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Controlled Drug Delivery from Alginate Spheres in Design-based Learning Course

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

BME Course and Curriculum Development

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

25.345.1 - 25.345.13

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Paper Authors


Steve R Marek University of Texas, Austin

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Steve R. Marek is a lecturer in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. He received a B.S. in chemical and biomolecular engineering with a minor in biomedical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2005. He earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, in 2009 and transitioned to the College of Pharmacy, Division of Pharmaceutics, for his postdoctoral research in pulmonary drug delivery. He began his career as a teaching faculty member at the University of Texas, Austin, in 2011. Marek’s primary teaching responsibilities comprises the biomedical engineering laboratory courses. His previous research interests included small-molecule organic synthesis, intelligent hydrogels for controlled drug delivery, pulmonary drug delivery, and materials characterization.

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William Liechty University of Texas, Austin

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William B. Liechty is a NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, conducting research under the direction of Prof. Nicholas Peppas. He received a B.S.E. in chemical engineering from the University of Iowa in 2007 and studied at the University of Cambridge as a Gates Scholar until 2008. His research interests include responsive materials, RNA interference, and intracellular delivery of biological therapeutics.

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James W. Tunnell University of Texas, Austin

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James W. Tunnell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. He earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1998, and a Ph.D. in bioengineering from Rice University in 2003. He was awarded a National Research Service Award from the NIH to fund his postdoctoral fellowship in the Spectroscopy Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 2003-2005. He joined the faculty of the University of Texas in the fall of 2005. Tunnell’s research focuses in the broad field of biomedical optics with a specific focus on using optical spectroscopy and imaging for disease diagnosis and treatment, particularly that of cancer. Tunnell has received the following awards/honors: Outstand BME Graduate Alumnus from Rice University (2010), Coulter Fellow (2010), Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (2007), Early Career Award from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation (2008, 2006), National Research Service Award from the NIH (2004), and Best Basic Science Paper from the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (2000). He has published 30 referred journal articles, presented at more than 70 international and national conferences, and edited one book. He is an Associate Editor for the Annals of Biomedical Engineering. He has served on the program committees for CLEO, OSA, and IEEE-LEOS, and he is the General Chair of 2012 CLEO annual meeting. He is a member of OSA, ASLMS, IEEE-EMBS, and BMES.

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Controlled Drug Delivery from Alginate Spheres in Design-Based Learning CourseEngineering design is the central concept driving our engineering curriculum and the broader practice ofengineering. Unfortunately, design concepts are typically not introduced in Biomedical Engineering atthe university level until the senior year. While students have been exposed to the scientific method sincegrade school, many of these students reach their senior year in college surprised to find out that a designmethod also exists. Design is characterized by an iterative sequence of steps that involve identifying aneed, defining the problem, developing solutions, evaluating solutions, and communicating results.Surveyed exiting seniors consistently request introduction to design earlier in their academic experience.Earlier introduction to design has also recently been recognized as a retention tool of engineering students(Monroe et al., Int J Eng Ed, 2006) because they are able to understand the dynamic and creative nature ofengineering, a topic often lost in the first two years of engineering. Increasing enrollment and retention inengineering has been a major focus of the National Science Foundation in an effort to keep the UnitedStates technologically competitive.Controlled drug delivery is an important application of biomedical engineering incorporating key aspectsof mass transport, physiology, and biomaterials. This paper reports the design, implementation, andoutcomes of a design-based laboratory course featuring experiments in biomaterials design and controlleddrug delivery. This lab segment, which spanned five laboratory sections and four 1 hour lectures, led thestudents through the design, synthesis, and characterization of a particle-based matrix drug deliverydevice using ionically-crosslinked alginate spheres (1-5 mm diameter) and several model drugs,fluorescein, tartrazine, and erythrosin A. The students were tasked with describing a system that couldprovide long-term drug release. Through course instruction and group discussion, they were led towardusing particles loaded with a drug. The experimental portion of the segment included the synthesis ofcrosslinked alginate spheres of differing sizes, the sizing of the spheres using microscopy and ImageJ, theloading of a model drug into the spheres using equilibrium partitioning, the release of the dye, and finallythe quantification of the dye using absorbance on a UV/Vis plate reader. This information was used tocalculate the diffusion coefficients of each dye and qualitatively interpret the results as a function of dyemolecular weight and particle size. A common theme throughout these experiments was that the studentteams had to investigate what route was necessary to complete the final design objective.The main method of assessment of the students was the evaluation of their laboratory notebooks. Duringeach session, the students were required to record everything in their notebooks, including their methods,observations, and answers to questions posed by the professor. Some of these questions involved internetand literature searches, whereas others required calculations or original thoughts.Ultimately, this course is an interesting approach to provide the first-year students an overview of whatthe biomedical engineering field encompasses by providing hands-on experience in several different areasof research and getting the students excited about their field of study.

Marek, S. R., & Liechty, W., & Tunnell, J. W. (2012, June), Controlled Drug Delivery from Alginate Spheres in Design-based Learning Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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