Asee peer logo

Encouraging Non Bme Engineering Majors To Study Biology

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Biology in Engineering

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.539.1 - 11.539.4



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Naomi Chesler University of Wisconsin-Madison

visit author page

Naomi Chesler is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her engineering research focuses on the effects of mechanical forces on vascular biology during remodeling in the systemic and pulmonary circulations; her educational research focuses on mentoring and community building.

visit author page


Willis Tompkins University of Wisconsin-Madison

visit author page

Willis J. Tompkins received the Ph.D. degree in biomedical electronic engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1973. He is currently Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has been on the faculty since 1974. Dr. Tompkins is a Fellow of the IEEE, a Founding Fellow of the AIMBE, and an Inaugural Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society. He is a past President of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and a past Chair of the ASEE Biomedical Engineering Division.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Encouraging non-BME Engineering Majors to Study Biology Abstract

Recognizing the need for more engineers to learn biology and considering the relatively small number of undergraduate engineering majors (outside of Biomedical Engineering) at the University of Wisconsin who study a significant amount of (or any) biology, the Biomedical Engineering Department made a goal to provide a mechanism that would stimulate non-BME students to study biology as well as the synergistic relationships between engineering and biology. Subsequently a multidisciplinary engineering faculty committee defined the Biology in Engineering Certificate, a program of study that a student can complete to receive a special designation on his/her transcript. To receive this certificate, a student must be enrolled in an engineering degree program and complete at least 15 semester credits including courses on basic and advanced biology, the combination of biology and engineering (e.g., biomaterials, tissue engineering), and a course called Biology in Engineering Seminar that introduces the student to research at the boundary of engineering and biology across the various disciplines of engineering.

Problem Statement

There is a growing need for engineers in all disciplines to be educated about recent advances and remaining challenges in modern biology. Not only does limited biology education impoverish our engineering students’ education and their potential contributions to engineering, but it also limits their potential contributions to the exciting and new frontiers in biology. For example, advances in functional genomics, molecular evolution, intracellular and dynamic imaging, and the system-level integration of signal transduction and regulatory mechanisms require an ever increasing number of biologists to seek collaborations with engineers, mathematicians and physical scientists1,2.Those trained in the more traditional disciplines of mechanical, electrical, chemical, civil and industrial engineering have much to contribute to these frontier areas, but will be hindered from doing so without at least an introductory exposure to biology and the interface of biology and engineering.

Students in biomedical engineering are typically required to take both chemistry and biology as undergraduates and as such are well poised to make important contributions to modern biology. However, most BME programs have limited enrollment and cannot accommodate student interest. Considering the relatively small number of undergraduate engineering majors outside of BME at our institution who study a significant amount of (or any) biology, the Biomedical Engineering Department sought to establish a mechanism by which non-BME students would be encouraged to study biology, learn about exciting developments at the interface between engineering and biology, and be recognized for doing so.


In order to encourage non-BME students to study biology and learn about recent advances and challenges in modern biology, we chose to develop a Biology in Engineering Certificate. Much like a minor, a certificate recognizes the fulfillment of a program of study in a defined

Chesler, N., & Tompkins, W. (2006, June), Encouraging Non Bme Engineering Majors To Study Biology Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--433

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2006 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015