Asee peer logo

Institutionalizing The Multidisciplinary Lab Experience

Download Paper |


2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Innovations in the CHE Laboratory

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.713.1 - 8.713.6

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

R. Worden

Download Paper |

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

Session 2313

Institutionalizing the Multidisciplinary Lab Experience

R. Mark Worden Daina Briedis Michigan State University


Biology is becoming increasingly relevant to industries that hire chemical engineers. In the past few years, several of the world’s largest chemical companies have announced major new businesses based on biobased raw materials1-3, and have invested heavily in agricultural biotechnology4. The pharmaceutical industry will increasingly draw on chemical engineering skills for rapid and successful commercialization5. Moreover, the recent mapping of the human genome may provide additional opportunities for life-science-minded engineers in the rapidly growing biotechnology industry. These trends suggest the need for increased biological content in the chemical-engineering curriculum.

Over the past several years, the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State University (MSU) has been developing educational programs to better prepare students for employment at the interface between chemical engineering and biology. Beginning with a fairly standard biochemical engineering reactor design course that has been taught over the past sixteen years, the course offerings have expanded to include undergraduate research opportunities, a state-of-the-art Biochemical Engineering Teaching Laboratory (BETL), two higher level bioprocessing courses, a seminar course, and a multidisciplinary graduate training program. An undergraduate-run student chapter of the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers (ISPE) was also initiated and has provided professional and extracurricular benefits for the students. These programs are intended not only to provide additional exposure to biological concepts but also to prepare chemical engineering graduates to communicate and interact effectively with co-workers trained in different disciplines.

Accreditation requirements have added to the pedagogical mix through the requirement that engineering graduates have the ability to function on multidisciplinary teams (Criterion 3(d)).6 Several models have been used to help students develop this skill, including assigning same- discipline students to different team roles and engaging students in true multidisciplinary teamwork involving students from other disciplines.7,8 The latter approach clearly can provide direct evidence of Outcome 3(d) and ties directly to the needs of the biotechnology industry that have been described above. This paper addresses the challenges involved in incorporating and maintaining a true multidisciplinary course as an important element of a curriculum.

Multidisciplinary Bioprocessing Laboratory Course

Many industries operate with multidisciplinary teams as a basic functional unit9, but traditional curricula do not train students to work effectively in such teams. Several years ago, as part of an

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Worden, R. (2003, June), Institutionalizing The Multidisciplinary Lab Experience Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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: © 2003 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