To develop world-class engineers for the 21st century, the Georgia Tech BME curriculum emphasizes the value of applying theory and knowledge to real world problems, lifelong learning, collaborative teamwork, and fearlessness in the face of the ambiguity inherent in a complex problem.
Former BMED1300 student on lifelong learning: "The topics we look at [in BMED1300] are SO interesting and I get to teach myself. I'm not waiting for the professor to present me with information instead I am my own professor and I have the power to make the most of the topic."
Former BMED1300 student on applying theory: "The ownership that comes from developing methods [is the best thing about] BMED1300. It's one thing to teach a t-test, it's another to investigate and surmise that a t-test is needed and why."
Alumnus describing the most important aspect of the Georgia Tech BME undergrad program in the real world: "I am not afraid of anything anymore!"
The Problem-Based Learning (PBL) pedagogical approach anchors the curricular innovation present in many of our undergraduate courses. Beginning in BMED 1300: Problems in Biomedical Engineering I, students are challenged to integrate theory from content-specific courses and apply that knowledge to deconstruct a complex problem into doable elements in order to produce a data-based proposal or solution, while remaining mindful of ethical considerations and the client's needs. As is typical of the 21st Century workplace-- whether that is industry, research, academia, or medicine-- students work in a collaborative team-based setting. Students take full ownership of the problem, learning, decisions, utilization of space and time, their progress, and, ultimately, their own success or failure.
Over the course of a semester in BMED1300: Problems in Biomedical Engineering I students explore disease morphology, quantified decision-making, medical technologies, device mechanics and error, bench-top and human subjects research, ethics, biomechanics, physiological systems and function, conceptual and mathematical modeling, statistics, scale, systems thinking, and the interaction or intersection of each of these with the others. They learn professional practices that include collaborative communication and peer evaluation, responsibility (to and for teammates, client, product, and self), presentation skills, authoring and editing technical reports and publishable journal papers, time management, observation of the physical world, the value of and necessity for iteration in Biomedical Engineering as well as other problem solving enterprises, evaluating the validity of information and resources, managing non-linear trajectories, and, most importantly, comfort with the ambiguity and multi-facets of a problem. They become self-sufficient learners capable of evaluating and trusting their own knowledge and judgment as well as that of their colleagues and the resources around them. BMED1300 sets up success not just for the coursework that will follow, but also to meet the expectations of internships, industry co-ops, research, leadership, and post-graduation employment, grad school, or medical school. The practices of PBL empower students to take control of their own learning inside and outside of the classroom across all domains of life.
Using an instructional construct that we call problem-driven learning our students are afforded practice applying theory and using engineering principles to solve real-world problems across the four-year BME curriculum. The principles of Problem Based Learning provide the fundamentals. BMED1300: Problems in Biomedical Engineering I employs an authentic PBL pedagogy as the foundation for several other courses that use variations of the PBL approach. For example, BMED3600: Cell and Molecular Biology extends lecture topics with a parallel team-based PBL module fitted to the technical content of the course. BMED2300: Problems in BME II (Design and Prototype) and BMED3110/3610: Instructional Physiology Laboratory I & II employ a Project-Based Learning (Proj-BL) approach in the design and execution of artifacts on the workbench and experiments on the benchtop, respectively. In BMED4602/3: Capstone Design I & II, design projects are sponsored by a client from the field thus employing Product-Based Learning (Prod-BL) to design and build marketable medical products. The Problem Solving Studio used in BMED2210: Conservation Principles and BMED3510: BME Systems Modeling utilizes the practices and principles of PBL to teach engineering fundamentals helping students understand that math is not just random procedures without purpose. The primary goal of our innovative problem-driven learning curriculum is to promote fearlessness in the face of the unknown so that our graduates recognize their own power to use their skills and knowledge to confidently approach and solve any problem.