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Promoting Career Reflection among Freshman BME Students

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

First- and Second-year Design and Professional Development in BME

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Emma K. Frow Arizona State University

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Emma Frow is an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, with a joint appointment in the School of Biological & Health Systems Engineering and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. She has graduate training in both the natural and social sciences, with a PhD in biochemistry and an MSc in science & technology studies. Emma is interested in the engineering imagination, particularly in the emerging field of synthetic biology. Over the past 7 years, her curricular and extracurricular teaching with engineers and scientists has been geared towards encouraging them to think about the broader social, ethical and political dimensions of their research and training.

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Michael R. Caplan Arizona State University

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Michael Caplan earned his undergraduate degrees from The University of Texas at Austin and his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following post-doctoral research at Duke University Medical Center in Cell Biology, Michael joined the faculty of Arizona State University in 2003, and he is now an Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering.

Dr. Caplan’s research focuses on molecular cooperativity in drug targeting, bio-sensing, and cell signaling. Current projects align along three main themes: local drug delivery, endothelial dysfunction in diabetes, and cooperative DNA diagnostics. Recent awards include the Jeanette Wilkins Award for the best basic science paper at the Musculoskeletal Infection Society.

Dr. Caplan teaches several classes including Biotransport Phenomena, Biomedical Product Design and Development II (alpha prototyping of a blood glucose meter), and co-teaches Biomedical Capstone Design. Dr. Caplan also conducts educational research to assess the effectiveness of interactive learning strategies in large classes (~150 students).

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The biomedical engineering (BME) program at our university includes a 14-week ‘freshman success’ course. The primary objective is to introduce students to BME faculty and ongoing research in the department. Secondary objectives include introducing students to topics important to their university success, helping students to understand realistic career paths for graduates with B.S., M.S. or PhD degrees in BME, and encouraging students to start working towards their personal career goals. These additional objectives are motivated by our hypothesis that many students entering our BME program do not have a clear sense of the jobs or career trajectories available to them upon graduation, and that many do not hold realistic expectations of what they can expect to do in an entry-level job. Ultimately we aim for our students to become self-regulated learners who can apply the four elements of self-regulated learning to their career exploration and preparation to enter their chosen career path.

This study assesses three elements of self-regulated learning (goal setting, monitoring, and reflection) applied to career exploration and development. At the beginning and end of the fall 2016 semester, we are surveying approximately 125 BME students enrolled in freshman success course at our university, 19 of whom are in our co-taught section of this course. Survey questions explore students’ current goals, their understanding of possible routes to achieving those goals, as well as whether the students currently set themselves clear academic goals, monitor their progress towards these goals, and which study skills attributes they use and/or identify as critical to achieving their goals. In our section, homework exercises encourage students to reflect on their choice of BME as a major, articulate their career and personal goals, and identify actions they can take in college to achieve their personal and professional aspirations. We aim to help students to take ownership of their university educations, to develop an understanding of realistic job opportunities available to BME graduates, and to be pro-active in defining their career and personal aspirations.

Results from a preliminary, smaller-scale study last year showed that most students’ motivations for choosing BME did not change substantially from the beginning to end of the semester; however, as many as 20% changed major. So far in the larger study this year, we see that very few incoming students can name specific job titles taken by B.S. graduates with BME degrees. At the beginning of the semester, most students said that B.S. graduates in BME perform research and/or design medical devices; fewer than 25% recognized that they would need a PhD to lead a research career. In last year’s study, over the course of the semester, students became better able to match their career goals (e.g., research) with the career path required to achieve that path (e.g., PhD) and the preparation necessary while at university (e.g., becoming involved in undergraduate research). The end-of-semester survey from this year’s study will add to these initial observations with an exploration of links between student career goals and their attributes as self-regulated learners.

Frow, E. K., & Caplan, M. R. (2017, June), Promoting Career Reflection among Freshman BME Students Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28771

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