Bioengineering vs. Biocomputational Engineering - Learn the Key Differences

The emerging discipline of biocomputational engineering offers a strong foundation in biology, mathematics and statistics, as well as  computational methods, big data, and computer programming – all in one. Biocomputational engineering is a sub-field of bioengineering which is sometimes referred to as computational biology. 

The A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland has fostered the Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BIOE) since 2006. Now, undergraduates are invited to the Clark School’s new B.S. in Biocomputational Engineering (BCE) program. 

What is the difference between bioengineering and biocomputational engineering?

The bioengineering major covers the breadth of engineering fundamentals and biology, as well as depth into biomedical or biotechnology fields. It emphasizes hands-on experiences in instrumentation and wet lab biology skills. The biocomputational engineering major provides a foundation in engineering fundamentals and biology, and adds programming and data science skills.

Given molecular or cellular data sets, a biocomputational engineer would employ statistical analysis, computational models, and computer programming to process and interpret data, which may lead to helpful diagnostic and therapeutic solutions or other biological findings. 

The BCE program also highlights computational courses in bioengineering including thermodynamics, applied linear systems, and other more specialized elective courses like bioinformatics and image processing. Additionally, BCE teaches programming languages and skills, such as Python, R and C++, which are critical for data processing and visualization and computer simulations. 

Most importantly, the new B.S. in Biocomputational Engineering program teaches contemporary statistical analysis methods, including various machine-learning methods, as well as solid biological applications of artificial intelligence. This intensive training in computational biology is uniquely available only through the BCE program.

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What key points should students consider when deciding which major is the best fit?

For students interested in biomechanics, biomaterials, biomedical devices and fundamental biotechnology, the BIOE major would be the best choice. Students who enjoy building things should choose BIOE over BCE. 

If students are comfortable working in a “dry-lab” environment to study at the interface of biology, mathematics, computer science and data science, then they should definitely select the BCE major. Students who enjoy coding - or just thinking about how code works - should pursue biocomputational engineering. Skills learned through this new degree program will prepare students for a variety of careers within the fast-growing industry of computational biology, such as bioinformatician, biostatistician, or a biological/medical data analyst/consultant.

Interested in learning how a degree in biocomputational engineering can position you for a successful career in biotech? Contact us today!

The best — and easiest — way to initiate the Biocomputational Engineering degree application process is to book a meeting with our program coordinator, Emily Bailey, who can walk you through your personalized transfer pathway — especially if you’re interested in enrolling in the fall of 2021 or spring of 2022.

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