An Interdisciplinary Team-based Framework to Engage Undergraduate Students in Biomedical Innovation

George Tan
Assistant Professor
Texas Tech University

Driven by the need for biomedical innovation and its multidisciplinary nature, engineers from all disciplines have been contributing to the advance of medical technology. Today, education for medical engineers has gone beyond the Biomedical Engineering (BME) program. To maintain leadership in healthcare science and technology, there is a constant need for engaging more engineering students outside the customary BME discipline for future engineers in medicine. However, for undergraduate education, it is challenging to equip non-BME students with the necessary skills and domain knowledge for biomedical research and development in short term.

Guiding Questions
We proposed a senior-level one-year collaborative project-based course series titled “Biomedical Innovation” in which Industrial Engineering students work with medical students to provide engineering solutions for real-world medical problems. Instead of providing students with comprehensive knowledge in biomedicine, this course aims to cultivate students’ innovation and research skills based on personal interests and expertise.
The research question is whether the collaborative project-based learning with medical students can (1) develop the critical thinking skills and independent research ability of non-BME engineering students in the biomedical field, and (2) increase students’ non-cognitive learning outcomes such as commitment and engagement with engineering, communication (writing and presentation skills), self-efficacy, and teamwork in a multidisciplinary environment.

The first class of Biomedical Innovation started in the fall of 2021. A total of 29 engineering students have enrolled in IE 4331 Biomedical Innovation in the fall semester of 2021. 55% of them were from the underrepresented groups. A total of 10 medical students participated in this course and teamed up with engineering students for medical projects. By the end of the first semester, each student team completed a 5-page solution proposal for a medical problem. The proposals were evaluated by 1). significance of the problem, 2). innovation in theoretical concepts and methodologies, and 3). the reasoning of the approaches to accomplish the aims. The full score of the proposal was 50 points. All teams passed the threshold of 35 points. The average score of the six teams was 42.08. The average overall final grade was 85.19 on a 100-point scale with the highest grade of 94.36 and the lowest grade of 70.25. Over 80% of the students received a final grade of 80 or above. The anonymous self-efficacy surveys showed that the collaborative learning experience improved students’ A). background research skills, B). critical thinking and ideation, C). project management and teamwork, D). technical communication skills, and E). interest in medical engineering.

Broader Impacts
Enhancing the quality of students’ learning and motivation in engineering for healthcare is a high priority and has always been a continual improvement process. The proposed course not only improved students’ abilities of independent research but also enhanced their abilities for effective teamwork and communication in a multidisciplinary environment. This teaching strategy is designed to be scalable for larger STEM communities across disciplinary lines to accelerate the quality and effectiveness of the education of engineering for healthcare.


Tim Dallas, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX; Changxue Xu, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX; Luke Lefebvre, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY; Jnev Biros, Texas Tech University Health Science Center, Lubbock, TX