Asee peer logo

Integrating Social Justice Ideas Into A Numerical Methods Course In Bioengineering

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Normative Commitments and Public Engagement in Engineering

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.772.1 - 15.772.7



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

George Catalano State University of New York, Binghamton

author page

Caroline Baillie Western Australia

author page

Donna Riley Smith College

author page

Dean Nieusma Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

author page

Chris Byrne Cascadia Community College

author page

Margaret Bailey Rochester Institute of Technology

author page

Katy Haralampides University of New Brunswick

Download Paper |

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

Integrating Social Justice Ideas into a Numerical Methods Course in Bioengineering


A newly developed course introduces students to the analytical and numerical techniques that will be utilized in subsequent bioengineering courses to analyze the behavior of complex systems. The illustrative case studies in the form of course modules employed in this course have as a focus various issues related to questions of social justice and include wealth distribution, developing a social justice index, exploring the costs of health care in the United States and examining poverty trends in the United States and around the world.


The main educational objective of the bioengineering department at Binghamton University is to provide students with an understanding of living systems as complex systems, and to develop in the student both the understanding of, and confidence in working with, complex systems, whether biologic, or biomimetic. From the department’s perspective, the ability to exploit new opportunities and solve problems within the domain of complex systems will be the hallmark of successful engineers in the 21st century. Towards this goal and throughout the program, there is an explicit emphasis on the use of Mathematica in the solution of problems involving iteration, differentiation, integration, solution to ODE and PE, matrix manipulation, and vector algebra.

The present course aims to develop numerical and modeling skills through a consideration of issues related to social justice. The particular issues which have been integrated into this required sophomore level course include distribution of wealth, the costs and tradeoff associated with health care, the development of a social justice index (SJI) analogous to an environmental quality index and recent poverty levels and trends in the United States and around the world.

The question of social justice is placed in the broader context of sustainability. At the outset of the course, guided discussions were accomplished with the focus being to introduce students to the concepts of sustainability and sustainable development. Since the 1980s sustainability has been used more in the sense of human sustainability on planet Earth and this has resulted in the most widely quoted definition of sustainability and sustainable development, that of the Brundtland Commission1 of the United Nations:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Continuing, “sustainable development is a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs

Catalano, G., & Baillie, C., & Riley, D., & Nieusma, D., & Byrne, C., & Bailey, M., & Haralampides, K. (2010, June), Integrating Social Justice Ideas Into A Numerical Methods Course In Bioengineering Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16724

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: © 2010 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