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A Real Introduction To Engineering And Biotechnology

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Freshman Design and Other Novel Programs

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.103.1 - 12.103.10



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Paper Authors

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Rachael Schmedlen University of Michigan

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Mimi (Miriam) Adam

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Robert Sulewski

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Matthew O'Donnell University of Washington

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Real Introduction to Engineering and Biotechnology


We have developed a unique section of the required Freshman Introduction to Engineering course for the College of Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor: Biotechnology and Human Values. Our course is predicated on the assumptions that a meaningful introduction to Biomedical Engineering and biotechnology includes 1. solving problems for a real client, 2. exploring the leading edges of the field, and 3. learning strategies to solve novel problems. Our challenge has been to turn teenagers straight out of high school into individuals with a real appreciation, based on experience, of what it takes to be an engineer. To this end, the course is organized as a company, Blue Genes Research and Development, and our students are formed into project teams, each assigned to a client, a specialist physician at the University of Michigan Hospitals. Each team must work with the physician to develop a diagnostic test to detect a disease before the onset of symptoms. Course material emphasizes the fundamental doctrines of systems biology, the central role of quantification in design and validation, and the economic, legal, social and ethical implications of our technology. In class, students explore basic sciences and emerging diagnostic technologies for genetic disease, including lab-on-a-chip, gene chip, and MRI imaging. Students receive hands on experience through lab modules dealing with genetic sequencing and molecular imaging of proteins. In addition, students receive formal instruction in technical communications, and problem solving strategies, including brain- storming and research organization. Performance on an individual and team basis is evaluated through a series of homework sets, exams, lab reports, journals, team minutes, and oral project reports, in addition to a final formal report prepared for the client. As students attest, this course stretches them, but the experience with their clients encourages them to perform beyond their own expectations and also provides them with invaluable confidence in their ability to tackle new challenges.


Biotechnology and Human Values, one section of the Introduction to Engineering course required of all incoming College of Engineering freshmen at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, was originally designed and developed by Matthew O’Donnell, former chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department, under a Life Sciences Grant. The pilot for this course was initially taught by two instructors - lead engineer, Prof. O’Donnell, and a co-lead in technical communications, Mimi Adam. Over time, the course expanded to include two wet labs under the lead of Dr. Robert Sulewski, a technical communication instructor with background in pharmacology and public health. At the conclusion of the 3 year grant, Dr. Rachael Schmedlen was recruited to assume the position of lead engineering instructor and has continued to develop and refine the course together with the instructional team. Although the Introduction to Engineering course has undergone a number of evolutionary cycles, in its present form it is a project based, experiential course, with each section representing a different engineering discipline. The stated objectives of the Freshman course, in accordance with ABET guidelines, include the introduction of basic engineering concepts, including design concept, basic statistics, ethics, environmental and societal impact of technology, technical communications and team management. Although the college provides specific guidelines regarding both general and

Schmedlen, R., & Adam, M. M., & Sulewski, R., & O'Donnell, M. (2007, June), A Real Introduction To Engineering And Biotechnology Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2880

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