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A Student-Centered Course for Integration of Ethics into a Biomedical Engineering Research Experience for Undergraduates

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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

BME Courses and Learning Activities

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

22.106.1 - 22.106.19



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Paper Authors


Eric M. Brey Illinois Institute of Technology

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Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Assistant Dean, Office of Undergraduate Research
Illinois Institute of Technology

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Kelly Laas Illinois Institute of Technology, Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions

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Kelly Laas is the Librarian/Information Researcher at the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions (CSEP) at the Illinois Institute of Technology. During her four years at the Center, she has supervised a number of projects relating to the development of online ethics resources and collections, including the management of CSEP’s large Online Codes of Ethics collection and the development of the NanoEthicsBank, a web-based bibliographic database of materials on the social and ethical implications of nanotechnology. She also has collaborated with the National Academy of Engineering’s Center for Engineering, Ethics and Society in developing bibliographies and other materials for the Online Ethics Center, as well as developing the Ethics Education Library, an online database of articles, syllabi, ethics case studies, and best practices of how to integrate ethics into existing technical courses and workshops. Ms. Laas received her M.L.S. in 2005 from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and is a member of the College and Research Libraries division of the American Library Association. She can be reached via email at or by phone at 312-567-6913.

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David W. Gatchell PhD Northwestern University

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A Student-Centered Course for Integration of Ethics into aBiomedical Engineering Research Experience for Undergraduates A number of recent, well-publicized incidents of irresponsible conduct inbiomedical research emphasize the importance of training students in researchethics. In order to properly address ethical issues students must be trained incontemporary issues in research ethics and how to address these issues. While theimportance of research ethics is clear, the best way to develop students who canaddress complicated ethical issues is unclear. The goal of the work described here was to develop and assess a student-led course in research ethics developed for a 10-week summer BiomedicalEngineering Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program focused onbiomedical topics. By making the course student-led, the instructors created astudent-centered learning environment which increased the engagement of thestudents relative to the instructor-led course.Pedagogical Approach Undergraduates developed presentations and led the weekly ethicsinstruction and discussion. Upon completion of this course, students wereexpected to be able to discuss ethical issues in laboratory research and identifyproblems that can occur when research is conducted without adherence to ethicalguidelines and principles. Students were divided into groups of two and assigneda specific topic in research ethics. Topics covered included: Advisor/studentrelationships, Issues facing women and underrepresented groups, Record keeping,Intellectual Property, Conflicts of Interest, Bias, Authorship, Animal Studies, andHuman Trials. Students were required to discuss the topic with their researchadvisor, graduate student mentors, and experts in the Center for the Study ofEthics in the Professions. The students then gave a presentation and ledclassroom discussion based on their findings. The students were expected tointegrate their own research experiences into the presentation.Assessment Multiple sources of formative assessment were built into the course. Anethics case study was provided to the students prior to the beginning of thesemester. The case study requested student feedback first in narrative form andthen responses to specific questions designed to assess specific aspects of theirapproach to the problem. A post study case report was administered in the samefashion. A grading rubric has been developed to assess student performance onthe pre and post case studies. The rubric was developed based on the combinedinput of two engineering faculty members and two members of the CSEP. Pre-tests were developed by the students in conjunction with the faculty members andadministered prior to each lecture. The undergraduates also provided case studiesand questionnaires that were completed at the end of the course. The pre-testswere administered again upon completion of the course in order to assess learningin the specific topic areas.Outcomes Preliminary results indicate that this strategy significantly increasedincreased student engagement for the ethics portion of the REU program when itwas student-led relative to instructor-led. Preliminary analysis of the assessmenttools indicate significant improvement in student knowledge of many topics,including: ethical codes, IP, conflict of interest, authorship, and animal studies.These tests and case studies are being further analyzed to provide greater insightinto the success of the educational program.

Brey, E. M., & Laas, K., & Gatchell, D. W. (2011, June), A Student-Centered Course for Integration of Ethics into a Biomedical Engineering Research Experience for Undergraduates Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17388

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