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Understanding Identity among Biomedical Engineering Students and Professionals

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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

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Emmett Jacob Springer


Aileen Huang-Saad University of Michigan

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Aileen is faculty in Engineering Education and Biomedical Engineering. Previously, Aileen was the Associate Director for Academics in the Center for Entrepreneurship and was responsible for building the Program in Entrepreneurship for UM undergraduates, co-developing the masters level entrepreneurship program, and launching the biomedical engineering graduate design program. Aileen has received a number of awards for her teaching, including the Thomas M. Sawyer, Jr. Teaching Award, the UM ASEE Outstanding Professor Award and the Teaching with Sakai Innovation Award. Prior to joining the University of Michigan faculty, she worked in the private sector gaining experience in biotech, defense, and medical device testing at large companies and start-ups. Aileen’s current research areas include entrepreneurship engineering education, impact and engaged learning. Aileen has a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, a Doctorate of Philosophy from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Aileen is also a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Beta Sigma Gamma.

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As a highly multidisciplinary field, Biomedical Engineering has a complex and ever-evolving identity. Little is known about how individuals in BME, especially students, perceive how BME intersects with and incorporates science, medicine, and other engineering disciplines. Additionally, individual identity is recognized as a crucial factor in choosing and persisting in an academic discipline, yet there are few studies examining how individuals in Biomedical Engineering professionally identify. Understanding such identities and how they are formed may be valuable in innovating BME instruction to properly meet students’ academic and professional needs. This work explores how BME students and professionals view themselves and the field of biomedical engineering as related to traditional science and engineering influence.

This paper presents quantitative analysis of Likert-scale survey data collected from an annual professional meeting held in 2018. Descriptive statistical analysis reveals that the survey participants, on average, view BME as nearly evenly between science and engineering and identify strongly as both engineers and scientists. A multi-step regression was constructed to analyze what predictor constructs contribute to a stronger identity for either engineering or science and how these identities influence career path goals and choices. This study shows that recognition from others is a significant predictor of individual identity and that personal interest is a significant predictor of how an individual views BME. Gender was not found to influence professional identity or perception of BME in this study.

Springer, E. J., & Huang-Saad, A. (2020, June), Understanding Identity among Biomedical Engineering Students and Professionals Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35424

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