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Considering The Mathematical Approach And Course Content Structure When Teaching Physiology To Biomedical Engineers

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

BME Curriculum Development

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.361.1 - 14.361.15



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Paper Authors


Regina Nelson University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Regina Nelson is a doctoral student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received an M.Ed. in Special Education from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on teaching methods and assessment of learning outcomes related to the physiology sub-curriculum in biomedical engineering education.

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Naomi Chesler University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Naomi Chesler is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her B.S. in General Engineering from Swarthmore College, M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and
Ph.D. in Medical Engineering from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. Her research focuses on the computational and experimental study of fluid behavior within mammalian biology and effects on biomechanical properties of vascular tissues. Dr. Chesler teaches biofluid dynamics at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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

Considering Mathematical Approach and Course Content Structure When Teaching Physiology to Biomedical Engineers


Although a core content area in the curriculum, physiology is presented to undergraduate biomedical engineering (BME) students in many ways. Even as a standalone course, the mathematical approach and the way the content is structured vary greatly between programs. How physiology is taught can affect how students learn subsequent topics in advanced engineering courses. An engineering standpoint suggests that physiology courses structured around key concepts taught with a quantitative slant will best prepare undergraduate BME students. The aim of our research is experimentally evaluating this conjecture. Physiology content prerequisite for a biofluids challenge lesson is presented to study participants using four different approaches: quantitative, concepts-based; quantitative, systems-based; qualitative, concepts-based; or qualitative, systems-based. After completing the physiology training, study participants engage in independent and collaborative learning via online challenge learning experiences where adaptive expertise in physiology is assessed. This paper focuses on the development of the physiology training modules and the biofluids challenge module used as a data collection environment to assess levels of adaptive expertise in physiology.


Physiology is a core topic in undergraduate biomedical engineering (BME) programs. It is a key subject for students whether their intention is to practice medicine, work in industry or do biomedical research. BME programs utilize different strategies to satisfy ABET accreditation criteria related to physiology. A 2008 review of accredited programs shows that 49% require a standalone physiology course offered by the BME department, while 41% utilize life science departments to teach physiology to their engineering students. One program requires students take physiology courses from both biomedical engineering and biology departments. Eight percent of undergraduate BME programs do not require a specific course in physiology at all. Of those that do, the number of credit hours ranges from three to twelve (Figure 1)1.

The ABET criteria require that biomedical engineering program graduates have the capability to understand biology and physiology and apply advanced mathematics, engineering and science to solve problems where engineering and biology interface2. Meeting this criterion typically requires a physiology sub-curriculum in BME programs. Enhancing the physiology sub- curriculum also benefits students in other engineering disciplines. The Engineer of 2020 in any discipline will require a basic knowledge of physiological and biological systems as technology and life sciences continue to converge3.

Nelson, R., & Chesler, N. (2009, June), Considering The Mathematical Approach And Course Content Structure When Teaching Physiology To Biomedical Engineers Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5312

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