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Assessment of a Summer Undergraduate Research Program Focused on Biomedical Engineering and Diabetes

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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

Experiential Learning and Globalization in BME

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

22.251.1 - 22.251.37



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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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David W. Gatchell Illinois Institute of Technology

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David Gatchell, Ph.D., is a senior lecturer in the biomedical engineering department at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).

David received an A.B. in physics from Bowdoin College, and his Ph.D. from Boston University in biomedical engineering. After finishing his dissertation, David spent four years as a research associate at Northwestern University as a member of the VaNTH Engineering Research Center. He joined the B.M.E. department at IIT in 2007, where he is interested in problems associated with molecular and cellular engineering, specifically the computational modeling of cellular migration. David teaches several courses within the BME department, most notably the senior design capstone sequence (BME 419 and 420) which he co-instructs with Dr. Jennifer Kang Derwent. He also is the lead instructor for IPRO 2.0, an interdisciplinary project-based course required of all undergraduate at IIT. David collaborates actively with IIT’s entrepreneurship academy as well as its math and science education department. David is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE).

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Assessment of a Summer Undergraduate Research Program Focused on Biomedical Engineering and Diabetes Undergraduate research experiences can greatly influence the career plansand motivation of young engineers and scientists. However, the impact of theseexperiences on the students depends on the nature of the interactions. More than18 million people in the United States have diabetes mellitus. Biomedicalengineering is providing important inroads to understanding the disease and itsmany complications. The primary goals of this 10-week summer Biomedical EngineeringResearch Experience for Undergraduates (REU) was: 1) for students to completea challenging diabetes-related engineering projects with research mentors at IIT,2) demonstrate the ability to design experiments, analyze data, and present resultsthat address a hypothesis, and 3) expose student to the broader health implicationsof their research with lecture, outreach, and tours of clinical facilities. In thisresearch we describe our five-year experience and assessment of the program.Pedagogical Approach From 2006-2010, 10-15 students participated annually in this program.Students were paired with engineering mentors and expected to complete achallenging research project focused on the study and treatment of diabetes and itscomplications. Projects covered a variety of areas of biomedical engineering,including biomaterials, biosensors, imaging technologies, physiology, andregenerative medicine. In addition, to research students participated in weeklyseminars on the diabetes (from both biomedical researchers and public healthspecialists), weekly ethics seminars, and tours of clinical facilities.Assessment The objective of the evaluation process is to measure qualitatively andquantitatively the success of the REU project in terms of the knowledge and skillsgained from research projects and workshops and cohort activities, expansion ofthe perspectives of the students, and increased interest in careers in research anddevelopment. Pre and post tests are given to REU students to assess the benefits of theirresearch experience and cohort activities. These tests evaluate 1) the ability toformulate a hypothesis, design experiments, and analyze data and 2) knowledgeon the broader health implications of diabetes and its relevance to basic research. Students participating in the program are tracked in order to assess theinfluence of the REU Site experience in their career paths. The program assessesstudent background (major, year, exposure to research careers), their level ofinterest before and after research, and the nature of the research experience andhow that relates to career path. Students also prepare and submit an abstract on their work to the BMESannual meeting. This serves as an outside source of feedback. In addition,students will submit a final paper to a newly developed undergraduate researchjournal.Outcomes Preliminary results indicate significantly increased knowledge in diabetesand its research relevance. In assessing the students’ ability to formulatehypotheses and design experiments scores, there appeared to be someimprovement in these skills. Tracking of students suggest that we were bothsuccessful in targeting students without previous research experience and ingenerating interest in research upon completion of the programs. Theseassessment tools are being further analyzed to provide greater insight into thesuccess of the REU program.

Brey, E. M., & Gatchell, D. W. (2011, June), Assessment of a Summer Undergraduate Research Program Focused on Biomedical Engineering and Diabetes Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17532

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