June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.313.1 - 12.313.7
Biomedical Engineering Projects: Integrating the Undergraduate into the Faculty Laboratory
Opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved in faculty research and design projects can vary widely by institution. We have developed a senior projects sequence that enables students to complete a yearlong faculty sponsored project that immerses the student in the laboratory. While a majority of our students express interest in volunteering and gaining experience in laboratories, they often encounter significant hurdles in reaching the goal of project completion. As undergraduates, their time is not dedicated to research work as one finds at the graduate level. Students are often fully loaded with classes and responsibilities related to undergraduate life or employment. The most important objectives for a sponsoring faculty member is to set achievable outcomes for the project, to provide a detailed schedule for completion, and to ensure that the expectations are communicated. Clear objectives will also raise the student’s commitment and thus increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.
For the past seven years, we have explored variations on the faculty-sponsored project with increasingly positive results. In addition to developing clear expectations, the students are required to develop a project proposal, complete significant literature research, peer review fellow student projects, orally present and defend their written proposal, and ultimately compose a technical article and present that work at a poster session. The entire sequence provides students with the opportunity to explore the forefront of biomedical engineering, develop their communication skills and their ability to critically analyze technical work, and to develop the skills and confidence to complete a demanding project.
Over the past two years we have added steps to improve the course by providing alternative pathways for students with less interest in laboratory work. These students are generally more motivated by design oriented team projects that focus on developing skills for immediate employment following their baccalaureate. For laboratory-focused students, we have added a preliminary sequence of junior level independent research courses that provides them with more time to explore the project and to reach more rewarding objectives. This approach also improves collaboration within the laboratory, as students overlap from year to year, and provides additional peer training and feedback.
In order to assess the success of these projects we look at several measures. From 2002 to 2005 the number of graduates that continued on to some type of graduate program was 56%. The number of national awards presented to our undergraduates is also significant, ranging from BMES and Society for Biomaterials Undergraduate Awards and Sigma Xi grants to various poster and paper recognitions at the local, regional, and national levels. The ability to have continuous projects where students can easily pass on their work to underclassmen has also been improved thus leading to an increase in overall scholarly activity in the laboratory and a more positive experience for the undergraduate.
Barnett, D., & Willits, R. (2007, June), Biomedical Engineering Projects: Integrating The Undergraduate Into The Faculty Laboratory Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2739
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