The Biological Systems Engineering Profession

Biological systems engineering involves the sustainable production, storage, and conversion of biobased materials into useful products. Examples range from breakfast cereals to biologically derived fuels like today’s ethanol and biodiesel.

What will the second and third-generation biofuels look like? How can we convert low-cost biomass into a liquid fuel? How do we make biomass production systems more sustainable? What are the best opportunities for improving them? Biological systems engineers at Iowa State learn to innovate, to communicate, and to work as team members to address these sorts of critical questions.

Biological systems engineers have high-impact careers. Maintaining air quality, a secure food supply, and clean water is important to everyone. In today’s global marketplace, grains, produce, and livestock are transported from country to country, and food security is increasingly of concern. Biological systems engineers help safeguard our air, water, and food supply by developing sensors to detect problem compounds and by developing management plans to track materials and to minimize the chances of contamination.

Option Areas of Study

  • Ecological Engineering
    Use biology, ecology, and engineering principles to design ecosystems for the mutual benefit of humans and nature. Enjoy a career that emphasizes the design, management, and restoration of ecosystems through consulting, government agencies and industry.
  • Food and Bioprocessing Engineering
    Design and operate modern food processing systems, such as food pasteurization, sterilization, freezing, and hydration while improving the economic and environmental sustainability of biorenewable resource production systems. Enjoy a career improving the safety and quality of food by applying engineering, biology, and chemistry principles and emphasize the design and operation of industrial-scale bioconversion systems.
  • Open Option
    Prepare for a professional degree program outside of engineering. Enjoy a career in academia, law, or industry that has a foundation in fundamentals, systems approaches, biology, and chemistry.
advisor with student

Questions? We are here to help!

Not sure which major is right for you? Want to learn more about our department and programs? Considering a minor? Just have a few questions you’d like to run by our professional staff? We can help!

To schedule an appointment, contact our advising office at 515-294-9449 or, or stop by our student services suite at 1320 Elings Hall.