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Meeting The Learning Styles Of Biomedical Engineers In A Mainstream Genetics Course: A Biologist's Perspective

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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

Biology in Engineering

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.921.1 - 11.921.11



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Paper Authors


Peter Coppinger Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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J. Peter Coppinger is an Assistant Professor of Applied Biology and Biomedical Engineering at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. His teaching portfolio includes courses in genetics and molecular biology, microbial biotechnology, and molecular pathogenesis. He received his PhD in molecular plant biology at UC Berkeley in 2005, and conducts research in plant-pathogen interactions. Peter Coppinger may be reached at

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Shannon Sexton Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Shannon M. Sexton is currently the Director of Assessment at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology where she designs and implements assessment activities for both small and large scale projects. She has presented her work at national psychology and assessment conferences and has published in the areas of political and social psychology. Shannon holds an MA degree in General Experimental Psychology.

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

Meeting the learning styles of biomedical engineers in a mainstream genetics course: a biologist’s perspective


A primary goal of undergraduate biomedical engineering programs is to graduate scientifically literate students who are well trained in biology, mathematics, and the physical and engineering sciences. Given this demanding course load, it is not surprising that a full genetics course is uncommon in biomedical engineering curriculum. Exposure to advanced topics in genetics, however, is important for a comprehensive understanding of biology. In the biotechnological age, the ability of students to address questions related to health, medicine, and disease requires a thorough understanding of genomics, bioinformatics, and recombinant DNA technology. A full course of genetics can therefore enrich the biology sequence of biomedical engineering curricula, and encourage students to approach problems from a biological perspective.

Introductory biology courses often serve as the only source of genetics for engineering students. In other cases, biomedical engineering students enroll in condensed or half-courses in molecular biology and genetics tailored specifically for engineering students. While this may be feasible at a large university, faculty and resource constraints at small colleges often necessitate that biomedical engineering students and traditional biology students enroll concurrently in the same courses. For small undergraduate institutions, enrolling biomedical engineering students in a “mainstream” genetics course (required for traditional biology majors) is a simple way to integrate a full course of genetic analysis into a biomedical engineering curriculum.

However, enrolling biomedical engineering students in an upper-level genetics course typically designed for traditional biology students raises several questions that should be addressed. Do learning styles of biomedical engineering students differ from traditional biology students, and do these learning preferences influence the performance of engineering students in an upper- level biology course? For example, if engineering students prefer a “sequential” approach to learning while traditional biology students prefer a “global” approach, the instructor may have a difficult time effectively teaching both groups of students simultaneously.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a small undergraduate institution, requires biomedical engineering students to take an upper-level genetics course as part of the standard curriculum. This study evaluates the performance of biomedical engineering students enrolled in an upper- level genetics course designed for traditional biology students. This study also assesses how exposure to advanced topics in genetics, including Mendelian and molecular genetics, bioinformatics, and recombinant DNA technology affects a biomedical engineering student’s ability to approach problems from a biological perspective, and influences their perceptions on how genetic analysis can be used to solve engineering problems. Finally, this study addresses the alleged obstacles in offering a full genetics course to biomedical engineering students, particularly with regards to perceived differences in learning styles of biomedical engineering students and traditional biology students, and appropriate placement of such a course in the biomedical engineering curriculum.

Coppinger, P., & Sexton, S. (2006, June), Meeting The Learning Styles Of Biomedical Engineers In A Mainstream Genetics Course: A Biologist's Perspective Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1175

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