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A Consumer And Laboratory Devices Approach To Teaching Principles And Applications Of Bioelectricity

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

BME Course and Curriculum Development

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Page Count


Page Numbers

15.21.1 - 15.21.7

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Paper Authors


James Sweeney Florida Gulf Coast University

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JAMES D. SWEENEY is Professor and Chair of the Department of Bioengineering at Florida Gulf Coast University. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University in 1988 and 1983, respectively, and his Sc.B. Engineering degree (Biomedical Engineering) from Brown University in 1979. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

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A Consumer and Laboratory Devices Approach to Teaching Principles and Applications of Bioelectricity


Courses in Bioelectricity, or similarly Bioelectric Phenomena, are taught within many undergraduate and/or graduate curricula in Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, and sometimes Electrical Engineering or Neurosciences. While most such offerings emphasize mainly the theoretical foundations of bioelectricity as applied to clinical devices and/or modeling of excitable cell function, we have supplemented this traditional approach in the course BME4504C at Florida Gulf Coast University through the incorporation of experiments and projects featuring consumer and laboratory devices. Featuring consumer devices available across the counter (e.g. percent body fat bioimpedance monitors or scales), or by prescription (e.g. transcutaneous electrical stimulation devices for pain suppression or muscle exercise), has helped students understand the widespread importance and application of bioelectric principles in device design beyond the hospital environment. Additionally, exposing students to selected laboratory instruments (e.g. electroporation systems) assists in emphasizing the applications of bioelectricity in fields such as biotechnology. The expense of incorporating consumer devices into a Bioelectricity course is low, and laboratory systems such as electroporation devices may already be in place in research labs. Student response to this approach to teaching Bioelectricity at the senior level of our undergraduate curriculum was very favorable in a first offering last year. This paper provides a summary of the course structure, content, projects and evaluation of assessment results from the first offering of this course with discussion also of additional project topics incorporated into the second offering.


Courses in Bioelectricity or Bioelectric Phenomena can be taught as early as the freshman or sophomore years in some undergraduate curricula. More commonly, such courses are considered specialized subject matter at the junior or senior level, or are delivered as graduate classes. A survey of the now archived on-line Biomedical Engineering Curriculum Database1 (now hosted by the Biomedical Engineering Society) found at least twenty-five programs which described a Bioelectricity/Bioelectric Phenomena course within their undergraduate or graduate offerings (or courses with similar content but with other names such as Electrophysiology, Applied Neurophysiology, Cardiac Physiology, Applied Bioelectricity, etc.). Given that most entries in this database were last updated in the time period 2004-2006, it is likely that the number of programs offering Bioelectricity courses is now considerably higher. While some

labs, most Bioelectricity courses tend to be offered more as theoretical courses, often with corresponding use of simulations to reinforce understanding of models of cell cable equations, propagating and non-propagating action potentials, electrical stimulation of excitable cells, intracellular and extracellular recordings of cell activity, etc. Bioelectricity courses are often

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