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Board 9: Introducing Bioengineering Approaches through Healthcare Grand Challenges

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Biomedical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Marcia Pool University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Dr. Marcia Pool is a Teaching Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Programs in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She has been active in improving undergraduate education including developing laboratories to enhance experimental design skills and mentoring and guiding student teams through the capstone design and a translational course following capstone design. In her Director role, she works closely with the departmental leadership to manage the undergraduate program including: developing course offering plan, chairing the undergraduate curriculum committee, reviewing and approving course articulations for study abroad, serving as Chief Advisor, and representing the department at the college level meetings. She is also engaged with college recruiting and outreach; she coordinates three summer experiences for high school students visiting Bioengineering and co-coordinates a weeklong Bioengineering summer camp. She has worked with the Cancer Scholars Program since its inception and has supported events for researcHStart. Most recently, she was selected to be an Education Innovation Fellow (EIF) for the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education (AE3) at UIUC. At the national level, she served as the Executive Director of the biomedical engineering honor society, Alpha Eta Mu Beta (2011-2017) and is an ABET evaluator (2018-present).

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Marina Marjanovic University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Dr. Marina Marjanovic is a Teaching Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Associate Director of Center for Optical Molecular Imaging in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is teaching several undergraduate and graduate courses, and she is active member in the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee. She has been Principal Investigator on several educational grants to technologically enhance biology and physiology courses and develop investigative laboratory exercises. In addition to teaching, she mentors undergraduate and graduate students in cancer research. Since 2014, she has been Co-PI and Program Coordinator for the NSF REU programs: Discoveries in Bioimaging and Frontiers in Biomedical Imaging. Through these programs she is actively recruiting and mentoring nationally exceptional undergraduates from underrepresented groups for summer research and career-building experiences. Every year she is accompanying them to present summer research at the Annual Meeting of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES). In the summer, she is organizing and participating in the educational outreach programs such as science summer camps for middle school and high school girls. Before coming to UIUC, she was Associate Professor at the Eastern Illinois University where she mentored female and minority students in science and mathematics. She was Founding Chair and Mentor for the Women in Science and Mathematics (WISM) Initiative and Minority Mentoring in Mathematics and Sciences (M3S).

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Our bioengineering program includes five technical track (approach) areas: cell and tissue engineering, therapeutics engineering, biomechanics, computational and systems biology, and imaging and sensing. Each track is composed of fifteen engineering credit hours, and students must select by the end of their sophomore year a track to pursue. Frequently, students are uncertain about their track decision due to limited exposure to the different bioengineering areas at this stage in their career. For example, a student interested in cancer may assume that the cell and tissue engineering track is the most logical fit to study cancer but not realize the potential for cancer-related work in other areas of bioengineering such as imaging and computation. To assist our students in making an informed decision on a technical track while introducing the field of bioengineering to freshman, we modified the delivery of a freshman seminar course. Previously, the course was taught as a seminar in which guest lecturers (faculty) presented their research. We modified the course to (1) inspire students by focusing on grand challenges, (2) engage students in their learning, and (3) engage upper-level students as mentors in the process. In the modified course, students worked in teams, guided by mentors and instructors, to investigate how each of the five bioengineering tracks (approaches) could be used to investigate the grand challenge.

In spring 2017, the reimagined course was offered for the first time to the freshman cohort (1 day/week; 1 credit hour). Following this offering, the course was modified based on lessons learned to better accommodate the structure and needs of the students and faculty and offered again in spring 2018 to the freshman cohort (2 days/week; 1 credit hour). Both offerings focused on healthcare grand challenges with the first offering (67 students) reviewing three challenges and the second offering (46 students) exploring four challenges. The three healthcare grand challenges common to both offerings were: global health/infectious disease, cancer, and neurological disease; in year two, cardiovascular disease was added to the course to reflect the department’s increased interest in this area. In the first two weeks, we introduced the course and information literacy. After this, the general structure for each challenge included: (1) introduction to the challenge (week 1), (2) guest lecturer – current research (week 2), (3) training in a supporting topic, such as ethics (week 3), and (4) delivery of report/start new challenge (week 4). To investigate these challenges, students worked in groups of 3-4 to identify and document in a report how each of the five track (approaches) could be used to investigate the challenge. Mentors and instructors facilitated their progress; prior to teams submitting the final paper for each challenge, the teams received feedback on the draft paper from their mentors and/or instructors. At the end of the semester, students selected their favorite challenge and created a conference style poster. The poster was presented in a poster session in which the mentors, other students, and faculty served as the visitors/conference attendees. To determine the effect of the course on student’s track interest and confidence in literature searching, we administered an end of the semester survey to determine pre-class and post-class differences; a comment option was also incorporated into the survey.

Results from both years reveal changes in student track interest (pre-and post-course), especially in some tracks (approaches). Response rates were 57% in the first year and 67% in the second year. In the first year, there was a 15% increase (overall class, not paired student) in student interest (most interesting on Likert scale) in the computational and systems biology track, and in the second year, there was a 15% increase (overall class, not paired student) in student interest (most interesting on Likert scale) in therapeutics engineering. Surveys in both years also revealed improved confidence in literature searching, 55% in year 1 and 61% in year 2. Student comments revealed they appreciated learning how different tracks (approaches) could be used to tackle a healthcare grand challenge. Comments also indicated that the structure of the course promote increased literature searching techniques.

The largest challenge experienced in year 1 (scheduling related) was removed in year 2 by adding a scheduled discussion period. Because student’s tracks (approaches) interest continues to change due to the experiences in the course suggests the students are using the course content to make an informed track decision. As student’s review scientific literature for each challenge, it is expected that there would be an increase in confidence in literature searching/review. A future study we are considering is to determine track satisfaction and retention (in track) in the junior and senior year; if these results are positive, it would further suggest that providing students information to make an informed track decision is beneficial in promoting student progress towards degree and satisfaction.

Pool, M., & Marjanovic, M. (2019, June), Board 9: Introducing Bioengineering Approaches through Healthcare Grand Challenges Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32455

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