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Starting in the program

Welcome to MIT BE!

Plan to arrive on campus one to two weeks before classes begin. It is strongly suggested that students attend Graduate Student Orientation. Students must attend our department-specific orientation, which is generally held the Friday before classes begin.

Below are some topics of particular importance and relevance to students in our department. More information for new students can be found on the MIT Graduate Admissions site.

NOTE: Due to the constantly evolving situation around COVID-19, some of these requirements and processes may be adapted.

MIT Kerberos and Athena

Students should register for a Kerberos ID and password as soon as possible, using their MIT ID number which is included in their acceptance letter. Students’ Kerberos ID will allow them to create an MIT email account, access Athena servers, use MIT Certificates, and more. More information from IS&T here.

Upon enrollment, Course XX graduate students’ email addresses are automatically added to the Department’s mailing lists, over which subjects such as seminar announcements, social hours, and Department policy are discussed. For more information, contact the BE Academic Office.

MIT Writing Requirement

The ability to write clearly and succinctly is an essential skill for a successful career as an engineer or a scientist. Every new graduate student is required to demonstrate, in an online examination given each summer, the level of their proficiency in writing English. Staff members of the MIT Writing Program administer the online examination. On the basis of the examination results, recommendations may be made for remedial work. The Graduate Student Office notifies students whether they passed, performed marginally (and are therefore required to complete one or more workshops in technical writing) or failed and must register for and complete one designated writing subject with a grade of A or B. Students with an undergraduate degree from MIT are not required to take the writing examination.

English Evaluation Test

An incoming graduate student for whom English is not the first language is required to take the English Evaluation Test (EET). The MIT English as a Second Language (ESL) Program gives this test at MIT before registration day. As a result of this test, if a subject is “Strongly Recommended” OR “Recommended,” the student is required to register for and pass (with at least a C) the ESL subject suggested. The student is urged to take the subject the first academic semester of registration, but is allowed to delay taking it by one academic semester. If the student does not earn a grade of “C” or better in the suggested English subject, the subject must be retaken the following semester.

Exceptions from the rules are only by (1) retaking the EET and receiving an “adequate” rating or (2) receiving a written approval by the Chair of the BE Graduate Program Committee following submission of a written petition for waiver of the rules. Students who violate any of the above regulations regarding the EET or the ESL subjects will be refused registration. The units for these ESL subjects will be counted against the maximum number of units a research assistant or teaching assistant is permitted to take, but will not be counted toward the student’s degree requirements.

Housing in Boston and at MIT

The Department of Biological Engineering provides no assistance with student housing; however, considerable assistance is available within the Institute. Good references for both on-campus and off- campus housing are available at the MIT Housing website.

MIT has available on-campus housing for only a portion of its graduate students. Assignments to the six buildings on campus generally run for one academic or calendar year beginning in August and are made by the Graduate Housing Office, Room E32-133, which should be contacted for further information.

Most graduate students reside off-campus either by choice or by necessity. The Off campus Housing, Room W59-200, provides listing of apartments and houses for rent, listings of people looking to share housing, maps of surrounding communities, and free telephones to help with your housing search. For more information please consult the Housing Office Website at:

Health Insurance and Medical Forms

Students are automatically enrolled in the MIT Single Student Extended Insurance, waiving the health insurance means you are declining this health plan from MIT because you already have insurance somewhere else. If you are planning to waive the MIT medical insurance, you must also fill out a form to do so, and must contact the department offices so your financial award can be adjusted. Visit this MIT Medical page for more information:

All new students must complete a medical report form to record immunizations etc. as required by law. The Student Medical Report Form and a FAQ is found here students or parents have questions that are not answered in the FAQ, they can send an email to or call 617-253-1777.


Students are compensated for their work as graduate students. MIT is on a bimonthly pay schedule, so a new student’s first paycheck should arrive within two weeks of filling out the appropriate paperwork (I-9 form, below).

Students may receive a fall term bill from MIT (starting July 1) with tuition and health insurance payments due by August 1.  The only portion of the bill students are responsible for would be the Student Life fee and non-tuition/insurance related fees, such as rent for MIT housing, if applicable. Students do not need to pay anything towards tuition and health insurance and can let those charges run past the due date.  Charges for tuition and health insurance will be automatically paid by the department once financial awards are processed in mid-August. At that time, each student will receive a separate confirmation with the details of their financial award broken down by tuition, stipend, and health insurance.

I-9 Form

The I-9 is a federal form that all U.S. employers are required to process for each person they hire in order to complete an in-person verification of that individual’s identity and employment authorization to work in the U.S.

Please refer to MIT HR’s I-9 web page for further instructions and access the form. Students must file a Form I-9 by Registration Day in person at the Atlas Service Center.

PLEASE NOTE: MIT is required by law to have the form on file, if the deadline is not met, the Dean’s Office requires the department to cancel the term financial appointment until the form is completed.

New paid employees and student workers (including Research Assistants, Teaching Assistants, and students paid by fellowships) must bring the completed Form 1-9 and original document(s) identified in Lists A, B, and C of Form 1-9 to the Atlas Service Center. Student workers must present original (not scanned or copies) document(s) in-person.

International Students

International students have additional paperwork requirements. MIT’s International Student Office has a helpful guide, found here:

Academic Advisors

Each graduate student is associated with an advisor who plays an important role in the student’s academic and research programs. For incoming, first-year graduate students, assigned academic advisors are members of Course XX Graduate Committee. The academic advisor’s role in the first year is to help first year graduate students to navigate through the academic requirements of the program, to make recommendations and suggestions regarding elective choices, remedial coursework, etc. When a student selects a research topic and begins their thesis, the research supervisor becomes the student’s academic advisor.

First Registration

A student’s academic advisor will help them select courses for the first semester. They will meet on campus to discuss fall and spring coursework. Students can pre-register (at, but do not have to finalize registration until Registration Day. More information about registration can be found on the Registration page.

First Year Offices

First-year students are assigned office/meeting space generally in the vicinity of Building 56. After completionof the first year, office space assignments are normally handled within one’s research group. Depending on space allocation, first year student offices usually include: individual desks with shelve space, modular meeting tables, individual lockers, refrigerator, microwave, telephone, MIT network connection, wall clock, and in some instances a photocopier and printer.

When a student completes their choice of a research advisor, they move into a laboratory or office space associated with the research group of the research advisor.

Facilities problems should be reported to the Academic Office at 617.253.1712. Problems arising from noise, personality, work habits, or manners should be resolved within one’s office in a civil manner becoming of adults, when this fails, problems should be addressed to the Department’s Graduate Administrator.