Most biomedical engineering (BME) programs appreciate the need to provide their students with knowledge in the field of systems physiology. One objective in teaching systems physiology to undergraduate or graduate BME students should be to provide them with enough understanding of physiology that they can acquire what further understanding they need as such a need arises later in life. An instructional goal should therefore be to provide a solid framework in physiology from which learning through self-instruction is enhanced. With the preceding reasoning in mind, a project is underway in the VaNTH (Vanderbilt University; Northwestern University; University of Texas at Austin; and Health. Science and Technology at Harvard/MIT) Engineering Research Center (ERC) to define certain key concepts in systems physiology that we feel are essential in the training of BME students. We believe that in planning a curriculum in BME it is more meaningful to define the key concepts (e.g., homeodynamics, emergent properties, etc.) that one should seek to cover in a systems physiology course or course sequence than to specify the particular systems in which one would cover these concepts. The latter might be constrained by local expertise or by other local biases. We propose that, if students are presented with the key concepts well, their ability to generalize them to new systems should be greatly eased, promoting self-learning.