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Utilizing Diversity In A Bioprocess Engineering Course For A Group Project To Design And Characterize A Bioreactor To Convert Cellobiose To Glucose

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Innovations in the CHE Laboratory

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1340.1 - 14.1340.17



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Paper Authors

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Heather Gappa-Fahlenkamp Oklahoma State University

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Mark Wilkins Oklahoma State University

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


The field of bioprocess engineering includes the use of engineering principles to design, characterize, and optimize processes that use bioactive agents. This is a highly transdisciplinary field that involves principles in both engineering: chemical, mechanical, electrical, industrial, agricultural, and environmental, and biology: biochemistry and microbiology. At our university, we offer an introductory course in Bioprocess Engineering to seniors and entering graduate students for any of the disciplines listed above. This course is co-taught by faculty in both chemical engineering (CHE) and biosystems and agricultural engineering (BAE). This class can be a challenge to teach due to the diversity of the students at different levels and from different disciplines.

As part of their grade for the course, students participate in a “hands-on” class project designed to give the students experience in bioreactor design and characterization. The goal of the project is to design and characterize a batch enzyme reactor to convert cellobiose to glucose. The class project is divided into two parts: experimental and modeling. For the experimental part, students utilize a temperature-controlled bioreactor to measure the product formation from the enzymatic breakdown of cellobiose to glucose. For the modeling part, the students develop a mathematical model to predict the conversion of cellobiose to glucose in the bioreactor. They have one, three- hour laboratory period to collect data from the reactor. The students then compare their mathematical models to experimental data from the bioreactor and determine if the model is acceptable or not. Students report their findings in both a written report and an oral presentation given to the class by each group.

Students work in teams of three or four to complete the project. We capitalize on the diversity of the students within the class by ensuring that each team has a combination of undergraduate and graduate students from different majors. All team members actively participate in each part of the project and are encouraged to lead in areas of their strengths and to learn in areas of their weaknesses within the group.

Bioprocess Engineering Course

The Bioprocess Engineering course has been designed in such a way to provide students the ability to meet the following learning objectives. At the end of the semester, the students should be able to:

1. Understand the basic role of engineering in bio-processing applications.

2. Obtain a basic understanding of how cells work and become familiar with the environmental conditions (i.e. nutrients, pH, etc.) required for applications of biological components (cells or enzymes) to bio-processing systems.

3. Understand and model enzyme kinetics and apply the models for analysis of immobilized enzymatic bioreactors.

4. Utilize material balances to evaluate cell growth and substrate/product utilization in bioreactors.

Gappa-Fahlenkamp, H., & Wilkins, M. (2009, June), Utilizing Diversity In A Bioprocess Engineering Course For A Group Project To Design And Characterize A Bioreactor To Convert Cellobiose To Glucose Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5267

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