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Spicing Up Instruction of Professional Topics in Biomedical Engineering

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Biomedical Engineers and Professional Development - June 23rd

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jeffrey A. LaMack Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. LaMack is the undergraduate program director of the Biomedical Engineering program and a faculty member in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the MIlwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). His areas of specialty include biophysical transport phenomena, biocomputing, physiology, and engineering design. Dr. LaMack holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University, and he is an alumnus of the Biology Scholars Program of the American Society of Microbiology. Prior to becoming focused on engineering education, his research interests included hemodynamics and the study of how vascular cells respond to fluid forces and its implications in vascular pathologies.

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Icaro dos Santos Milwaukee School of Engineering


Larry Fennigkoh P.E. Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. Larry Fennigkoh is an adjunct professor of biomedical engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in medical instrumentation, biomedical engineering design, biomechanics, biostatistics, and human physiology. He is a Registered Professional Engineer and board certified in clinical engineering. He is also a member of the Institute of Electrical & Electronic Engineers, Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, American College of Clinical Engineering, American Society for Engineering Education, and an inducted Fellow within both the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the American College of Clinical Engineering.

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Olga Imas Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Olga Imas, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, where she teaches a variety of courses in biomedical digital signal processing, medical imaging, computing in biomedical engineering, biomaterials, anatomy and physiology. In addition to her academic responsibilities, she acts as a consultant to GE Healthcare for product development with emphasis on advanced imaging applications for neurology, cardiology, and oncology. Olga’s technical areas of expertise include signal and imaging processing, and statistical analysis. In her previous and current product development roles, Olga gained extensive experience in clinical product management involving market analysis for new and existing imaging products, and clinical product marketing. She has experience in managing product evaluations at multiple clinical sites, and has a comprehensive knowledge of neurology, oncology, and cardiology imaging markets. She has established a number of strong collaborations with clinical experts in recognized neuroimaging and oncology centers.

Olga has earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1999, and a doctorate degree in biomedical engineering and functional imaging from the Joint Functional Imaging program at Marquette University and Medical College of Wisconsin in 2004. Prior to entering academia full-time in 2009, Olga completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in anesthesiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where she studied the effects of general anesthetic agents on brain function. She then worked at GE Healthcare as a product development specialist in CT and Molecular Imaging with emphasis on post-processing software applications for neurology, oncology, and cardiology. Olga has over twenty peer-reviewed publications, and three pending patents. Her professional interests include physiological mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease, anesthetic ablation of consciousness, and applicability of medical imaging in stroke and brain trauma.

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Charles S. Tritt Milwaukee School of Engineering

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Dr. Tritt has been the director of the Biomedical Engineering program at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) since 2009. He has been teaching at MSOE since 1990. His Ph.D. is in Chemical Engineering from the Ohio State University as is his B.S. degree. He holds an M.S. in Biomedical Engineering, also from Ohio State. His research interests include biomedical applications of mass, heat and momentum transfer; medical product and process modeling; biomaterials; and entrepreneurship, innovation and commercialization in engineering education.

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Full preparation for careers in the medical device industry requires that biomedical engineers enter the workforce with not only design and technical skills, but also working knowledge of topics such as regulation, standards, quality control, and healthcare economics, as they pertain to the medical device industry. These topics are commonly included in undergraduate biomedical engineering curricula on an “as needed” basis during the capstone design courses, ideally requiring students to implement them with respect to their projects. After using this approach, our program commonly received feedback from graduating seniors that, not only was coverage of these topics often untimely, but the presentations were viewed as distractions to completing project work. Furthermore, there was some inconsistency in the degree to which students felt they understood these topics at the time of graduation. In response, during a recent curriculum revision, our program added a required course called Professional Topics in Biomedical Engineering taken during the junior year prior to the first capstone design course. We hypothesized that by providing students with practical exposure to these topics in a dedicated course, it would lead to improved perceptions and understanding of these topics. A previous Works-in-Progress poster presented at the 2018 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition described the implementation of the new course. Here we provide the results and conclusions of the study undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.

A survey tool, the UIC Survey, was developed to ascertain students’ Understanding of (U), appreciation of the Importance of (I), and Confidence in applying (C) ten professional topics covered in the course. Three cohorts of students were included in the study design. The first cohort was made up of students who followed the previous curriculum that did not include the professional topics course. The second and third cohorts were the first two classes of students following the new curriculum. The first and second cohorts completed the UIC survey at the completion of the senior year. For the second and third cohorts, the UIC survey was administered at three time points in the curriculum to characterize the students’ initial and reinforced learning of these topics.

Results showed that student perceptions, with respect to understanding, importance and confidence, was similar for the two graduating cohorts for the topics of professional documentation and user requirements and design inputs. These topics were heavily emphasized throughout the design process in both the previous and the new curricula. Similarly, student appreciation for the importance of most professional topics was high for both senior cohorts. However, students in the new curriculum reported a significantly higher level of understanding of most professional topics covered in the new course and confidence that they would be able to apply them in the workforce. Furthermore, these perceptions were improved both during the professional topics course and then again throughout the senior design courses, indicating that the approach allowed the senior design experience to successfully reinforce these topics, rather than provide the sole exposure to them.

LaMack, J. A., & dos Santos, I., & Fennigkoh, L., & Imas, O., & Tritt, C. S. (2020, June), Spicing Up Instruction of Professional Topics in Biomedical Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35201

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