Asee peer logo

Physiology Concepts And Physiology Problems For Biomedical Engineering Students

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

BME Courses & Curricular Content

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.981.1 - 13.981.22



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Robert Linsenmeier Northwestern University

visit author page

Robert A. Linsenmeier has a joint appointment in Biomedical Engineering in the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and in Neurobiology and Physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. His primary teaching is in human and animal physiology. He is the Associate Director of the VaNTH Engineering Research Center in Bioengineering Educational Technologies, former chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Northwestern, and a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and the Biomedical Engineering Society. His research interests are in the role of retinal oxygen transport and metabolism in both normal physiological conditions and disease, and in bioengineering and physiology education.

visit author page


David Gatchell Northwestern University

visit author page

David W. Gatchell is a research assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and assistant director of the Pritzker Institute of Biomedical Science and Engineering. His research interests include designing computational models for molecular and cellular interactions and developing effective learning environments for STEM education.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

Physiology Concepts and Physiology Problems for Biomedical Engineering Students Abstract

Physiology is a core element of an undergraduate biomedical engineering curriculum, although programs differ in whether the biomedical engineering faculty or biology faculty teach these courses, and in whether physiology is taught in stand-alone courses or incorporated into other courses. Here we first present an analysis of the concepts and topics in physiology that are viewed by biomedical engineering faculty and by representatives of industry as being most important for biomedical engineers to learn. We also provide information on the importance of other topics in biology for the biomedical engineering curriculum. Biomedical engineering students need to be able to work with quantitative aspects of physiology and need practice applying engineering concepts to physiological systems. However, many physiology texts appropriate for undergraduates avoid quantitative analysis, and provide few problems to develop the students’ use of mathematics or engineering tools in the context of physiology. As a result, we have begun the development of a resource of quantitative homework problems from which individual problems can be selected and linked to any physiology course.

1. Introduction

Physiology is a core element of an undergraduate biomedical engineering curriculum, with 98% of accredited US biomedical engineering and bioengineering undergraduate programs requiring an identifiable course in physiology.1 Indeed, the requirement for physiology is a defining difference between biomedical engineering curricula and biological engineering curricula, most of which require microbiology but not physiology.2 However, knowing that a course is required does not define the content that is delivered to the students, so we have surveyed representatives from academia and industry to establish what topics in physiology are regarded as being most important for biomedical engineers to know. One can argue that all physiological systems are related, and in an ideal world all biomedical engineers might be required to learn about all systems. This is not always practical within the crowded undergraduate engineering curriculum, and our analysis allows programs to prioritize the topics that are covered.

Biomedical engineering programs also tend to require coursework in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology and genetics, and a few require coursework in bioinformatics. We have found that 88 % of accredited US programs require biology courses in addition to physiology.1 For this reason, we have also identified the topics that are viewed as important in these other areas of biology, although somewhat more coarsely than physiology, which has been our focus.

While physiology is an important topic, instructors are faced with the difficult job of finding a text and other resources that are appropriate for their students (generally sophomores or juniors). The problem with all existing textbooks at this level (not an exaggeration) is that they contain few quantitative relationships, few, if any, problems to solve, and no sense of how

Linsenmeier, R., & Gatchell, D. (2008, June), Physiology Concepts And Physiology Problems For Biomedical Engineering Students Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3880

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: © 2008 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