(515by) Getting Biological Applications into the Chemical Engineering Core: A Novel Web-Based Tool for All Chemical Engineering Faculty

Authors: 
Komives, C., San Jose State University
Fernandez, E., University of Virginia


More and more chemical engineering (ChE) graduates are entering careers that involve applications in the life sciences. Traditionally, ChE education focused on petrochemical or inorganic chemical processes. Many ChE departments have attempted to address the need to better prepare graduates by requiring biology courses or offering elective courses that apply the ChE principles to biological applications. However, there remains a need to integrate biological applications into core ChE courses.

To facilitate the incorporation of biological applications in the ChE undergrad curriculum, the BioXcel Problem Bank website has been developed (sponsored by an NSF CCLI grant) that contains problems with solutions covering biological applications. The website is analogous to a solutions manual to accompany popular ChE textbooks for the initial course that most students take on material and energy balance analysis of chemical processes. The website enables faculty to submit novel problems and also to comment on problems they have tried out in their courses. In addition, background information are provided to help those unfamiliar with the biology to understand more about the systems they are analyzing.

A workshop to enable faculty without formal education in biology to use the BioXcel problems was held in July 2007. Chemical engineering faculty from nineteen universities attended the workshop and plan to incorporate the bio-based problems into their material and energy balance courses this coming school year.

Beta-test sites that incorporate some of the problems into their courses will evaluate student performance on related problems that are designed to appraise the students' abilities to apply the same ChE principle to both a traditional chemical process as well as to a bioprocess. In addition, faculty who use the website problems in their courses will be polled about student learning. Finally, statistics of the web usage will be some indicator of the utility of the website in the ChE courses.

The presentation will include a demonstration of the website and discuss the methods and status of the assessment of the project. It is anticipated that the web format developed in this project can serve as a paradigm for incorporating other developments in other new applications of chemical engineering.