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Similarities and Differences in Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Curricula in the United States

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Research in Biomedical Pedagogy

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Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1082.1 - 24.1082.14



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Paper Authors

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David W. Gatchell PhD Northwestern University


Robert A. Linsenmeier Northwestern University

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Robert Linsenmeier is a professor of biomedical engineering in the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and of neurobiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, with an additional appointment in ophthalmology. His research interests are in the role of retinal oxygen transport and metabolism in both normal conditions and diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachment, and in bioengineering and physiology education. His teaching is largely in the area of human and animal physiology. He is the director of the Northwestern Center for Engineering Education Research. Formerly, he was the associate director of the VaNTH Engineering Research Center in Bioengineering Educational Technologies and chair of the biomedical engineering department at Northwestern. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

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Similarities and Differences in Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Curricula in the United StatesEmployers, textbook publishers, and existing and emerging educational programs in biomedicalengineering and bioengineering continue to be interested in the degree to which theundergraduate curricula of degree granting programs are similar for undergraduates in thesefields, and what the similarities are.Several years ago, the VaNTH Engineering Research Center in Bioengineering EducationalTechnologies compiled information about required courses at 40 of the 42 ABET-accreditedprograms, as well as 31 programs that were not accredited at that time. While these data from2007 have been presented in several forums, there is as yet no complete publication on this topic.In the interest of providing data that can be used by different constituencies, as well as a snapshotof the curriculum at a particular point to which changes can be compared, the data from thatproject are presented here in full. The results from the 2007 sample concerned courses beyondfreshman math, physics and chemistry, which tend to be common across engineering majors, tofocus on the courses required specifically for the biomedical engineering degree. We found thatmechanics, physiology and design were the subjects required most frequently, at 90% or more ofthe accredited programs. Other subjects required by 75% or more of the accredited programswere other areas of biology, circuit analysis, computing, statistics, materials, andinstrumentation. Several more topics were required by more than half of the programs. Therewas more variation in the amount of curricular time devoted to different subjects than in thetopics that were required. In comparing accredited and non-accredited programs, mechanics,thermodynamics, and materials were required more frequently at accredited programs, whilecomputing and organic chemistry were required by a larger percentage of the non-accreditedprograms. Normalizing all programs to a credit-hour basis showed that beyond required courses,the median number of credit hours left for specialization or elective courses was 12, and this didnot differ between accredited and non-accredited programs. Overall these results showed a highdegree of similarity in the required courses across all biomedical engineering programs. Whileresources are not available to obtain a complete 2013 data set for comparison to the 2007 data,changes in curriculum will be presented for a selected sample of institutions in order to assesstrends.

Gatchell, D. W., & Linsenmeier, R. A. (2014, June), Similarities and Differences in Undergraduate Biomedical Engineering Curricula in the United States Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23015

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