Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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1. What is a joint program? Why do you offer a joint program?

To provide a richer set of educational opportunities, our educational institutions pool their assets to offer a joint program. In doing so they recognize the capabilities, limits, authority, value and mission of each institution. Biomedical engineering (BME) is inherently a service-based effort - by serving the needs of medical practitioners of all fields, patients' well-being and the general health can be improved. We in BME thus contribute to the improvement of our society. Achievements toward such ends require resources and capabilities that are seldom in a single site or institution. Site-use issues are acknowledged and addressed almost all BME programs. In the mid-90's in Memphis, we recognized that site-use was the lesser of two issues. Bringing our institutions into an active collaboration was a more effective means to make sites and their research programs an integral part of the graduate education of our students than similar amounts of effort directed to site identification.

Any individual's educational program will use only a fraction of the resources available through the program. Said in different words, students all have foci for their educational effort. Graduates have a shared core of knowledge gained in selected areas and that special focus, which is recognized by award of the pertinent degree. By our state-certified program of graduate education, each individual is placed at one site, either UM or UT for registration each term. Generally, this site is where the student's major advisor is employed and the source of stipend and tuition funding is located. This site also provides indirect services, e.g., health insurance and clinical services. Classes are held on both campuses; laboratories in BME are available for research on both campuses. Transfer of sites is possible. Registration processes are treated in other questions.

The joint program is largely constructed about a reciprocal agreement that exists between the UM and UTHSC. This agreement offers a means to extend the offerings of each by use of the available services of the other. It does not expect the other to provide funding to extend the offerings of the other campus. Our Joint Program was developed with the recognition that both sides needed t invest and continue contributions to the developing field known as BME.

2. What background do I need to have to apply for the program?

Our program is open to many backgrounds. Applicants with accredited degrees in engineering, usually biomedical, chemical, electrical, or mechanical, or in physics are ready for direct graduate study in the program. Students who majored in chemistry, biology, computer science, or mathematics often must take pre-requisite courses for graduate study. Typical efforts for these majors involve mastery of calculus and differential equations, physics with calculus, applied computer programming, and a collection of five courses in engineering sciences that provides analytical ability in applied problems.

3. Do I need to apply to the campus that my adviser is from?

This is a chicken and egg question with an egg and chicken answer. Most individuals cannot identify an advisor. So you should apply and let the process of advisor (and research topic) selection begin. Think and write with care about which areas of research and BME interest you. Remember that most individuals in BME change applications and foci several times during a career. The ability of a person trained in BME is to identify cost-effective solutions for complicated biologically grounded situations. The process is the key issue and learning about this process is a part of your education.

So, review the activities of our faculty and students, decide if which campus has the set that fits your interests best, and apply. If you still cannot make a choice, act along one of two routes. 1) Flip a coin or apply to what looks like a 51-49 odds. Then our admissions committee will process your application, note your reasons for wanting to study an area of BME here in a special way (including some group of possible advisors) and assign a campus site (note that they can change admission sites and that changes of site in subsequent semesters are made as needed). 2) Write to one or two faculty members in the Joint Program, weigh their advice and then apply.

4. Can I change my administrative campus after I join the program?

Yes. Students in good academic standing (3.0 GPA) can change campuses by completing our process, which originates with a discussion with your current advisor or the director of graduate studies for the campus. Such changes will involve reassignment to another advisor and often a change of funding source for any assistantship. Funding for assistantships often is tied to a particular campus (site).

5. Why is there a slight difference between the requirements for each campus? How does it affect me?

The differences between requirements for the two sites are essentially cosmetic and historical. There is no difference in the academic achievements or educational programs. Students are guided by the graduate entity on the campus at which they register. These entities have individual processes for submission of thesis or dissertation, for dates of registration or completion of documents, and similar administrative details. Working in coordination with the Director of Graduate Studies, your advisor, and the BME office at your individual site is the easy way to synchronize with these requirements.

6. Does the degree diploma mention what my administrative campus is?

Only if you know the pattern - Names of both institutions, UM and UTHSC, appear on the diploma - your administrative campus at the time of graduation is the upper most of the two names.

7. Where are most of the classes held, UM or UT?

The answer depends on the year and focus. Currently, more classes for the first year are held on the UM campus because rooms are more readily available there. Most imaging classes are held at UT. Other classes are distributed. All engineering classes outside BME are held at UM; medically related classes are held at UTHSC. Most, but not all, "math-like" classes are at UM; the major exception lies with UTHSC's Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology.

8. Is there student parking available on both campuses?

For UT campus you have choices - parking on the street, with the risk of tickets at $25 each, parking in a lot on a per use basis, or purchase of a parking pass for a lot from the UT for $15 a month.

Street parking is virtually nil around UM and the campus police ticket regularly. Lot-based parking is easier; students can obtain a pass from the Parking Office on Zach Curlin Street. Please contact the department's secretary for more information.

9. Am I considered a full-time student in both campuses?

For many situations, the answer is no, you cannot have two full-time identities. Such a situation would conflict with many situations, e.g., the I-20 forms for international students, the loan conditions for past student borrowing, and Tennessee's regulations regarding tuition remission and per-attended support of its educational institutions.

But, there are limited senses in which you have "complete" identity. You have access right to use the libraries of both institutions, can and should obtain an identity card for both campuses, and will truly benefit educationally if you partake of the offerings at both campuses.

10. Can I use all of the facilities at both campuses?

Registration and payment of fees at a site brings the privileges of use of facilities at that site. Persons in charge of costs for facilities at the other site look to the reciprocal agreement (See 1 "What is a joint program.") and answer that there is no need to duplicate or provide replacement for the basic offerings or the other site. Sometimes, use on a "cost" basis is permitted; this however can be expensive.

11. What are my options as a PhD student to obtain my necessary life science courses?

Advanced courses in Life Sciences for the PhD degree are chosen in close collaboration with the advisor and faculty committee. Practical issues and the theme of the research project affect the choices. Graduate courses in the Department of Biology at the University of Memphis are often chosen because of the 3-credit format and the consistency with the academic calendar. Recent changes to the offerings in basic medical sciences at UTHSC make their courses appealing for students with complete pre-medical or strong life-science background (e.g., tissue-engineering as an undergraduate BME concentration). These courses are offered in a block-style format (e.g., beginning at some date, the course meets several days a week for 10 weeks and awards a fixed number (5, 7, 8) of credit hours). Consultation with current students to determine which courses were offered recently, on the pertinence of the instruction, and on the fit with the BME projects is often useful.

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Contact Us

UTHSC Campus:

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Biomedical Engineering
University of Tennessee Health Science Center
956 Court Avenue, Suite E226
Memphis, TN 38163
Phone: (901) 448-5880
Fax: (901) 448-7387

U of M Campus:

Department of
Biomedical Engineering

The University of Memphis
330 Engineering Technology Building
Memphis, TN 38152
Phone: (901) 678-3733
Fax: (901) 678-5281