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Selecting a Focus Area

Tips on Selecting the Thesis or Course-Based Degree Option (and a Focus Area)

Thesis vs. Course-Based Degree Option

  • The thesis option is intended for students who come into the program having already firmly decided that they wish to pursue a research thesis. This track typically requires two full years to complete the MSE degree.
  • Thesis option students typically have already sought out a research laboratory to sponsor their research by the time they enter the program (research is allowed in any laboratory at Johns Hopkins provided that it has a biomedical engineering component).
  • Thesis option students must still select a focus area but often will design their course plans to complement their research project. Students will work with their PI to determine what courses may be substituted, and then have these courses approved by their advisor.
  • Students who are interested in research but have not been able to arrange a thesis project may take research for credit during their first year of coursework. These small projects typically are for one semester but may lead to a long-term project. Students taking research for credit must have the faculty sponsor contact the program administrator to confirm lab placement.  Research projects, either short-term (for credit) or long-term (for thesis), are not required to be within the BME department. Students may seek out research opportunities in other departments and/or through labs in the School of Medicine. While these projects do not need to be BME-specific, your research should have an alignment with the biomedical engineering field. Student who may be interested in the thesis track are encouraged to look for research labs at the start of their first semester.

Selection of a Focus Area

  • Focus areas are intended to provide a student with specialized knowledge in a specific facet of biomedical engineering.
  • Focus areas are typically selected on a student’s interests. In some cases, a focus area will closely align with a student’s professional goals. In other cases, a focus area is selected based on a student’s scientific curiosity – this is especially the case when a student intends to pursue further graduate or professional studies, and would be well-qualified through any of the areas.
  • Focus areas typically have flexibility. If you feel that you would benefit from the inclusion of a relevant course that we do not currently have listed in a certain focus area, let your advisor or administrator know.
  • The AI in Medicine focus area is intended specifically for medical students, residents, and clinical fellows. Other students interested in this area should consider Biomedical Data Science, Computational Medicine, or one of our other focus areas intended for those with an engineering background.

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