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Competition Between Student Groups In The Protein Production Challenge

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Developing Communication/Teamwork Skills in ChEs

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.316.1 - 13.316.15



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Paper Authors

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Brian Lefebvre Rowan University

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Loren Connell Rowan University

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Kevin Dahm Rowan University

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

Competition between student groups in the protein production challenge


Converting biological discoveries into commercial-scale processes requires that graduating chemical engineers obtain an understanding of modern bioprocess principles. This paper describes the development and implementation of a five week long protein production project into a multidisciplinary upper level elective course on bioprocess engineering.

The protein production project was developed and implemented during the fall 2006 semester and repeated during the fall 2007 semester. A key element of the protein production project was the competition between student groups. Group performance was rated using a production rubric, and the team with the highest score was guaranteed an “A” on the project. The rubric included equipment rental costs and production bonuses for producing large quantities of protein of high purity. The equipment rental costs were carefully determined to encourage continued student experimentation in the laboratory. The competitive nature of the project captures students driven by achievement or instrumental types of motivation, which are not necessarily engaged by traditional problem-solving homework assignments.

Assessment data, including comments on student course evaluations and comparison of student final exam performance with and without the project, will also be discussed.


This paper describes a five-week laboratory project integrated into a Bioprocess Engineering elective course. Biological products span the entire range from “high volume, low value” to “low volume, high value.” In 2006, 4.9 billion gallons of ethanol was produced from corn, for an approximate value of $5.25 billion.1 In 2001, high fructose corn syrup sales in the U.S. totaled $2.6 billion.2 Industrial enzymes sales worldwide were $1.6 billion in 1998, with 25-30% used for detergents.3,4 An order of magnitude greater than these markets was the protein therapeutics market in 2006, amounting to $67 billion worldwide.5 To mimic the production of a protein therapeutic, the laboratory project developed for the course centered on the production and purification of a colorful protein. In an attempt to maximize the benefit of the laboratory project, students were presented with an open-ended research challenge that incorporated an aspect of competition. The remainder of this section explains the reasoning behind this framing of the project.

In an inductive approach to learning, students are presented with a specific challenge, and in their attempts to meet the challenge learn general principles.6 When structured properly, laboratory projects may be classified as inductive learning experiences. Laboratory projects have been shown to enhance development of discipline-specific skills and general research skills. Additionally, longer-term laboratory projects may allow students to develop skills associated with undergraduate research experiences. Undergraduate research has been shown to increase

Lefebvre, B., & Connell, L., & Dahm, K. (2008, June), Competition Between Student Groups In The Protein Production Challenge Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3718

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