(360a) Active and Cooperative Learning Strategies for Introducing Biomaterials to Undergraduates
This paper describes a Rowan University initiative to incorporate Biomaterials education into its undergraduate curriculum. Biomaterials is a relatively new interdisciplinary field within Chemical Engineering. Because of the increasing prevalence of musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders in today's modern society, there is a necessity to engineer biomaterials that improve the quality of life for people with painful and debilitating diseases. The objective of this initiative is therefore to teach students engineering concepts behind prominent biomaterials. Students will apply the engineering concepts to designing improved medical devices and also learn ?soft skills? such as multidisciplinary teamwork, effective communication, and critical thinking. These lessons will be introduced to students within the framework of several active and cooperative learning activities that are utilized in the classroom setting and in hands-on laboratory experiences. In the classroom, students learn through interactive demonstrations, medical case studies, and student and instructor led discussions on primary literature. Juniors and seniors also participate in semester-long team based Biomaterials related projects in Rowan University's Clinic Program. Here, students work in interdisciplinary teams to gain hands-on experience in copolymer synthesis, hydrogel preparation, microencapsulation, and mechanical characterization of biomaterials. Students are given ample opportunities to sharpen their communication skills with presentations on proposed Biomaterials innovations and analysis of their laboratory results. The active and cooperative activities described in this paper can also be adapted for K-12 levels.