June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
The purpose of this paper is to describe a set of interactive, hands-on computational activities that introduce incoming freshmen to the discipline of chemical engineering with a pharmacokinetics application. These activities have been used in six offerings of a five-hour, simulation-based chemical engineering design module within a high school-to-college transitional program for engineering freshmen at a large, public state university. The first activity focuses on introducing the concept of mass balances and uses Vensim simulation software to build simple dynamic models to describe the mass balances involved in tracking a pharmaceutical compound in the blood stream. For use in the design project of the second activity, we developed an interactive MATLAB simulation app inspired by research interests in pharmaceutical regulation of blood pressure to control levels of the hormone Angiotensin II, which raises blood pressure. Several pharmaceuticals known as Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are on the market to block Angiotensin II production to lower the blood pressure. The chemical reactions involved in natural production of Angiotensin II and the biological response to pharmaceuticals to lower blood pressure in a time- and dose-dependent manner were modeled in MATLAB and packaged into an easy-to-use app. The second activity extends the topics from the first activity into a chemical engineering design project that is engaging and approachable for students with little background knowledge in chemistry, mathematics, or engineering. Using our MATLAB app for the design project, the students are assigned specific drug types and virtual patient kidney functions and asked to design the best dosage and frequency for those cases. The app allows students to interact with the pharmacokinetic simulation of the effects of two ACE inhibitors on Angiotensin II levels by changing model parameters of dose size, frequency, drug compound, and patient cases. The simulation results for the drug concentration and resulting Angiotensin II levels are calculated upon a mouse click and are displayed in the app. Students can layer simulation results from previous trials to visualize the effects of changes in variables. Students are assigned to work in teams of two or three to work through the engineering design process: researching a problem (high blood pressure), discussing potential solutions (ACE inhibitor pharmaceutical drugs), and testing of possible designs (using the app). Students brainstorm the relevant trade-offs for “optimizing” drug dosing. The problem is purposely open-ended to allow students the opportunity to design a dose schedule and to test it in a virtual patient. After they decide on a final design, the students are asked to create a one-slide presentation to convey their results and learning outcomes to their peers. In the offerings of this simulation-based chemical engineering design module thus far, the students enjoyed seeing pharmaceutical applications of chemical engineering as well as the creative decision making aspect of the project. The computational activities described here can be easily implemented in a freshman engineering course and have been adapted and utilized in other educational contexts such as high school and middle school outreach events and chemical kinetics courses.
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