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Training In Multidisciplinarianism

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.672.1 - 5.672.8



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Paper Authors

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R. Mark Worden

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Daina Briedis

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

Session 2613

Training in “Multidisciplinarianism" Mark Worden, Daina Briedis Michigan State University


Cross-functional and multidisciplinary teams are increasingly common in business and the marketplace. Industry has migrated from a parochial view of disciplines to a broader view of teamwork as an effective means of increasing the creative capacity of the organization. As a reflection of this industrial need, the ABET Engineering Criteria 2000 (EC 2000) require that graduates of our engineering programs must be able to function on multidisciplinary teams (criterion 3(d)). Most existing educational programs provide little training for undergraduates in the skills necessary to function effectively on such teams. In our new “Multidisciplinary Bioprocessing Laboratory” (MBL) course, we have developed formal training exercises and intensive laboratory experiences that help our students develop multidisciplinary team skills. While the MBL course is focused on biocatalysis, the concepts and approaches used for instruction and training are generic and may be applied to a variety of interdisciplinary technology areas. We will discuss the course structure and give examples of exercises used in the classroom.

I. Introduction

“Employment Outlook 2000: Teamwork Pays Off.” A recent issue of Chemical and Engineering News1 featured this cover story on the need for multifunctional teams in the professional workforce. Regardless of the type of industry—whether it produces polyethylene or pharmaceuticals—many companies view the work accomplished by multidisciplinary teams as key to cutting costs, improving efficiency, and speeding products to market. Our paper describes the development and implementation of a Multidisciplinary Bioprocessing Laboratory (MBL) course in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Michigan State University that helps provide this type of training.

The development of interdisciplinary courses and curricula is not new; examples of notable efforts at Virginia Tech, University of Florida, Brigham Young University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are described by Ercolano2. Some of these courses are focused on projects (design or research) done by teams, and others educate students in interdisciplinary topics with no formal teamwork involved.

The development of our MBL course was motivated specifically by the increasing relevance of biotechnology research and production to the chemical industry3. This need was underscored by a panel of distinguished research chemists assembled by Chemical and Engineering News. The majority of the panel believed that chemistry applied to biology is one of the most intellectually stimulating of today’s research frontiers4. Storck5 also cites the importance of biotechnology for

Worden, R. M., & Briedis, D. (2000, June), Training In Multidisciplinarianism Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8781

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