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Teaching Fluid Mechanics and Mass transport to Biologists

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Emerging Areas: Biotechnology, Microtechnology, and Energy

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1393.1 - 22.1393.10



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Paper Authors


Arthur Felse Northwestern University

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Dr. P. Arthur Felse is a Lecturer in the Master of Biotechnology Program and the Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering at Northwestern University. Before joining Northwestern University, Dr. Felse completed his post-doctoral training at the New York University's Polytechnic Institute where he was awarded a NSF fellowship. He and his colleagues at the Polytechnic Institute received the EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for their work on mild and selective polymerizations using lipases. Dr. Felse is a member of the American Chemical Society and the American Society for Engineering Education.

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Teaching Fluid Mechanics and Mass transport to BiologistsThe field of biotechnology is emerging as a mature disciple that calls for a very intimatepartnership between chemical engineers and biologists. Thus several biologists in thebiotechnology profession have a need to learn the basics of chemical engineering in order tooperate effectively in an integrated, cross-disciplinary environment. Since the traditional fluidmechanics and mass transport courses are specifically designed for chemical engineeringstudents with a precise set of prerequisites, it becomes necessary to develop a course speciallytailored for biologists, outside of the usual chemical engineering curriculum.The challenge: There are two major pedagogical challenges in developing an engineering coursefor biologists: (i) the difference in the way engineers and biologists learn – engineers tend tolearn through quantitative and analytical methods while biologists are more comfortable withdescriptive and illustrative learning, and (ii) the non-existence of the usual perquisites amongbiologists. Another critical challenge is the general unavailability of instructional materials toteach fluid mechanics and mass transport to non-engineers.The strategy: This paper will share some unique strategies and experiences in developing anddelivering a fluid mechanics and mass transport course for biologists. The strategies include: (i) Methods to provide the required mathematics background (trigonometry and calculus). (ii) Approaches to make fluid mechanics and mass transport instruction more analysis- based and less quantitative-based. (iii) Project-based learning methods to deliver concepts in fluid mechanics and mass transport. (iv) Use of biology examples to teach chemical engineering concepts (eg., oxygen transfer in the alveoli to explain film theory). (v) Exposure to CHE unit operations through lab tours and field trips.Assessment: It is obvious that the traditional assessments methods and criteria cannot be used foreither assessing this course or the students taking it. However, some of the ABET “a to k”program outcomes were found to be relevant and were applied for evaluation this course. A fewassessments methods adapted from biology education programs will be discussed. This paperwill also discuss student evaluation methods that were specifically developed to test non-chemical engineers. Future plans to include virtual lab modules will also be discussed.

Felse, A. (2011, June), Teaching Fluid Mechanics and Mass transport to Biologists Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18382

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