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Vanth* Biomedical Engineering Key Content Survey, Part Two

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

BME Assessment and the VaNTH ERC

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Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1584.1 - 12.1584.15



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Paper Authors


David Gatchell Northwestern University

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David W. Gatchell is a research associate in the VaNTH Engineering Research Center for Bioengineering Educational Technologies and in the department of biomedical engineering at Northwestern University.

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Robert Linsenmeier Northwestern University

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Robert A. Linsenmeier has a joint appointment in Biomedical Engineering in the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and in Neurobiology and Physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. His primary teaching is in human and animal physiology. He is the Associate Director of the VaNTH Engineering Research Center in Bioengineering Educational Technologies, former chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Northwestern, and a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and the Biomedical Engineering Society. His research interests are in the role of retinal oxygen transport and metabolism in both normal physiological conditions and disease, and in bioengineering and physiology education.

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


A primary area of research for the VaNTH Engineering Research Center for Bioengineering Educational Technologies1 has been to identify the concepts that should comprise a core undergraduate biomedical engineering curriculum. The motivation for this project has been described elsewhere2-6 but, briefly, VaNTH domain experts believe that determining a core set of concepts will clarify for industry the capabilities of undergraduate biomedical engineers. In addition, these concepts should guide the development of new undergraduate programs in biomedical engineering and assist established programs in reworking their respective curricula.

The principal tool for determining the key concepts that comprise an ideal core curriculum has been the VaNTH Key Content Delphi Study. This study, conducted as a series of online surveys, has completed nearly two rounds, involving over 180 academic and industrial participants from the biomedical engineering community. The first round of the study was launched in 2004 and the second round was launched in 2006. Whereas results of the first round have been presented at several engineering and educational conferences, this is the first presentation of the results from the second round.

The purpose of this paper will be to summarize the key findings of the first two rounds of this study and to outline how these findings can be used to improve undergraduate BME education.


The Delphi method

The Delphi method (often referred to as a “Delphi study” in practice) was designed by the RAND Corporation in 19637 for forecasting technological and sociological change based on the collective opinions of experts in those respective fields. Recently, this method has been applied to a diversity of topics in science and engineering education including establishing biotechnology competencies for K-12 students8, developing concept inventories in statics9 and thermodynamics10, and identifying core laboratory skills in the biomedical sciences11. The strength of this approach is that it capitalizes on the merits of group problem solving while minimizing its limitations, for example, group conformity inherent to round-table discussions12.

Typically, a Delphi Study is comprised of several steps (see Clayton, 1997 for a lucid overview of this technique). In the first step, a group of experts is assembled and asked to brainstorm ideas relevant to a specified issue, e.g., forecasting important changes in the IT industry within the next ten years. In the second step, these ideas are collected and returned to the participants who are then asked to rate the relevance/importance of the ideas to the topic of interest. These responses are again collected and returned to the group. Individuals are asked to rate these concepts again, this time taking into account the responses from the previous iteration. In addition, participants are asked to support their responses, particularly if they are much higher or lower than the ratings determined in the previous step. This sequence of collecting, disseminating, and rating is continued until a consensus is reached regarding the importance/relevance of a set of ideas to the topic of interest.

Gatchell, D., & Linsenmeier, R. (2007, June), Vanth* Biomedical Engineering Key Content Survey, Part Two Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2952

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