Biological Systems Engineering

Many students are unaware of Biological Engineering as a discipline, and may wonder what we do. Biological systems engineers design, manage, and develop systems and equipment that produce, package, process, and distribute the world’s food and fiber supplies.

Biological Systems Engineering is a discipline based on engineering principles with emphasis on the production and processing of food, fibers, and materials of biological origin. The program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). UW’s Biological Systems Engineering courses, curricula, and faculty meet the standards set for professional engineering programs at universities throughout the United States.

Choose from Different Options

The Biological Systems Engineering program at UW provides a broad based education, preparing students for the variety of applications that involve biological systems. While breadth is a part of the experience here, students have the opportunity to develop specialization in a number of areas. These different emphases are described below:

  • Machinery Systems Engineering
    Engineers in the Machinery Systems Engineering specialization work in a variety of industries applying mechanical technology and knowledge of biological systems to solve equipment-related problems.  From design and construction to testing and evaluation and to sales and support, engineers in the Machinery Systems Engineering specialization provide the technical know-how to get the job done.  They work for small and large companies that produce machines and systems for agriculture, food and fiber processing, construction, mining, lawn and ground care, materials handling, and forestry and paper industries.
  • Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering
    Engineers in the Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering specialization area combine engineering with agricultural and environmental sciences to solve problems related to our environment and natural resources.  Engineers in this field evaluate, design, modify, and improve erosion control and runoff systems, animal and human waste handling and treatment systems, irrigation and drainage systems, and water quality management practices.  They find most career opportunities within government agencies and environmental consulting firms.
  • Food and Bioprocess Engineering
    Food and Bioprocess engineers evaluate, design, modify, improve, and economize the processing and distribution of food, feed, fiber and energy.  This growing field also includes the new world of biotechnology and bioprocessing.  They work in companies large and small that are involved in one or more of the following:  processing, packaging and distributing meat, poultry and seafood products; canning and freezing fruits and vegetables; producing ethanol and other fuels from biological materials; drying and storing grains and other food stuffs; designing and testing machines and instruments; sensing and controlling temperature, pressure and moisture during processing; and developing new foods and processes.
  • Effective with the 2011-12 curriculum, the Food & Bioprocess Engineering Specialization is spilt into two tracks: food engineering and bioprocess engineering.
  • Structural Systems Engineering
    Structural Systems engineers combine a background in structural design with knowledge of biological systems to develop the infrastructure that supports agriculture.  Such work includes design, construction and management of facilities for: growing plants and animals; storing and processing food, feed and fiber; waste storage and handling; and energy generation.

Financial Assistance

Scholarships are available through the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Department of Nutritional Sciences. Additional financial assistance may be available from the UW-Madison Office of Financial Aids.

For more information contact the Biological Systems Engineering Department:

Prospective Student Services: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Office of Academic Affairs

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