“Training the next generation of biomedical engineering leaders requires a curriculum that produces graduates who are highly advanced in technical and analytical abilities, while also possessing outstanding leadership and communication skills. The overall goal of such a program should be to train students that will become highly respected and successful professionals in their chosen path, whether that is academics, industry, government, or a non-traditional role,” said Shannon Barker, director of graduate training in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.
The Wallace H Coulter BME Department already employs an innovative and integrated approach in its Ph.D. curriculum. However, due to the ever-changing post-graduate environment, feedback from our alumni and external advisory board, and an increase in student demand, a new initiative has been launched within the Ph.D. program to expand and enhance professional development training for all graduate students. This overall initiative includes the insertion of instructional and hands-on professional development training within the curriculum, as well as, the creation of two seminar series.
Teaching & Research Practica:
BME Ph.D. students are required to take a series of two courses during their second year: Teaching & Research Practicum I & II. This series is dedicated to three fundamental core strengths we feel all future biomedical engineering leaders should possess: 1) highly effective teaching abilities, 2) a solid foundation of ethical training, and 3) the ability to function as a professional in their chosen career.
a. Teaching is an elemental skill that all professionals require, no matter the field. Students in our BME Ph.D. program receive both instructional and hands-on teaching training during this second year, whereby they are exposed to pedagogical strategies and practical classroom applications.
b. As researchers at the intersection of engineering, bioscience, and medicine, our graduate students will be confronted with unprecedented ethical issues and must learn to negotiate the many challenges that various research methodologies, technologies and therapeutics will present. They must also learn to function as highly ethical research professionals in their chosen paths, utilizing the principles laid out in fundamental ethical training. This series of courses also includes eight-hours of face-to-face Responsibility of Conduct in Research training.
c. Finally, Teaching & Research Practicum II includes highly focused and relevant professional development training for our students. This course focuses on three professional development topics we feel are crucial for our students, no matter their career focus: project management, professional collaborations & relationships, and communications skills. The students will apply these three topics toward their own research, immediately reflecting the relevance and applicability of such training. With participation by various experts on both the Georgia Tech and Emory University campuses, including from the Scheller College of Business, the Center of Career Discover & Development, the Center for Enhanced Teaching & Learning, the Communication Center, and the Laney Graduate School, students will be exposed to biomedical research-specific tools and strategies within each topic. Students will also have the opportunity to utilize such tools and strategies in workshops toward their own thesis work, creating a thesis milestone list and timeline, as well as designing and executing a three-minute presentation (or elevator pitch) of their research.
BME Professional Development Seminar Series
This seminar series focuses on offering our students the opportunity to hear from current leaders in the biomedical engineering field. Speakers will be recruited from a variety of career paths and will focus on various professional development topics, such as negotiations, networking, management, and leadership. The Department will offer two such seminars each semester, which can be utilized to fulfill program requirements that all first and second year students attend professional/career development events each semester.
BME Graduate Student Seminar Series
Many students in the BME Ph.D. Program graduate having given multiple 45-minute technical talks. And now in the new Teaching Practicum II course, they can also practice a rapid elevator pitch summary of their research. The Graduate Student Seminar Series focuses instead on the 10-minute conference-length presentation. Taken together, these opportunities give our students exposure to a variety of presentation styles and audiences. In this series, students must give their 10-minute presentations primarily before their peers, creating a low-stress environment to hone their skills. However, to gain as much relevant feedback as possible, each seminar will also have in attendance one faculty member for input on the science and one specialist from the Georgia Tech Communication Center for input on the presentation style. This series will exist in two formats: a monthly seminar, where up to four students present; and an annual BME Graduate Student Research Day to be held during the first week of Fall classes. Besides offering additional opportunities for students in this series, the Research Day also serves as a social event where newly matriculating graduate students can attend and discover the various kinds of research occurring within the program, as well as meet current graduate students and faculty.
These three additions to the BME Graduate curriculum will serve as a foundation for the development of future professionals in the biomedical engineering field. We believe these efforts, in combination with mentorship from some of the best researchers in the World, will culminate in the evolution of innovative and critical thinkers, able to engage the community, and help shape it’s future.