San Antonio, Texas
June 10, 2012
June 10, 2012
June 13, 2012
25.417.1 - 25.417.10
Developing a Small Footprint Bioengineering ProgramThe field of bioengineering (BioE) is rapidly changing and expanding to include not only moretraditional BioE applications (e.g. prosthetics, imaging) but also more recent sub-fields andtechnologies (e.g. those enabled by tissue engineering and microfluidics). This rapid change,coupled with the roots of BioE in many different areas of biological sciences and engineering,presents a unique challenge to those developing academic programs, as they need to both selectrelevant content and strike a balance between depth and breadth. However, one major trend inBioE is the rise of biologically-focused applications in addition to, or replacing, ones that aremore device-focused.As architects of the BioE program at the undergraduate-only Franklin W. Olin College ofEngineering, which enrolled its first class in 2003, we faced a significant additional challenge ofour small size (~300 students, ~35 full time faculty, and ~1.5 dedicated BioE faculty). Inconsultation with academic and industrial leaders in the field, our approach was to create aflexible BioE program that aims to provide students with a strong grounding in both biology andengineering. In particular, this program was designed to complement, not reduplicate, ourexisting offerings in mechanical and electrical/computer engineering, while leveraging Olin’sbroad-based foundation in engineering fundamentals. We chose to specialize in the area ofbiologically-focused BioE, specifically on cell-biomaterial interactions and on the role of thecellular microenvironment, as these represent a rapidly growing area of BioE exploration and arein line with faculty expertise at Olin College. Emphasizing these areas allows us to providestudents with both theoretical knowledge and hands-on experiences, through coursework andinvolvement in experimental research.Data from our first six graduating classes suggests that this is a valuable approach.Approximately 11% of Olin’s 430 graduates received an Engineering degree with a biology-oriented concentration. Further, of these 49 students, 29% have gone to graduate school, 12%have gone to medical school, 31% have found positions in BioE companies, and the remaining29% have pursued other options. The students who have enrolled in graduate school have joinedexcellent research labs in top BioE programs and include 5 NSF Graduate Research Fellowshiprecipients and one Fulbright Scholar. Student feedback indicates that an undergraduate educationfocusing on biology and engineering problem-solving has prepared them well for their currentendeavors. We are confident that this approach results in graduates who are well-prepared tocreate the future of bioengineering.
Sarang-Sieminski, A. L., & Chachra, D. (2012, June), Developing a Small-footprint Bioengineering Program Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/21175
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