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Problem Based Learning Laboratories Involving Chemicals From Biorenewables

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Life Sciences and ChE

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1008.1 - 9.1008.10



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Paper Authors

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Peter Reilly

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Surya Mallapragada

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Mary Huba

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Jacqueline Shanks

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Kevin Saunders

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Charles Glatz

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Balaji Narasimhan

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

Problem-Based Learning Laboratories Involving Chemicals From Biorenewables

Charles Glatz1, Balaji Narasimhan1, Jacqueline Shanks1, Mary Huba2, Kevin Saunders2, Peter Reilly1, and Surya Mallapragada1 1 Iowa State University Department of Chemical Engineering / 2Iowa State University Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies


At Iowa State University, we have developed a unique and valuable experience for our students by giving them an opportunity to work in multidisciplinary teams on cutting-edge problems involving biorenewables, while using novel problem-based learning approaches. The focus of four new 1-credit laboratory classes is to bring important emergent areas from the development of biorenewable sources of chemicals into new and existing courses in the Chemical Engineering curriculum. The laboratory components are being offered in parallel with four lecture courses. These new classes are open to undergraduates as well as graduate students. New engineers entering the work force need to combine knowledge of appropriate technologies with the ability to work in multidisciplinary teams, continue to learn as new possibilities evolve, realize the societal impacts of these technologies, and communicate their solutions and the benefits and risks that come with implementation. That collection of attributes suggests that problem-based learning is an excellent context in which to learn. The four laboratory modules we have developed address topics at the top of the priority research needs lists published recently by the National Research Council and industry roadmap groups studying the emergence of a chemical industry based on biorenewables. Under the direction of faculty members active in each area, the modules address bioinformatics for enzyme engineering, metabolic engineering for product yield, processing of plant materials for product recovery, and utilization of biobased polymers for tissue engineering. In these courses, students directed their own learning in multi- disciplinary teams under the guidance of a faculty member trained in using problem-based learning. The common core training elements of the four laboratory classes included an orientation to research ethics, design of experiments, analysis of data, teamwork, communication, and self-assessment of learning. Novel problem-solving, teamwork, oral and written report rubrics were developed and used to assess and evaluate knowledge acquisition, problem-solving skill development, attitude toward lifelong learning, and improvements in metacognition. These rubrics have broad impact and are also currently being implemented in the graduate program to assess students’ research performance.


Chemical engineers are being increasingly expected to use their process and design skills in the manufacture of bio-based industrial products. There is a strong need for new course materials that reflect this trend, although many chemical engineering curricula today include a senior-level

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Reilly, P., & Mallapragada, S., & Huba, M., & Shanks, J., & Saunders, K., & Glatz, C., & Narasimhan, B. (2004, June), Problem Based Learning Laboratories Involving Chemicals From Biorenewables Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13860

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