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The Switching Circuits Of Biology

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Trends in BAE

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1293.1 - 9.1293.8



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Paper Authors

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John Kaplan

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Kathleen Kaplan

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session Number 2408

The Switching Circuits of Biology

Kathleen M. Kaplan, D.Sc., Lt Col John J. Kaplan (Ph.D., J.D.) USAF

Howard University/USAF


Teaching biology to undergraduate engineering students can be a daunting task. There are a range of concepts to learn that do not seem to have any relationship to engineering. But there is a mapping between engineering and biology that is applicable for engineering students to study. By using biological data in switching circuits, engineering students can relate biology to familiar concepts.

Specifically within switching circuit concepts, engineering students seem to enjoy creating state transition diagrams, mainly because they are easy to construct! Also, from state transition diagrams, state transition Tables can be created, and vice versa. By using biology as the data for switching circuits, engineering students can grasp the concepts of biology quicker because they use a tool that they enjoy. For example, given the well-known Table of the genetic code mapping of codons to amino acids, an engineering student may apply his or her knowledge of switching circuits to it. Perhaps an engineering student would create a state diagram for this mapping. In another application, an engineering student may create a state diagram for proteins, where a beginning state is methionine and the three final states would be stop codons. Or perhaps an engineering student will identify that the redundant sixty-four to twenty mapping of codons to amino acids becomes data for a switching circuit with “don’t care” inputs. By looking at biological processes as switching circuits, the engineering student gains knowledge of biology and the full relevance of engineering principles to other disciplines.

This paper will explore some of the applications of biology to switching circuits. The information will include possible engineering student projects and assignments, and lessons learned from teaching biology to engineering students.

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Kaplan, J., & Kaplan, K. (2004, June), The Switching Circuits Of Biology Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12875

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