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A New Interdisciplinary Course for Engineering and Business Students: The Global Pharmaceutical Industry

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

SPECIAL SESSION: Interdisciplinary Course Design Opportunities for Chemical Engineers

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.77.1 - 22.77.13



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Paper Authors


William J. Kelly Villanova University

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Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering

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A new interdisciplinary course for engineering and business students: the Global Pharmaceutical IndustryThe workplace today is changing. Technological breakthroughs often cross disciplines countriesand continents. In highly regulated industries such as the pharmaceutical business, it is essentialfor engineers designing the products and processes to be aware of the different regulatory legalguidelines worldwide and the technical and cultural challenges associated with relocatingmanufacturing and research facilities from the United States to countries such as Singapore,India and Ireland. A new interdisciplinary course was developed and taught for the first time thispast 2009/10 academic year at Villanova University called “the Global Pharmaceutical Industry”.The goal of this course was to provide an opportunity for engineering (primarily chemicalengineering), science and business students to interact while gaining exposure to some of the keytechnical and non-technical issues driving the evolution and operation of the globalpharmaceutical industry. The technical (molecules, process and equipment) and business(pharmaceutical economics, marketing and management) basics were covered by Villanovaengineering and business faculty respectively. Experts from the industry discussed current andcomplex issues facing the industry such as; drug manufacturing and marketing regulations inChina, ethics and logistics of clinical trials in India and drug anti-counterfeiting efforts. Thepedagogical approach included lecture, discussion, case analysis, and industry focused projects.The purpose of this paper is to describe the benefits and challenges associated with this newcourse at Villanova. Two noteworthy and somewhat unexpected benefits of the course were theengineering students gaining an appreciation for how they can apply their problem solvingabilities to some of the less technical problem but quite complex questions facing the industry(i.e. where to conduct clinical trials for a new drug) and the two faculty who co-taught thecourse getting an energizing experience as a result of exposure to new material and teachingstyles. Some of the challenges included: achieving an interesting and fair mixture of technicaland non-technical material in the lectures, exams and group projects; achieving connectivitybetween the wide range of topics in the course and achieving a fair mixture of exam, homeworkand group project questions that allowed for the business students to utilize their abilities tomake convincing written and verbal arguments and the engineers to utilize their abilities to bequantitative and problem solve. The course was received very favorably by the students asindicated by surveys and deemed quite unique and valuable by the many industry experts thatvoluntarily participated in the course. In summary, this course was successful in the difficult anduncommon task of delivering material from technical (science and engineering) and non-technical (business) disciplines to a diverse group of students from three different colleges atVillanova via instruction from two faculty and outside speakers.References 1. Vest, Charles M. “Context and Challenge for Twenty-First Century Engineering Education.” Journal of Engineering Education July 2008: 235-236 2. McCormick, Kate. “Global Regulatory Framework Overview: US FDA, EMEA, PIC/S and ICH.” Pharmaceutical Engineering May/Jun 2009: 40-48 3. Benson, Roger S. “Offshoring Life Science Production is not the Only Answer.” Pharmaceutical Engineering July/Aug 2007: 1-6 4. Reddish, Edward, F and Smith, Karl A. “Looking Beyond Content: Skill Development for Engineers.” Journal of Engineering Education July 2008: 295-307. 5. Richter, D. and Paretti, M. “Identifying Barriers to and outcomes of interdisciplinarity in the engineering classroom.” European Journal of Engineering Education 2009 34(1): 29-45 6. Ollis, D. “Basic Elements of multidisciplinary design courses and projects” International Journal of Engineering Education. 2004 20(3): 391-397 7. Allen, K. Bringing New Technology to Market. Chapter 1: Innovation and Commercialization. Prentice Hall. 2003. pgs 1-28. 8. Borrego, Maura and Hall, T Simin. “Diffusion of Engineering Education Innovations.” Journal of Engineering Education July 2010: 185 – 207. 9. Fauvel, A. and Farris, J. “Reflections on an Interdisciplinary, Community-Based, Team- Taught Adventure” The Journal of Continuing Higher Education 2010 58: 40-46 10. National Academy of Engineering. Educating the Engineer of 2020. Washington DC: The National Academy Press, 2005

Kelly, W. J. (2011, June), A New Interdisciplinary Course for Engineering and Business Students: The Global Pharmaceutical Industry Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17359

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