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Enhancing the Freshman Experience with Upperclassmen Lab Managers: a Win-Win situation

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2017 ASEE Mid Atlantic Section Spring Conference


Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

Publication Date

April 7, 2017

Start Date

April 7, 2017

End Date

April 8, 2017

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Eileen Haase PhD Johns Hopkins University

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BS ESM Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
MS EE Johns Hopkins University
PhD Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University

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Enhancing the Freshman Experience with Upperclassmen Lab Managers: a Win-Win situation

Eileen Haase Johns Hopkins University Department of Biomedical Engineering


Freshmen enrolled in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University start their academic career with a two-credit course: Modeling and Design. Rather than teach our students biomedical engineering through lectures, students learn by working in teams of five on modeling and design projects throughout the semester. The freshmen projects are open ended, providing students opportunities to brainstorm many possible solutions, design their own experimental protocols, perform those experiments in lab, and present the results collectively as a team. All of these projects involve written reports, oral presentations, and/or class demonstrations. Initially, some freshmen feel overwhelmed by the range of approaches and the myriad of potential answers. Since we first started teaching this course, we have engaged upperclassmen lab managers to provide technical assistance and support to our freshmen. Each lab manager is completely responsible for a team of five freshmen in lab, reviewing the team’s protocols and assisting them during the lab as needed. More importantly, the lab managers serve as mentors, giving advice on course selection and extracurricular activities, which has been shown to benefit both the upperclassmen and the freshmen [1]. Lab managers are told to guide their students to a solution through questions, rather than directly telling them the best method.

For a typical cohort of 130 freshmen, 25-30 BME upperclassmen lab managers work together with the freshmen throughout the semester as part of a two-credit course “Effective Teaching and Management of Engineering Teams”. End-of-semester surveys for both the freshmen and the upperclassmen lab managers indicate that this relationship has helped both groups of students. For the lab managers this course offers a small group teaching experience, the opportunity to re-visit material from a new perspective, and a chance to interact with freshmen, peers and faculty in a relaxed setting.

[1] Patel, K.V., DeMarco, R., Foulds, R. (2002) Integrating biomedical engineering design into the freshmen curriculum. IEEE Xplore pp143-144

Haase, E. (2017, April), Enhancing the Freshman Experience with Upperclassmen Lab Managers: a Win-Win situation Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Mid Atlantic Section Spring Conference, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland.

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