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Engaging Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Students in Lab on a Chip Research through a Course-Based Project

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

"Best" of BED

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.493.1 - 23.493.10

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Paper Authors


Michael J Rust Western New England University

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Dr. Michael J. Rust received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, in 2003 and 2009, respectively. During his undergraduate training, he worked for Ethicon Endo-Surgery and AtriCure, companies which specialize in the development of novel surgical devices. While completing his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Rust served as an NSF GK-12 Graduate fellow, which allowed him to develop hands-on engineering activities for high school students. In 2009, he joined the faculty of Western New England University as an assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering. He currently teaches undergraduate courses in bioinstrumentation, physiology, circuit analysis, lab-on-a-chip, and global health. He also serves as the faculty advisor for the Engineering World Health (EWH) Club, and is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). His research interests involve the development of point-of-care medical technologies, including bioinstrumentation for use in low-resource settings.

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Andrew Wellesley Browne Harvard Medical School, University of Southern California

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Dr. Andrew W. Browne received his B.S in Electrical Engineering from Ohio State University in 2003 when he matriculated to the M.D./Ph.D. training program at the University of Cincinnati. He completed his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 2010 and his Medical Doctorate in 2011.
His research as a graduate student involved microfluidic devices for rapid blood analysis at the clinical point of care and cancer screening using oncolytic viruses as gene delivery vectors. After graduating he completed his intern year in internal medicine at Harvard’s primary care training site at Cambridge Hospital before starting his residency in ophthalmology at the University of Southern California. He is currently engaged in research geared toward
affordable healthcare technologies, ophthalmological MicroElectroMechanical Systems (eyeMEMS), and ophthalmic oncology while completing his clinical training at the LAC-USC health center
and Doheny Eye Institute.

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Engaging Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Students in Lab on a Chip Research through a Course-Based ProjectRecently, there has been significant interest in enhancing the research skills of undergraduatebiomedical engineering (BME) students, since such abilities are critical for graduate studies andcareers in research and development [1]. However, there are limited opportunities for research inmany undergraduate BME programs, and many of these experiences are extracurricular in natureor are only available to a small percentage of students [2]. On the other hand, research projectsthat are integrated within courses offer opportunities for skill development to a larger number ofundergraduate students. Moreover, authentic learning experiences (i.e., projects pertaining toactive faculty research areas as opposed to academic exercises) have been shown to enhancestudent learning and retention [3]. In this work, a course-based project was developed andimplemented to engage undergraduate BME students in Lab on a Chip (LOC) research.The research project was integrated within XXX – Lab on a Chip, which introduces students tothe theory and application of microfluidic systems to medicine and biology. In the originalcourse format, a standard lecture and laboratory approach was utilized. In the new format, aresearch project was implemented that formed the basis for all learning in the course. Theproject, which was introduced on the first day of the course, involved the development of a LOCdevice to measure hematocrit in a blood sample. Once the project had been described to thestudents, all subsequent lectures were designed to deliver content required for each stage of thedevice development process, including concept generation, design, fabrication, and testing. Atthe end of the course, the final fabricated device for each group was tested with bovine wholeblood to determine its performance in measuring hematocrit.In order to assess the impact of the new format on student interest and attitudes toward the LOCresearch field, a set of pre- and post-course surveys were developed and administered. Thesurveys used 5-choice Likert questions, which were analyzed using a one-tailed, paired t-testwith a significance level of 0.05. The results from the surveys (Fig. 1) showed increased student-reported knowledge regarding LOC technologies (p=6.05x10-5), confidence in their ability todevelop LOC devices (p=1.21x10-4), level of interest in pursuing further studies/training in thearea of LOC (p=0.048), and likelihood in pursuing a career in the area of LOC (p=0.004).Due to the success of the new course format, which was implemented for the first time in Spring2012, it is expected that subsequent offerings will maintain the course-based research projectapproach. Furthermore, the design concepts that showed the greatest promise during thepreliminary testing conducted during the course-based project have been selected to moveforward in the research program of the course instructor. Thus, the course-based approach toundergraduate research provided benefit to both the students and the faculty at our institution.References[1] P. Schuster and C. Birdsong, “Research in the undergraduate environment,” Proceedings of the 2006 ASEE Annual Meeting.[2] W.D. Jemison, W.A. Hornfeck, and J.P. Schaffer, “The role of undergraduate research in engineering education,” Proceedings of the 2001 ASEE Annual Meeting.[3] J.D. Bransford, A.L. Brown, and R.R. Cocking, Eds., How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000. 4.5 Student Responses (0‐4 Likert Scale)  *  *  4.0 * 3.5 *  3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 0.0 (a)  (b)  1 (c)  (d) Figure 1. Results from student surveys (Likert scale 0-4) comparing responses on pre-course(left) and post-course (right) surveys regarding LOC: (a) student level of knowledge; (b), studentconfidence in their ability to develop solutions; (c) student level of interest in pursuing furtherstudies/training; and (d) student likelihood in pursuing a career in this area.

Rust, M. J., & Browne, A. W. (2013, June), Engaging Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Students in Lab on a Chip Research through a Course-Based Project Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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