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Skills and Knowledge Important in Bioprocessing Design - A Survey of Practicing Engineers

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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

Design in BME

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Christine Kelly Oregon State University

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Dr. Kelly earned her BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Arizona and her PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Tennessee. She served as an Assistant Professor for 6 years at Syracuse University, and has been an Associate Professor at Oregon State University in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering since 2004, where she also served for three and half years as the Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs of the College of Engineering.

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Amy V. Nguyen Oregon State University

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Amy V. Nguyen is an honors undergraduate at Oregon State University studying Bioengineering with a minor in Spanish.

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Bioprocessing design includes optimizing unit operations in a process in order to attain a desired amount of product under economic, environmental, safety, quality, and other constraints. In our Bioengineering Program the students study both bioprocessing and bioproduct (focusing on biomedical) design in their senior year design sequence. This study investigated what skills and conceptual knowledge related to bioprocessing design and other courses were most important for entry-level engineers in the bioprocessing industry. A survey was delivered to examine which design and operations knowledge, technical skills, and professional skills were important based on the ratings from practicing engineers with at least 2 years of experience in the bioprocessing industries.

The total number of respondents was 31, although only 27 fully completed the survey. More than half the surveyed engineers were employed at facilities related to pharmaceuticals. Other respondents worked in protein/enzyme production, chemicals/polymers, consulting/engineering companies biofuels industries. All but one of the respondents were employed at companies with more than 100 employees. California, Massachusetts and New York were the most well represented states with 8, 6 and 5 respondents, respectively.

A summary of the responses indicated that in the area of design and operations bioreactors, micro and filtration, process control, and process flow diagrams and process control were highly valued, while liquid-liquid extraction and spray drying could be learned on the job. Professional skills such as interpersonal communication, technical presentation, and technical writing were consistently rated ‘critical’, and were the highest rated skills/knowledge in the survey. Practicing engineers valued knowledge of statistics for incoming engineers considerably higher than programming and process economics. When asked what experiences or characteristics made an applicant more competitive, industrial experience was rated significantly higher than study abroad, grade point average, or significant engagement in a student club.

These results can reinforce emphasis we have seen in the past decade on developing professional skills in undergraduate programs, and indicate that we need to continue this effort. We can use insights from the responses to influence bioprocessing curriculum and course content.

Kelly, C., & Nguyen, A. V. (2017, June), Skills and Knowledge Important in Bioprocessing Design - A Survey of Practicing Engineers Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28827

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