so there was a bit of a learning curve, but some of my previous lab reports from BME 315 proved beneficial to the homework assignments. Professor Thelen is a great lecturer and class is very informal. I highly recommend this class if you plan on getting involved in biomechanics research, or want to learn about various biomechanical approximation techniques such as motion capture and inverse dynamics.
  • Orthopedic Biomechanics: This class is a mix of ME and BME grads and undergrads. You split up into teams of 3 to 4 to work on a semester long project designing a total joint replacement.

BME 615: Tissue Mechanics
Prereq: BME 315 (MATH 320 recommended)
Professor: Ray Vanderby
Student Center Description: This course will focus on solid mechanics of prominent musculoskeletal and cardiovascular tissues. Their normal and pathological behaviors (stiffness, strength, relaxation, creep, adaptive remodeling, etc.) in response to physiolgic loading will be examined and quantified.
Notes: Typically taught Fall semester, counts toward Advanced Technical Elective
Personal Experience: This course covers the main tissues of the human body all the way down to the cellular level. Tissues covered in the course include: bone, skin, ligaments & tendons, skeletal muscle, blood vessels, heart valves, and cartilage. You will learn the biology of each tissue as well as the mathematical models used to approximate behavior. This course offers a nice transition from BME 315 to more advanced biomechanics and I found it to be very interesting. Be prepared to focus much of class on advanced mathematical functions, including differential equations.

ME Courses

ME 342: Design of Machine Elements
Prereq: ME 306, 307 or EMA 306, 307, & ME 232, 340
Professors: Heidi Ploeg, various
Student Center Description: Analysis and design of machine elements and machines; loads, stresses, deflections, material selection, fatigue failure, finite elements; mechanical power transmission components including gearing, bearings, shafting, and frictional devices.
Notes: Taught Fall and Spring semester
Personal Experience: This class is all about design, and the necessary parts that are needed to put machines together. Some of the elements you learn about are screws, bolts, springs, gears, bearings, shafts, and belts. This class is very competitive and fast paced, but you learn a lot about how each element aids in designing a device. Be sure to take the prereqs (especially ME 340) for a better understanding of machines in general. There are two exams and a final (non-cumulative), which make up 70% of your grade. There are two design projects, which involved FEA (taught in this course) and count for 10% of your grade each. The rest of your grade is based on homework. If you want to learn about machine design from the ground up, this course is for you.

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