What is the MEMP PhD program?

The Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) PhD program trains students to advance human health. The MEMP program is a unique combination of curriculum, practice and community that integrates:

  • A thorough graduate education in a classical discipline of engineering or physical science
  • In depth training in the biomedical sciences and the practice of medicine through preclinical coursework alongside medical students and clinical experiences in hospital wards
  • Access to research opportunities in labs at Harvard, MIT and Harvard teaching hospitals
  • A community of peers with career paths in medicine, science, engineering, business, and government
  • Original research in the form of a doctoral thesis

What makes MEMP unique?

The MEMP program differs significantly from many biomedical engineering (BME) doctoral programs because of its breadth and its depth in multiple dimensions. It not only emphasizes grounding in a classical discipline but also provides much more exposure to the medical sciences than most BME programs. This exposure comes in many forms, including biomedical sciences coursework in which MD students are peers, as well as through multiple clinical experiences. The MEMP program also provides an open environment that allows students to follow their interests even when they cross the conventional barriers between disciplines, professions and institutions.

Alumni tell us that the HST Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM), which is the capstone experience differentiating MEMP from traditional BME programs, is transformative and has a major impact on their careers.

  • The clinical experience is priceless.  Provides months of real-world exposure to the challenges - and rewards - of medicine, from diagnosis to treatment
  • Doing ICM also made my coursework relevant - I saw myriad applications for engineering expertise and abundant problems needing to be tackled. ICM brought these to life in a way lectures or textbooks never would have.
  • The types of students who are drawn to MEMP because of Intro to Clinical Medicine (ICM) are those who want to understand problems from many different angles, not just their engineering discipline, and builds the interdisciplinary culture that HST strives for right from the beginning.
  • From direct observation from my peers and colleagues, HST alumni, that have entered both academia and industry, the ICM experience has prepared them in ways that may have otherwise taken years to learn in order to interact with physicians and advance translation of ideas and products... Medicine is a culture and knowledge base that needs to be experienced in the clinic, learning with patients, and cannot be appreciated solely in the classroom.

How do I decide if I should apply to MEMP through MIT or Harvard?

HST expects that the majority of MEMP candidates will apply through MIT, using the MIT online Application for Graduate Admission. Note that MEMP students enrolled through MIT can work in the labs of any Harvard or MIT faculty member, including those at Harvard-affiliated hospitals.

You should apply through Harvard if: 

Candidates applying to MEMP in conjunction with either of these Harvard programs should follow these instructions.

Candidates applying to MEMP through Harvard must be accepted by both their Harvard program and HST. Therefore, because admissions are extremely competitive and class sizes are small, we encourage you to also submit a MEMP application through MIT. This will increase your chance of admission to MEMP. If you are accepted to MEMP through both MIT and Harvard, you can choose which offer to accept.

How do I apply to MEMP through both MIT and Harvard?

Candidates applying to MEMP through both MIT and Harvard need to submit two independent applications following both sets of instructions for applying to MIT, found here, and Harvard, found here.

How do MEMP students select their research advisors and thesis project?

MEMP PhD students admitted through MIT work in a wide variety of research areas and can work in the labs of any MIT or Harvard faculty member, including those based at the Harvard-affiliated hospitals. Faculty formally affiliated with the HST program are listed at http://hst.mit.edu/faculty-research/faculty, but MEMP students are not restricted to working with these individuals.

As part of the admissions process, promising applicants are invited to visit Cambridge for interviews and tours in late February/early March. At that time, applicants have many opportunities to interact with faculty and current students.  Due to the large number of applications, we do not encourage candidates to contact potential research mentors prior to being invited to interview.

When can I begin an application?

The application website opens each year on August 1 for admission in fall of the following year.

What is the deadline to apply?

Application deadlines are typically in early December preceding the fall term in which you intend to enroll.

We appreciate receiving all letters of recommendation by the application deadline, as that will expedite the processing of your application.

We will accept letters of recommendation received shortly after the deadline. Applications will be considered incomplete and may not receive full consideration if the required three letters are not received by December 20.

Do I need to complete the Subjects Taken section of the MIT application if the courses are also listed on my transcript?

Yes, the Subjects Taken section is meant to be a summary of the most relevant courses along with information about the textbooks used. This allows our committee to see the courses, grouped by topic, that you feel are most relevant to your application. Knowing which textbooks were used allows our faculty to see the level of instruction and evaluate your preparation for our program.

List only relevant courses grouped by subject. If you do not have all of your textbook details, please provide as much information as you have available.  It is not necessary to list courses completed at MIT that appear on your MIT transcript.

What supporting documents are required, and how do I submit them?

Specific instructions for submitting resumes/CVs, transcripts, and letters of recommendation follow. Please do not send copies of journal articles, certificates, photographs, or any other materials; they will not be reviewed.

Test score reports: We do not accept GRE or MCAT scores. Detailed instructions for international applicants submitting TOEFL or IELTS scores can be found here.

Resumes/CVs: The online application will prompt you to upload a resume or CV.

Transcripts: As part of the online application, you will upload grade reports or unofficial transcripts from each college or university where a degree has or will be earned.  Candidates who are invited to interview will be asked to arrange for an official transcript to be sent directly from each school where a degree has been or will be awarded.

Please do not send official transcripts until you are prompted to do so. We accept both paper and electronic transcripts. Electronic transcripts and instructions for validating the electronic signature should be sent to hst-adms-team [at] mit.edu (subject: Electronic%20Transcript) .

Transcripts that do not already include an English version must be accompanied by a certified English translation.

Letters of recommendation: Three letters are required, and one or two additional letters (up to a total of five) will be accepted. At least two letters should be from people well acquainted with your academic work and research abilities. 

Each letter should be on institutional letterhead and include a legible signature. Letters should be received by the application deadline.

Whenever possible, letters should be submitted online. We do not accept letters of recommendation by email or fax. If your recommender encounters difficulties, instruct them to contact hst-phd-admissions [at] mit.edu.

If I am applying only through Harvard, how do I submit supporting documents to HST?

Letters of recommendation: After you send a pdf of your Harvard application via email, we will make arrangements directly with Harvard staff to obtain copies of submitted letters of recommendation.

Transcripts: International applicants to MEMP via Harvard should follow the same instructions for submitting transcripts described here.

Test score reports: International applicants to MEMP via Harvard should follow the same instructions for submitting TOEFL or IELTS scores described here

May I send additional supporting materials?

No, please do not send additional supporting materials. They will not be reviewed.

Is the GRE required?

No, GRE test scores are not required or accepted.

I'm an international student. Are TOEFL or IELTS scores required, and how do I submit them?

Yes. HST places a high premium on both written and spoken communication skills and requires international applicants to document their proficiency in the English language.

If you are an international applicant, you are required to take either the TOEFL or IELTS exam unless: 1) English is your first language, or 2) English was the language of instruction for your secondary (high school) or undergraduate education. If you meet one of these criteria for a waiver of this requirement, you can indicate that by checking the appropriate box under Language Exams on the Test Scores/Experience section of the application.

Contact the hst-adms-team [at] mit.edu (HST PhD Admissions Team), including a copy of your resume/CV, if you believe that other circumstances warrant consideration of a waiver. To support such requests, recommenders whose native language is English may provide input regarding an applicant's English proficiency in their letters of recommendation.

Be sure to schedule your testing so score reports can reach us by the application deadline.

HST requires a minimum score of 100 on the internet-based TOEFL test (iBT). Please have your official TOEFL test scores sent to HST at MIT using institution code 3514. A department code is not necessary. 

HST requires a minimum score of 7 on the IELTS test. IELTS does not use a code system; please designate Health Sciences and Technology (HST) as the MIT department for sending your scores. 

Where do I send supporting documents?

Candidates who are invited to interview will be asked to arrange for an official transcript to be sent directly from each school where they earned or will receive a degree. Please do not send hard copies of transcripts until you are prompted to do so.

Please do not send copies of journal articles, certificates of graduation, or completion of programs; this material will not be used in application reviews.

How will I know if my application is complete?

After the application deadline, we will notify you by email that your application has been received. At that time, we will also inform you if any supporting materials are missing. Please note that because of the large volume of applications received just before the deadline, it may take from several days to a few weeks before we can acknowledge receipt of your application.

What happens after HST receives my application?

The stages in our process are:

  • review of applications and invitations to selected candidates for interviews;
  • interviews which take place in late February or early March;
  • admissions decisions and notifications made by mid-March.

When will my application be reviewed?

The HST Graduate Admissions Committee reviews all MEMP applications during the month of January. Applications are reviewed by a number of members of the Committee.

When will I know if I have been selected for an interview? When are the interviews?

In early February, HST emails invitations to candidates who have been selected to interview. Candidates who are not selected to interview will receive formal notification of their status as soon as possible.

Candidates chosen for interviews will be expected to come to MIT during our interview period, typically held in late February or early March. In the case of applicants at a significant distance (generally those outside of North America), telephone/video conference interviews may be conducted. The final admissions decisions will be made from the pool of interviewed applicants.

How will I know whether or not I have been accepted?

Applicants invited to interview will be notified by mid-March of HST's decision. All notifications are sent via email.

Candidates offered admission will be asked to let us know their decision as soon as possible, but no later than April 15th. 

What are my chances of being accepted to MEMP?

Admission to MEMP is extremely competitive, with 15-20% of applicants invited to interview and less than 10% of applicants offered admission.

All candidates to MEMP should have at least an undergraduate (bachelors/baccalureate) or higher degree in an engineering discipline or a physical/quantitative science (for example, chemistry, physics, computer science, computational neuroscience.) Successful candidates will have demonstrated a sustained interest in applications of engineering and physical/quantitative science to biology or medicine through classes, research, or work experience. In addition, successful candidates typically have a grade point average of 3.6 or higher on a 4.0 scale, strong letters of recommendation from faculty or others with whom they have worked closely, and relevant prior research experience. All applications receive full consideration and are evaluated holistically.

Does HST offer fee waivers?

Applying to graduate school can present a financial obstacle for many qualified applicants. Application fee waivers are available for US citizens and permanent residents who meet eligibility requirements set by the MIT Office of Graduate Education.

What types of financial support are available?

All incoming students are considered for departmental fellowship support. Funding offers depend on individual circumstances but usually include full tuition, stipend and health insurance for the first academic year. In subsequent years, essentially all students in good academic standing receive full financial support via research assistantships, teaching assistantships and outside fellowships. HST is proud that more than 1/3 of our students are supported by external fellowships. We make every effort to help our students secure resources to meet all their financial needs.

I'm an international student. How does that effect my chances of being admitted and receiving first-year funding?

All applications are evaluated without consideration of nationality or citizenship. Similarly, funding offers to admitted candidates are typically the same for domestic and international candidates.

If I'm accepted, can I defer my admission until the following year?

You should apply to MEMP by the application deadline that immediately precedes the fall term in which you intend to enroll. HST does not grant deferrals for students to pursue business ventures, work experience, public service opportunities, travel or educational programs unrelated to medical engineering. HST will consider requests for deferrals in cases where applicants receive opportunities for international study via the Churchill Scholarship, Whitaker International Fellowship, Rhodes Scholarship and other similar programs.

Can I apply to MEMP if my undergraduate major is in the life sciences?

A traditional life sciences curriculum is generally not adequate preparation for MEMP.  However, some successful applicants have an undergraduate (bachelors/baccalureate) degree in life sciences augmented by extensive coursework in mathematics, physics, engineering, and/or computer science. This may take the form of a formal minor program or a less-formal collection of courses that provide a similar level of expertise in a quantitative field.

When the admissions committee reviews submitted applications, they are assessing whether applicants are prepared to succeed in the relevant graduate courses at MIT. To determine if your background provides sufficient preparation, you can review the program’s requirements for a concentration area and the classes that fulfill that requirement. Materials for many of the concentration area classes are available here, which allows you to see the level at which the material is covered and to assess your preparation.

Can I apply to MEMP if I already have a medical degree?

The MEMP curriculum combines training in engineering or a physical/quantitative science discipline with classes in biomedical sciences and clinical experiences. The admissions process generally favors candidates who would benefit from both elements of the training over those candidates who already hold a medical degree. If you apply, your statement of purpose should specifically address the rationale for your proposed training in MEMP (as opposed to traditional science or engineering PhD program), given that you already have medical training.

Additionally, if you have not studied an engineering or physical/quantitative science discipline in addition to medicine, you should consult the FAQ here.

Can I apply if...

... I'm a first year grad student at MIT in Mechanical Engineering (or another engineering or physical/quantitative science discipline)? I didn't know about HST when I applied to graduate school, but now I'm really interested in MEMP.

Yes, you may. If admitted, you would transfer from Mechanical Engineering to MEMP. It's very likely that the coursework and research that you are doing in your first year of graduate school can be used to satisfy requirements towards your MEMP degree.

Will I have to take MEMP Quals if...

...I'm a first year grad student at MIT in Chemical Engineering (or another engineering or physical/quantitative science discipline), I've already passed my quals in my department, and I've been accepted to MEMP for next year?

If you've already passed doctoral qualifying exams in another department at MIT, then you can submit a petition requesting to substitute that qualifying exam for your MEMP quals. The faculty committee that oversees MEMP quals will decide on your petition by reviewing your academic performance and comparing the ChemE quals to the MEMP quals.

Do MEMP students get a master's degree on the way to their PhD?

Master's degrees are not required in MEMP, and HST does not typically grant master's degrees to MEMP students. It is possible for MEMP students to earn a master's degree in a related field (for example, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering). If you are interested in this option, you must apply directly to the appropriate department for their master's program. In most cases, the coursework and research required for the master's degree can also be used to satisfy requirements towards your MEMP degree.

Who do I contact for other questions?

Contact hst-phd-admissions [at] mit.edu (subject: MEMP%20Admissions%20question)

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