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Peer-mentoring through the Biomedical Engineering Design Curriculum

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Education Programs in BME

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Samantha L McCarthy University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Samantha L. McCarthy received her B.S. degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2015. She served as Chair of the Biomedical Student Advisory Committee (BSAC) in 2015.

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Reed T. Bjork University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Fifth year senior studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin - Madison specializing in cellular and tissue engineering. Current chair of the Biomedical Student Advisory Committee (BSAC).

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Tasnia Tabassum University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Tasnia Tabassum is a third-year biomedical engineering student at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. She is pursuing the healthcare systems and cellular tissue engineering specializations of biomedical engineering and also has interests in global health. This year, she is on UW-Madison’s Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) board as the Counseling and Resources for Undergraduates in Science and Engineering (CRUISE) Chair.

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John P Puccinelli University of Wisconsin - Madison

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Dr. Puccinelli is the Associate Chair of the Undergraduate Program in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He began here as student near the start of the UW-BME program and earned his BS, MS, and PhD in BME. He is interested in hands-on instruction – teaching and developing courses related to biomaterials and tissue engineering, as well as design. He was awarded the BMES Student Chapter Teaching Award in 2011, 2013-2015 and the Polygon Outstanding BME Instructor Award in 2012 and 2015.

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Biomedical Engineering (BME), has been listed as the number one best job by CNN Money in 2012-2014, best job in healthcare and most valuable college major by Forbes, among other top listings, and is a rapidly growing field. This growth is expected to be well above average at 27% from 2012-2022 as projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a result, BME programs are also growing with the demand. Our undergraduate program, which has historically encompassed sophomores and above, has more than doubled in the last five years. This year, our college has moved to a direct department admission model adding an additional surge of freshman directly to the program (78% more students) with progression requirements verses a secondary application.

In an effort to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for these 240 freshman, we have developed a mentorship program integrated with our design curriculum. The undergraduate program here was founded with design at the heart of the curriculum. We developed a rigorous six-semester, team-based design sequence for our undergraduates to solve real-world, client-based design problems that result in physical prototypes at the end of each semester. Students begin this sequence as first semester sophomores. Sophomores are teamed with juniors for their first semester of design. This breaks down class boundaries and forms mentored relationships between sophomores and juniors in the department. For the second design semester in the sequence, sophomores engage in a guided design fundamentals course12 followed by mentoring sophomores in the third semester. The fourth, fifth and sixth semesters in the design sequence involve students working with peers of the same age generally for a three-semester long project.

The design sequence actively involves each student in the evolution of the design course and department through our Biomedical Student Advisory Committee (BSAC). In BSAC, one member from each of the design teams (54 teams in fall 2015) serves as a BSAC representative, thereby providing representation for all BME majors–sophomore through senior year. BSAC meets twice per month throughout each semester. Utilizing this design backbone, our department with our BSAC Chair and Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Student Chapter’s Counseling and Resources for Undergraduates in Science and Engineering (CRUISE) Chair developed a new layer of mentoring in our curriculum. This year, we matched freshman students with BSAC members as mentees/mentors.

Mentor matching was facilitated by surveys (one to the freshmen and the other to BSAC members and the upper classes). Prior to the start of the semester, students in BME Design (sophomore-senior) were made of aware of this new program and the new role of the BSAC representative. Both groups were asked to indicate their intended track within BME, future plans, and the option to list other interests. We achieved a 100% response rate from the BSAC members with an additional 13% of the remaining design students volunteering to be mentors for the 91% of the freshman interested in having a mentor. This equated to two-three mentees per mentor.

Through integrating the mentorship program with the design curriculum and BSAC we are able to discuss the ‘freshman experience’ in our BSAC meetings, answer common questions, and effectively integrate the freshmen into upper-level, real-world design experiences that are closely advised by faculty where each team of 4-5 design students meets weekly with their faculty advisor. This new program enhances student-student interactions already established in our design curriculum such as the sophomore-junior hybrid teams and our senior student assistants who facilitate our sophomore design fundamentals course. This paper will discuss the process of developing the mentor and freshman mentee relationship, results based on the students’ experiences, and the benefits of establishing a mentorship philosophy within the curriculum.

McCarthy, S. L., & Bjork, R. T., & Tabassum, T., & Puccinelli, J. P. (2016, June), Peer-mentoring through the Biomedical Engineering Design Curriculum Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25876

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