Biological Engineering (PHD)


Biological Engineering, PhD

On Campus 90 cr

The Department of Biological Systems Engineering offers a Ph.D. in biological engineering with specialization options in water resources planning and management, water resources engineering, and environmental studies.


Graduate study may be directed toward agricultural power and machinery systems, animal waste management, animal well-being, biomedical engineering, bioprocessing, computer applications, control systems, decision support systems, environmental engineering, food process engineering, geographic information systems, global positioning systems, ground and surface water management, irrigation system design, materials handling and processing systems, monitoring and controlling biological systems, plant environment, risk assessment, soil and water conservation, solid and hazardous waste management, water quality, and other areas of engineering science and design.

Students have access to state-of-the-art research facilities and equipment. These facilities include 15 laboratories in L. W. Chase Hall, Splinter Laboratories Building, and IAPC Pilot Plant. Field research sites in Nebraska include the Rogers Memorial Farm and Agricultural Research and Development Center in Lincoln; Haskell Agricultural Laboratory near Concord, Nebraska; and Research and Extension Centers at North Platte and Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Together these facilities capture the wide range of climate, soil, and cropping systems that exist in the state.


  1. Environmental Studies
  2. Water Resources Planning and Management
    • On Campus

    An intra-university masters-level minor/specialization with emphasis on water resources planning and management. Each student will be required to complete:

    1. A major in one of the departments with approval to offer the option as a minor or specialization
    2. Nine hours of water resources-related courses* from departments outside the student’s major field (6 hours of which must be from those courses marked with a “+”) and approved by the Water Resources Advisory Committee.

    Courses are linked below.

    The master’s degree will be granted in one of the disciplines. The student must be formally registered in one of the departments with approval to offer the option as a minor or specialization. The recommended master’s degree option is I (thesis) but other options may be approved. The minor or specialization can be noted on the student’s final transcript, for example, civil engineering (water resources planning and management).

    Departments/Program(s) with Approval to Offer Option as a Minor or Specialization:

    • Agricultural Economics
    • Agronomy/HorticultureAnimal Science
    • Biological Sciences
    • Biological Systems Engineering
    • Civil and Environmental Engineering
    • Community and Regional Planning
    • Economics
    • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
    • Industrial and Management Systems Engineering
    • Political Science
    • School of Natural Resources
    • Sociology.

    A Water Resources Advisory Committee coordinates the interdisciplinary aspects of the minor/specialization. The Director of the Nebraska Water Center in the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute serves as chair with one member from each participating department. Approval of individual student programs of study, degree option, and thesis topics (if applicable) will have the concurrence of the student’s major department and the chair of the advisory committee. One member of the student’s examining committee will be appointed from the Water Resources Advisory Committee. This member cannot be from the student’s major department.

    Water Resources Planning and Management Advisory Committee:

    • Professors Ray (chair)
    • Thomas Franti (co-chair)
    • Matthew Cushing, Department of Economics
    • Mark Lagrimini, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture
    • Sheila Purdum, Animal Sciences
    • Thomas Franti, Department of Biological Systems Engineering
    • David Admiraal, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    • Dona-Gene Barton, Department of Political Science
    • Deb Brown, School of Biological Sciences
    • Kim Tyler or Julia McQuillan, Department of Sociology
    • Karina Schoengold, Department of Agricultural Economics
    • Steven Thomas, School of Natural Resources
    • Zhenghong Tang, Community, and Regional Planning Program

    See the list of courses for specialization in Water Resources Planning and Management

  3. Irrigation and Agricultural Water Management
    • On Campus
    Course NumberCourse TitleCredits
    AGEN/MSYM 854 Irrigation Laboratory and Field Course 3
    MSYM 855 Advanced Irrigation Management 3
    AGEN 953 Advanced Irrigation Systems Engineering 3
    Choose one of the following
    AGEN 841 Animal Waste Management 3
    AGEN 954 Watershed Modeling 3
    BSEN 855 Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Engineering 3
    BSEN 879 Hydro climatology 3
    Total 12

Graduate Admission Requirements

  • Application for Admission with $50 non-refundable application fee.
  • One set of transcripts.
  • If International: upload copies of all college- or university-level transcripts or mark sheets (records of courses and marks earned), with certificates, diplomas, and degrees plus certified English translations.

    * Official documents are required from all students who are admitted and enroll. Photocopies of certified records are not acceptable. International students enrolled in other U.S. institutions may have certified copies of all foreign records sent directly to the Office of Graduate Studies by their current school’s registrar office.

  • If the student’s native language is not English, verification of English proficiency is required.

    * When sending TOEFL scores, our institution code is 6877 and a department code is not needed

  • If applicant is not a US citizen and expects an F or J visa: financial information.
  • Applicants must also fulfill any additional requirements the department specifies at the time of application.

Major Admission Requirements

  • Minimum English proficiency: Paper TOEFL 550, Internet TOEFL 80, IELTS 6.5
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Personal Statement:  Include a description of your goals for pursuing a graduate degree. Also indicate if you have been in communication with a faculty muember in the Department regarding graduate education.

Admission Deadlines

For full financial consideration, students must apply by January 15 for Fall and Summer, September 1 for Spring.

Graduate Chair

Rebecca Wachs

Support Staff

Laura Buis

Tuition & Fees
See program summaries for details like application deadlines and requirements.
Contact Me
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UNL Graduate Chairs and staff please complete the program update form to provide edits. Updates to graduate program pages are made on an annual basis in conjunction with the Graduate Application for Admission.