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Biosystems Engineering (PHD) 
Program Description

Our University Department was established in 1891.  In 2018 the Department name, along with the graduate program names, changed to Biosystems Engineering. Like similar departments at most Land Grant universities, this department is jointly administered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering The Biosystems Engineering Department Doctoral Degree program offers students the opportunity for study and research in many fields, including the following:  Bioproducts; Biosensors; Controlled Environment; Mechanization & Automation; Remote Sensing & Precision Agriculture; Sensors & Controls;  Renewable Energy; Water Resources & Irrigation systems.   The flexibility of the program allows students, in consultation with their advisors, to develop programs especially suited to their needs.

Our vision: BE will be a world leader known for developing technologies and systems for the safe production of food, bioenergy, bioproducts, and biological information for sustainable use of arid and semi-arid environments.  Students, constituents, and professionals will come from across the world to participate in our programs.

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Department/Academic Unit(s)

Biosystems Engineering -

The Biosystems Engineering Department focuses on biological systems and water-related issues such as irrigation and water quality, and biosystems applications, including computer modeling, sensors and controls, and systems design and evaluation. The Biosystems Engineering Department is developing innovative systems to sustainably feed an increasing population through cutting-edge technology, sustainable practices, and the drive to make a difference in the world. We build sustainable solutions that create resilience among society, the environment, and the economy. We are currently working on many projects, including the following:

  • Optimizing growth conditions in controlled environment agriculture

  • Finding alternative fuel and feed sources

  • Irrigating crops sustainably

  • Analyzing big data sets generated from using sensors and controls and looking at metagenomics

Our graduate students are developing innovative systems to tackle quality of life issues regarding food and water availability.  Equipped with engineering, life science, and data science expertise, our students are prepared to address quality of life challenges and create resiliency among society, the environment, and the economy.  

The Biosystems Engineering Department offers the following graduate programs: Accelerated Master of Science (for Current UofA BEUndergraduate students), Biosystems Engineering Master of Science Degree and Biosystems Analytics & Technology Master of Science Degree, the Biosystems Engineering Doctor of Philosophy Degree, and the Biosystems Analytics & Technology Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

Our Biosystems Engineering graduate degree programs can be designed to fit almost any need in the general field of the application of science, technology, or engineering principles.

The flexibility of our graduate programs allows international and domestic students, in consultation with their advisors, to develop programs specifically suited to their needs. The University of Arizona is a diverse institution and therefore provides courses in many different areas to support specific and general applications. Interdisciplinary desires of students are met by taking classes across the broad spectrum available in the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and other divisions on campus.

There is an opportunity for study and research in many fields, including the following:

Controlled Environment Agriculture; Water Resources; Biometry and Biosystems Informatics; Food, Bioproducts, and Renewable Energy, precision agriculture, statistical informatics, data-mining, and cyberinfrastructure development.

Candidates who wish to complete an Engineering Degree should apply to either the Biosystems Engineering MS program or the Biosystems Engineering Ph.D. program. The Biosystems Engineering degree programs prepare graduates to design engineering solutions, as well as, utilize technology and data to solve real-world problems in biological field of precision agriculture, remote sensing, water management, statistical informatics, data-mining, and cyberinfrastructure development.

Candidates who wish to complete a Science-based Technology degree should apply to either the Biosystems Analytics & Technology MS program or Biosystems Analytics & Technology Ph.D. program.  The Biosystems Analytics & Technology MS and Ph.D. programs prepare graduates to use technology and data to solve biological problems related to precision agriculture, remote sensing, water management, statistical informatics, data-mining, and cyberinfrastructure development.

Engineering Administration -

College of Agriculture & Life Sciences College of Engineering  
Campus where offered
Main Campus - Tucson  
Admissions Contact
Dava Renee Jondall
Graduate Program Coordinator
Dava Renee Jondall
Director of Graduate Studies
Muluneh Yitayew
Graduate College Degree Counselor
Annie Prisbrey
Tuition and Fees
Please refer to the UA Bursar's Office Tuition and Fees Calculator for up-to-date information about tuition and fees. 
Please refer to the UA Registrar's's Office Special Course Fees for up-to-date information about special course fees. 

Admissions Information

Admissions Requirements

To be considered for admission to the Doctoral program, the candidate must have attained a Bachelor's degree and be admitted to both the Department of  Engineering Biosystems Engineering and the University of Arizona Graduate College. Minimum eligibility requirements for admission to the Graduate College which include a 3.30 GPA on a 4.0-grade scale. 

Required Material for the Graduate Application:

3 Letters of recommendation.  Letters must be signed and on official Letter Head.

Statement of Purpose

Resume or CV

All applicants are required to:

Applicants must upload unofficial pdf versions of all transcripts when submitting their application in our GradApp system. Official transcripts from ALL universities/colleges attended. Please do not send transcripts until you have been recommended.

Candidates review the Graduate College Transcript Requirements located at, before sending Official Transcripts to the Graduate College.

Standardized Tests

Recommended test(s): GRE

Suggested Minimum GRE scores

Verbal: 138, Quantitative: 151, GRE Written: 3.0

Required GRE Institution Code for the University of Arizona 4832

Required test International Language Test (TOEFL or IELTS)
Minimum TOEFL: 79 (IB) or 550 (PB)

Minimum IELTS: composite score of 7 (no subject below 6)

The institution code for the University of Arizona is 4832.

Financial Aid

Please note that 1) the Department is not able to provide a guarantee of funding and 2) the International College requires that all international students provide a Financial Guarantee (see the Proof of Financial Resources located on

Graduate Tuition scholarships and Fellowships sponsored by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the University of Arizona Graduate College and the Department of Biosystems Engineering may be available on a competitive basis.

Applicants are encouraged to apply for institutional funding offered through the UA Graduate College, including Graduate Access Fellowships, UA/SIGP Fellowships, and NASA Scholarships.  Domestic students should submit a Free Application for Federal Student Loans, FAFSA, to qualify for institutional funding  Detailed information on UA financial aid may be found at

Admissions Deadlines

The Department highly recommends that all Domestic and International applicants submit their completed applications before January 1st for Fall admittance or before August 1st for Spring admittance.

Current UA Domestic Applicants:

  • Fall:  January-May
  • Spring: August-November

Domestic Applicants:

  • Fall:  January-March
  • Spring:  September-November

International Applicants:

  • Fall: December - January
  • Spring: August-September

International applications submitted after the recommended deadlines may not be processed in time to meet the required University's International deadlines. 

International Conditional Admission
International applicants will not be considered for conditional admission by this program.
Other Information
The GRE Institution Code for The University of Arizona is 4832
ETS Major Field Code(s) for this program: 0117, 0119, 0102, 0103, 0107, 0122, 0112, 0114, 0199, 0224, 0226, 0205, 0206, 0212, 0308, 0409, 0405, 0502, 0605, 0631, 0705, 1004, 1001, 1101, 1102, 1103, 1107, 1109, 1199, 1301, 1399, 1501, 1502, 1602, 1615, 1616, 1612, 1699

Completion Requirements

Degree Requirements

For a PhD in Biosystems Engineering, a candidate must complete 63 units (minimum) consisting of 45 non-Dissertation units and 18 Dissertation (BE 920) units. All required units of credit must be at the 500-level or above at The University of Arizona or, in the case of transfer units, their equivalent at other institutions.

7.3.1 (BE Graduate Manual)

MinimumCourse Requirements for BE PhD For a PhD in Biosystems Engineering, students must complete a minimum of 63 units, consisting of the following:

3 units of STAT 571B

6 units of either Numerical Analysis, or other approved Mathematics/ Modeling courses

2 units of BE 501 (601)

1 unit BE 597A (fall) or 1 unit BE 593 (spring)

4 units of BE 696A (presenting) o Any units exceeding the 4 units of BE 696A will not be listed on the student’s Plan of Study o EXCEPTION: Candidates with a BE MS degree are only required to take 2 units as the other 2 units were earned from their MS program

2 units of BE 696B (non-presenting) o Continuous enrollment in BE 696B for each semester he/she is not presenting is expected. Students must receive approval from the Department to be excused from this requirement o Any units exceeding the 2 units of BE 696B will not be listed on the student’s UAccess Plan of Study

12 units of BE courses (limit of 3 units of house-numbered courses, i.e., 592, 593, 599)

1 unit of BE 693 (section # under faculty sponsor)

3 to 6 units of elective courses per approval of Major Professor (depending on the required minor units)

18 units (minimum) of Dissertation units (BE 920)

Along with 9 to 12 units of minor course work, depending on the Minor Department requirements.

Additional information and requirements can be found at:



Minor Requirements

Ph.D. students minoring in Biosystems Engineering must complete 10 units of BE course work:

9 units of BE courses

1 unit of BE 696A.

Students need to receive approval from a BE faculty member to act as their BE Minor Advisor prior to completing the Graduate College Minor application.
Student Handbook  

Program StatisticsInformation about these numbers

Program-level Information
Application Acceptance Rate 70%
Med. Time-to-degree (years) 4.00
Department-level Information
Enrollment Percent Male 62%
Enrollment Percent Female 38%
Enrollment Percent International 35%
Enrollment Percent URM 9%

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Last revised 02 Mar 2020