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Development Of An Environmental Biological Processes Course In An Undergraduate Environmental Engineering Curriculum

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Curricula

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.467.1 - 11.467.12



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Paper Authors

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William Epolito U.S. Military Academy

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Michael Butkus U.S. Military Academy

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

Development of an Environmental Biological Processes Course in an Undergraduate Environmental Engineering Curriculum


Environmental engineering students study a wider variety of scientific subjects than most other engineering students due to the breadth of the environmental engineering field. Traditionally, the biology taught in many environmental engineering programs has been focused on biochemical treatment and transmission of communicable diseases. However, a more comprehensive understanding of biology is now considered necessary to solve emerging problems with pollution, ecosystem destruction, and species extinction.1 Indeed, genetic engineering and techniques used in the field of medicine are being used to study and solve numerous environmental problems. The ABET criteria for environmental engineering programs state that students must have proficiency in a biological science, e.g., microbiology, aquatic biology, or, toxicology, relevant to the program of study. Unfortunately, students in some environmental engineering programs have not participated in a biology course since their sophomore or junior year in high school.2 Consequently, a traditional course in biochemical treatment processes (e.g. domestic wastewater treatment) may not satisfy the ABET biological science requirement. There are approximately 50 ABET accredited environmental engineering programs and the number is steadily increasing. An assessment of how these programs are addressing biology in their curricula has not been reported. This work compares the biology component of selected ABET accredited undergraduate programs; identifies common threads among programs and texts; and, presents a course currently taught at the US Military Academy (USMA) as an approach for fulfilling its ABET biological science requirement.

Schemes used to fulfill the ABET biological science requirement

Table 1 presents schemes used by undergraduate ABET accredited environmental engineering programs to address the ABET biological science requirement. These programs were identified via the ABET website and then examined based on information published on their respective program and registrar web sites. Programs were omitted if their information could not be obtained. The courses presented in Table 1 are offered in addition to traditional biochemical treatment courses. In other words, a program that offers only a course on wastewater treatment would not appear in this table. Some of the courses are based on quarters and other on semesters, which could influence the number of topics discussed. Based on this assessment, 81% of the programs evaluated require an additional course in biology. Fifty eight percent of programs require students to take a biology course with another department (e.g. life sciences), and 2% require students to take a hybrid biology course taught within the department (one of those programs also required an external biology course).

Epolito, W., & Butkus, M. (2006, June), Development Of An Environmental Biological Processes Course In An Undergraduate Environmental Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--362

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