Learning Goals

Since our founding in 1998, the BioE faculty have been working to create an integrated, comprehensive program. Much thought has been put into the question, “what does every bioengineer need to know?” The faculty have been engaged in considerable dialog over the years about what needs to be included, in what order, and how to do so in a reasonable time frame. Balancing depth with breadth has been the key challenge, and we have now reached a turning point where the pieces are coming together to form a coherent bioengineering discipline.

The bioengineering curriculum includes clearly articulated concentrations in Biomaterials, Biomechanics, and Cell & Tissue Engineering; Biomedical Devices; Biomedical Imaging; Computational Bioengineering; and Synthetic Biology as well as a pre-med option.

The concentrations are unified by a bioengineering core that includes courses (termed bioengineering fundamentals) covering key topics such as biomechanics, biological transport, bioinstrumentation, biomedical physiology and computational biology. The development of senior level electives has likewise been aimed at defining the discipline of bioengineering, including the specialized coursework necessary to educate leaders in this rapidly evolving field.

Undergraduate Major Requirements

All students complete lower division coursework in math, chemistry, physics, and computer science. In the freshman year BioE 10 exposes students to human physiology fundamentals with an emphasis on the integration of engineering applications to biology and health, provides a context for all subsequent coursework. Students also take two seminar courses with weekly lectures on a variety of topics in bioengineering. The sophomore year adds depth in math and science, and students begin taking courses to prepare them for their major upper division coursework.

The junior year includes the selection of at least two bioengineering fundamentals courses, plus a number of technical topics in engineering, math, statistics and the physical and biological sciences. The senior year includes advanced coursework in bioengineering and related topics, at least one bioengineering laboratory course, as well as capstone design and/or research. The Concentrations were developed to help students navigate toward their desired area of specialization, and provides a roadmap through the senior year. Enterprising students may chart their own course under the guidance of a faculty adviser, provided it meets all the general program requirements.

Program Documentation

  1. What would you like your majors to know or be able to do by the time they graduate?

Students who successfully complete the bioengineering major should be able to:

  • Describe the fundamental principles and methods of engineering
  • Understand the physical, chemical, and mathematical basis of biology
  • Appreciate the different scales of biological systems
  • Apply the physical sciences and mathematics in an engineering approach to biological systems
  • Effectively communicate scientific and engineering data and ideas, both orally and in writing
  • Demonstrate the values of cooperation, teamwork, social responsibility and lifelong learning necessary for success in the field
  • Design a bioengineering solution to a problem of technical, scientific or societal importance
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge in a specialized field of bioengineering
  1. What is the relationship between the program level goals you have identified and your existing core curriculum?

Our courses have been specifically designed to deliver these learning outcomes through these relationships:

  • Describe the fundamental principles and methods of engineering
    • Lower division preparation, BioE Fundamentals, Engineering Topics, Bioengineering Topics, Design/Research
  • Understand the physical, chemical, and mathematical basis of biology
    • Lower division BioE Courses, Lower division preparation, Technical Topics, Upper Division Biology, Design/Research
  • Appreciate the different scales of biological systems
    • Lower division BioE Courses, Lower division preparation, BioE Fundamentals, Bioengineering Topics, Technical Topics, Upper Division Biology, Lab Courses, Design/Research
  • Apply the physical sciences and mathematics in an engineering approach to biological systems
    • Lower division BioE Courses, Lower division preparation, BioE Fundamentals, Engineering Topics, Bioengineering Topics, Lab Courses, Design/Research
  • Effectively communicate scientific and engineering data and ideas, both orally and in writing
    • BioE Fundamentals, Engineering Topics, Bioengineering Topics, Technical Topics, Upper Division Biology, Lab Courses, Ethics Course, Design/Research
  • Demonstrate the values of cooperation, teamwork, social responsibility and lifelong learning necessary for success in the field
    • Lab Courses, Ethics Course, Design/Research
  • Design a bioengineering solution to a problem of technical, scientific or societal importance
    • BioE Fundamentals, Bioengineering Topics, Lab Courses, Design/Research
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge in a specialized field of bioengineering
    • Engineering Topics, Bioengineering Topics, Lab Courses, Design/Research
  1. How will you communicate information about your learning goals to your majors and potential majors?

Course-specific learning outcomes will be detailed on all course syllabi, which are distributed in class and available on the course’s website, generally in bCourses. Our department website will serve as the primary tool for communication about broader program goals, as it now serves as the most frequently utilized resource for curriculum information. Our learning goals are also communicated to students and prospective students through outreach materials and events, such as at Cal Day, video and phone chats for admitted students, department brochures, newsletters and annual reports, and welcome packets mailed to admits. Goals for our students are further communicated through example at the regular poster sessions and departmental awards to students, and by published profiles of successful alumni.

  1. How will you assess your major’s attainment of these goals? What would it take to make the implementation of these goals fully successful?

Bioengineering uses performance on examinations and assignments as a measure of student comprehension of key concepts.

Opportunities for research or hands-on learning are also frequently integrated into our courses, which may include a graded poster or project. A common thread is to emphasize the practical applications of the knowledge base and inspire students to apply these principles beyond the classroom. Many courses include design challenges, some of which have blossomed into viable design prototypes. In addition to practical outcomes such as these, projects and presentations enable the instructor to gauge the extent to which students have acquired relevant knowledge and practical skills related to course specific and program goals.

The design capstone class (BioE 192), supervised independent research (BioE H194) and/or design project (BioE 196), required of all bioengineering students, are the ideal vehicles for students to demonstrate all the desired learning outcomes. Research and design projects draw on acquired knowledge of engineering principles and methods and the physical, chemical and mathematical basis of biology. Students are expected identify projects at multiple biological scales and apply engineering concepts to a biological system or a bioengineering problem of technical or societal significance. The experience often involves working in teams and successful project completion relies on effective communication skills, the ability to analyze and interpret data, and competency in experimental design and/or device prototype development. These skills are demonstrated in the execution of the project itself and also in a poster presentation hosted regularly by the department. Projects may emerge from a design challenge posed in a senior bioengineering elective course, as described above, and can culminate in a functional design prototype or scientific publication. In this manner, many of our undergraduates not only demonstrate advanced knowledge in a specialized field of bioengineering, but contribute to its advancement.

We also utilize survey tools which enable students to self-report their own assessment of their undergraduate experience. The campus administers the UCUES survey, and we have recently developed a student input questionnaire for bioengineering students. Past major curriculum overhauls were informed in large part by reports from an ad hoc student group and accompanying surveys.