Synthetic Biology Master's Programs

Feb 26, 2019

Earning a Master of Engineering, Master of Biotechnology, or Master of Science can provide advanced education to those interested in the field of synthetic biology.

Synthetic biology is a quickly developing, interdisciplinary field which incorporates biology, chemistry and engineering in the development of devices and systems from biological components, pharmaceutical medications, and diagnostic procedures. Those who wish to enter the field of synthetic biology to conduct research in this field can consider a range of master's degree options.

Program Options

Master of Engineering

One program option for those interested in synthetic biology is to earn the Master of Engineering in bioengineering. The degree may also be termed a Master of Bioengineering. This degree may take approximately one year of full-time study to complete. The program typically requires core and specialization courses as well as a project. Leadership courses may be a program component as well. Applicants should expect to provide transcripts, a statement of purpose, recommendations, and GRE scores.

Master of Biotechnology

A Master of Biotechnology is another option to develop skills in the area of synthetic biology. A Master of Biotechnology program typically takes one to two years to complete. Program completion often requires coursework in both technical and non-technical areas, as well as participation in research experiences. Internship experiences may be available. Applicants should expect to provide transcripts, a statement of purpose, and recommendations. GRE scores may be a component of the admissions process. Undergraduate coursework in chemistry, biology, and calculus may be required.

Master of Science

Students can also choose to earn the Master of Science (M.S.). The M.S. could be achieved in several closely-related scientific areas, including biology, biomedical engineering, biological engineering, or chemical engineering. A student interested in the M.S. degree may expect to conduct independent research, so it would be important to identify and contact faculty members who are conducting research in the area of synthetic biology when choosing a program. This degree typically takes two years of study to complete. To complete an M.S., students should expect to complete a range of courses and a thesis or project of independent research. Prospective students may need to supply transcripts, a statement of research interests, recommendations, and GRE scores. Research experience may be preferred.

Core Courses

Typically, each of these programs will require a range of courses focusing on biology, biotechnology, and other skills necessary for success in this field. Read on to find out more about some common courses students may encounter.

Biotechnology Entrepreneurship

Students in a biotechnology entrepreneurship course may learn the practical requirements to develop a biotechnology enterprise. This course may cover the development of business plans, financial projections, and venture capital. Students may participate in a hands-on project with a product they have designed or other promising biotechnology products.

Gene Therapy

A course in gene therapy may assist students in understanding the historical and current state of gene therapy techniques. The course may cover principles of genetic engineering, and other topics may be cell culture, polymerase chain reactions, and vector efficiency. Specific applications of gene therapy, including human therapeutics and biofuels, may be reviewed.

Applied Statistics

Those conducting research in the field of synthetic biology will require extensive knowledge of statistical techniques. A course in applied statistics will review the classical and modern statistics. The course will further discuss how these theories can be applied to problems in biology.


A course in biomaterials may introduce students to the design of materials that have interactions with a range of biologic systems. Specific topics of consideration may be biocompatibility, surface fractionalization, and immune response. The selection of materials for various types of reconstructive surgery, including orthopedic surgery, may be discussed.

Biotechnology Regulations

Those involved in developing new technologies in the biological sphere must be knowledgeable and aware of the range of regulatory and legal considerations of their research. This course will introduce students to federal laws and regulations of pharmaceutical and medical product development. Compliance and appropriate documentation may be reviewed.

Synthetic Biological Engineering

Synthetic biological engineering is focused on the building of new biological functions and systems. In a course on synthetic biological engineering, students may learn the basics of molecular biology, biochemistry, and engineering that are relevant to the field. Students may then focus on a range of applications, including biomedical sciences, biofuels, cloning, and medications.

Biomedical Devices

A course on biomedical devices may discuss the engineering design process for biomedical devices, including the steps of evaluating, planning, and testing devices. The application of biomedical devices to clinical settings may be discussed. The technology of these devices may be a component of the course.

Those in synthetic biology are at the forefront of scientific research in biological materials and technology. Earning a master's degree focused on this field may provide the opportunity to be engaged in this developing area of study.

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