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Works in Progress: a Challenge-Inspired Undergraduate Experience

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Biomedical Engineering Division Poster Session

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Page Numbers

26.1774.1 - 26.1774.6



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Paper Authors


Rohit Bhargava University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Rohit Bhargava is a Bliss Faculty Scholar of Engineering and Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a faculty member with affiliations in several departments across campus (Primary – Bioengineering; Affiliated – Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Science and Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Chemistry), as well as the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. Bhargava received dual B.Tech. degrees (in Chemical Engineering and Polymer Science and Engineering) from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi in 1996 and his doctoral thesis work at Case Western Reserve University (Department of Macromolecular Science and Engineering) was in the area of polymer spectroscopy. He then worked as a Research Fellow at the National Institutes of Health (2000-2005) in the area of biomedical vibrational spectroscopy. Bhargava has been at Illinois since as Assistant Professor (2005-2011), Associate Professor (2011-2012), and Professor (2012-Present). He later founded and serves as the coordinator of the Cancer Community @ Illinois, a group dedicated to advancing cancer-related research and scholarship on campus. Research in the Bhargava laboratories focuses on fundamental theory and simulation for vibrational spectroscopic imaging, developing new instrumentation, and developing chemical imaging for molecular pathology. Bhargava’s work has been recognized with several research awards nationally.

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Marcia Pool University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Dr. Marcia Pool is a Lecturer in bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In her career, Pool has been active in improving undergraduate education through developing problem-based laboratories to enhance experimental design skills; developing a preliminary design course focused on problem identification and market space (based on an industry partner’s protocol); and mentoring and guiding student teams through the senior design capstone course and a translational course following senior design. To promote biomedical/bioengineering, Pool works with Women in Engineering to offer outreach activities and is engaged at the national level as Executive Director of the biomedical engineering honor society, Alpha Eta Mu Beta.

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Andrew Michael Smith University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Andrew M. Smith, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Dr. Smith received a B.S. in Chemistry in 2002 and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering in 2008, both from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He trained with Professor Shuming Nie as a graduate student and Whitaker Foundation Fellow, continuing his postdoctoral studies at Emory University as a Distinguished CCNE Fellow and NIH K99 Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Smith's research interests include nanomaterial engineering, single-molecule imaging, and cancer biology. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Bioengineering.

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P. Scott Carney Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois

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P. Scott Carney is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois where he has been since 2001. His group website may be found at Carney teaches the ECE senior capstone course and a rotation of three advanced graduate courses in optics. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Rochester (1999) and was a post-doc at Washington University (1999-2001). He is a theorist with research interests in inverse problems, imaging, coherence theory, and other branches of optical physics. Carney is also the co-organizer of the Saturday Engineering for Everyone lectures, a popular lecture series for all ages at the University of Illinois, and was a 2009 Fulbright Scholar to the Netherlands.

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Dipanjan Pan

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Works in Progress: With Focus, Flipping the Undergraduate ExperienceImproving the undergraduate experience while increasing the number of Science, Technology,Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) trained professionals is a recurring goal. Many studentschoose engineering to “change the world” and become disillusioned or lose interest [1] whenfaced with learning foundational concepts which are presented without connecting the use ofconcepts to real world problems. Therefore, to retain and further develop students, there is a needto connect student learning to engineering practice. We propose to create this connection byinterweaving a real world problem throughout multiple courses in the curriculum. Interweavingthe problem throughout the curriculum will expose students to the same problem multiple timesand require them to recall information about the problem as they investigate the problem fromanother perspective (engineering concept). As recall has been shown to increase long termlearning [2], we anticipate students will gain a deeper understanding of the problem while alsolearning how to apply multiple engineering concepts to solve a real world problem.To investigate this idea, we flipped the curriculum while focusing learning on a real worldproblem: cancer. Traditionally (Figure 1), students learn engineering skills in isolatedcoursework without a connection to other courses or to real world problems facilitating loss ofinterest. However, we anticipate a community of students focused on a grand challenge whileprogressing through the curriculum will develop interest in engineering through learning how toapply foundational principles to the problem. In the flipped model (Figure 1), students progressthrough the curriculum while also learning about the applications of concepts in courses tosolving the real world problem. By doing this, we connect students to their end goal (solvingreal world problems) at the beginning of their undergraduate education and seek to increaseenthusiasm by engaging students in training opportunities [3] focused around the real worldproblem.In fall 2014, we enrolled twelve, high achieving freshmen students (average ACT = 33.8). Ofthese twelve students, five are female, four are first generation students, and one is anunderrepresented minority student. In fall 2014, students participated in a frontiers course whereTed-style talks on cancer research were delivered, followed by facilitated discussion. In teams,students developed informational videos on a cancer related topic. Beginning in spring 2015,students will join a research laboratory and begin a project; research will be continuedthroughout the undergraduate career. In sophomore year, students will participate in a healthcareinnovations course and be introduced to public policy. Junior and senior year will be focused ondesign projects on cancer topics. Summer experiences include research, clinical immersions,and/or internships. Through this flipped curriculum, we introduce students to engineeringpractice early, require students to retain and apply knowledge, and facilitate development ofconnections between engineering principles. Figure 1. Traditionally, students progress through a curriculum without connecting concepts to practice. We are investigating a focused effort to connect education and training at multiple levels to a real world problem: cancer.References:[1] E. Litzler and J. Young, “Understanding the Risk of Attrition in Undergraduate Engineering: Results from the Project to Assess Climate in Engineering,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 101, issue 2, pp. 319-345, April 2012.[2] J. D. Karpicke, "Retrieval-based learning: active retrieval promotes meaningful learning," Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 21, pp. 157-163, 2012.[3] E. Seymour et al., “Establishing the Benefits of Research Experiences for Undergraduates in the Sciences: First Findings from a Three-Year Study,” Science Education, vol. 88, issue 4, 493–534, April 2004

Bhargava, R., & Pool, M., & Smith, A. M., & Carney, P. S., & Pan, D. (2015, June), Works in Progress: a Challenge-Inspired Undergraduate Experience Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25110

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