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Life In Moving Fluids: Introducing Classical Fluid Mechanics Into Bioengineering

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Novel BME Courses and Course Adaptations

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.896.1 - 11.896.8



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Paper Authors


George Catalano State University of New York-Binghamton

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Dr. Catalano is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He researches and teaches in the areas of engineering design, the fluid dynamics of the natural world and applied mathematics and is included in the Philosophers’ Index for his work in environmental ethics

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

Life in Moving Fluids: Integrating Classical Fluid Mechanics into an Undergraduate Bioengineering Program


A new course that seeks to link classical fluid dynamics with living systems has been developed and offered as part of the bioengineering program. A fully integrative approach was taken throughout the semester with the focus remaining fixed upon the impact that fluid dynamics has on life and living systems. A wide range of activities are integrated into the course with the most non-traditional being a compassion practicum and the creation of a visual art project.

Key words: fluid dynamics, living systems, and integrative schema


Advances in the fields of biology, mathematics and physics have resulted in the development of a new field of engineering, commonly referred to as bioengineering. This field encompasses the areas of biological, physiological, medical, and social systems as well as other fields in which the design, development or modification of complex, knowledge-intensive systems is a requirement. Bioengineering is similar to traditional fields of engineering in that all engineering programs educate individuals in the art of product and process development for the improvement of human health and quality of life. However, bioengineering is unique because of the need to understand the emergent properties of living systems. Living systems, unlike most man-made products and processes, are composed of large numbers of "self- replicating" components, which undergo "self-organization." These features provide living systems with most of their fascinating and complex properties and are the primary focus of bioengineering studies.

The goal of the undergraduate bioengineering program at Binghamton is to provide students with the opportunity to develop an understanding of how emergent properties arise in living (i.e., complex) systems and, therefore, how the properties of living and biomimetic systems can be regulated and modified. The course, Life in Moving Fluids, focuses upon bridging the gap between classical fluid dynamics and biology/zoology. Concepts such as, for example, inviscid flow, boundary layer theory, vortex dynamics, and dynamic similarity are used to explore the relationship between fluid flow and biological design. The two most important fluids in the study of life on Earth are air and water. Thus, the course explores not only their physical characteristics but also how the physics of air and water have influenced and constrained biology. The course is offered as a technical elective in the newly formed bioengineering program at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Upon completion of the course, students are expected to be able to:

• Describe the differences in physical characteristics between air and water and how those differences impact life.

Catalano, G. (2006, June), Life In Moving Fluids: Introducing Classical Fluid Mechanics Into Bioengineering Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--17

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