Unit: Molecular Biosciences & Biosystems Engineering
Program: Molecular Biosciences & Bioengineering (PhD)
Degree: Doctorate
Date: Tue Oct 06, 2015 - 11:16:11 am

1) Below are your program's student learning outcomes (SLOs). Please update as needed.


The MBBE MS/PhD graduate program aims to cultivate creativity and provide an environment that promotes rigorous cutting-edge scientific inquiry, new discoveries and enthusiastic learning in an interdisciplinary atmosphere. MBBE student researchers aim to create new knowledge and technologies within the context of a broad-based education that engages and motivates them to be lifelong learners and contributors to society. MBBE graduates will carry a passion for learning and be active caretakers of the planet. The extent to which these goals are reached is assessed with the following Student Learning Outcomes (SLO's), in which students:


1.  Are able to understand, describe and explain fundamental core STEM science concepts and have proven the ability to comprehend and convert these concepts into experimental approaches and hypothesis driven research on biological systems. 


2.   Wrote, contributed results and published articles, as primary author(s)/co-author(s), in peer-reviewed scientific journals of basic and applied molecular biosciences and bioengineering.


3.  Present research at national and international conferences as evidenced by published abstracts and poster and/or oral presentations.


4.  Can communicate orally and in writing in a clear, well-organized manner that effectively informs and clarifies scientific principles and laboratory techniques to others, as evidenced by provision of seminars, technical reports, dissertations or theses, providing details of scientific and scholarly activities.


5.  Are well prepared for employment in the critically important and dynamic biotechnology, chemical and biosciences fields (government, academia, industry). 


1) Institutional Learning Objectives (ILOs) and Program Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

2) Your program's SLOs are published as follows. Please update as needed.

Department Website URL:
Student Handbook. URL, if available online:
Information Sheet, Flyer, or Brochure URL, if available online: Flyer
UHM Catalog. Page Number:
Course Syllabi. URL, if available online:
Other: New MBBE Dept. web site not functional todate

3) Please review, add, replace, or delete the existing curriculum map.

Curriculum Map File(s) from 2015:

4) For your program, the percentage of courses that have course SLOs explicitly stated on the syllabus, a website, or other publicly available document is as follows. Please update as needed.


5) Did your program engage in any program learning assessment activities between June 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015?

No (skip to question 16)

6) What best describes the program-level learning assessment activities that took place for the period June 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015? (Check all that apply.)

Create/modify/discuss program learning assessment procedures (e.g., SLOs, curriculum map, mechanism to collect student work, rubric, survey)
Collect/evaluate student work/performance to determine SLO achievement
Collect/analyze student self-reports of SLO achievement via surveys, interviews, or focus groups
Use assessment results to make programmatic decisions (e.g., change course content or pedagogy, design new course, hiring)
Investigate curriculum coherence. This includes investigating how well courses address the SLOs, course sequencing and adequacy, the effect of pre-requisites on learning achievement.
Investigate other pressing issue related to student learning achievement for the program (explain in question 7)
Other: College and Department External review

7) Briefly explain the assessment activities that took place in the last 18 months.

College and Department review

22 MBBE graduates enrolled in MBBE 610 Professional Development/Career Development/planning course - all produced a professional/career portofilo - which was reviewed and assessed.

Commencement of digitial library of published works by MBBE Students

Pilot program to investigate the use of a 'signature assessment' item to gauge the competency of students - focusing on the proposal as an assessment tool (implemented student surveys, faculty questionaire, student working group to build a handbook book on MS and PhD. Proposals).

The winning of student awards - local, national and international conferences, academic achievement awards (GSO, ARCS etc).

Student graduation rates, time to graduation and student placement in both employment and (other) professional schools


8) What types of evidence did the program use as part of the assessment activities checked in question 6? (Check all that apply.)

Direct evidence of student learning (student work products)

Artistic exhibition/performance
Assignment/exam/paper completed as part of regular coursework and used for program-level assessment
Capstone work product (e.g., written project or non-thesis paper)
Exam created by an external organization (e.g., professional association for licensure)
Exit exam created by the program
IRB approval of research
Oral performance (oral defense, oral presentation, conference presentation)
Portfolio of student work
Publication or grant proposal
Qualifying exam or comprehensive exam for program-level assessment in addition to individual student evaluation (graduate level only)
Supervisor or employer evaluation of student performance outside the classroom (internship, clinical, practicum)
Thesis or dissertation used for program-level assessment in addition to individual student evaluation
Other 1:
Other 2:

Indirect evidence of student learning

Alumni survey that contains self-reports of SLO achievement
Employer meetings/discussions/survey/interview of student SLO achievement
Interviews or focus groups that contain self-reports of SLO achievement
Student reflective writing assignment (essay, journal entry, self-assessment) on their SLO achievement.
Student surveys that contain self-reports of SLO achievement
Other 1: College and Dept. External review
Other 2:

Program evidence related to learning and assessment
(more applicable when the program focused on the use of results or assessment procedure/tools in this reporting period instead of data collection)

Assessment-related such as assessment plan, SLOs, curriculum map, etc.
Program or course materials (syllabi, assignments, requirements, etc.)
Other 1:
Other 2:

9) State the number of students (or persons) who submitted evidence that was evaluated. If applicable, please include the sampling technique used.

Graduate Student survey: 80 individuals replied to a basic multiple choice and short comment 10 question survey

22 MBBE graduate students for professional portoflios (MBBE 610)

31 MBBE graduate students interviewed as a part of Dept. external review



10) Who interpreted or analyzed the evidence that was collected? (Check all that apply.)

Course instructor(s)
Faculty committee
Ad hoc faculty group
Department chairperson
Persons or organization outside the university
Faculty advisor
Advisors (in student support services)
Students (graduate or undergraduate)
Other: Graduate Chair

11) How did they evaluate, analyze, or interpret the evidence? (Check all that apply.)

Used a rubric or scoring guide
Scored exams/tests/quizzes
Used professional judgment (no rubric or scoring guide used)
Compiled survey results
Used qualitative methods on interview, focus group, open-ended response data
External organization/person analyzed data (e.g., external organization administered and scored the nursing licensing exam)
Other: Examining the best way to use this data

12) Summarize the results of the assessment activities checked in question 6. For example, report the percent of students who achieved each SLO.

Exnternal Review:

Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering (MBBE)
Departmental Review

The mission of the Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering (MBBE) is to:
•    Provide strong educational programs emphasizing biochemistry, biotechnology and bioengineering for undergraduate and graduate students, students actively participate in research and experiential learning in the laboratories and in the field.  
•    To conduct innovative research in the biomolecular and bioengineering sciences that contributes new knowledge to the fields.
•    To collaborate with other UH departments and to effectively transmit scientific knowledge to benefit Hawaii.  

Degree programs in MBBE at the undergraduate level include Bachelor of Science degrees in Biological Engineering (BE) and Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology (MBB).  At the graduate level, Masters degrees are awarded in Biological Engineering and Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering.  One Ph.D. degree is offered in Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering.  The MBBE department has embraced and incorporated modern technology such as synthetic biology, genomics and bioinformatics into their teaching and research programs.  The department is the leader of biochemistry instruction at the University of Hawaii at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  The department offered the first and main courses in biotechnology and the courses are very well subscribed by students from other Colleges.  A strength of the curriculum is its flexibility allowing undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to customize their program of study to their individual interests.  Strong linkages and course cross-listings have been developed with the Biology program and the College of Engineering which is consistent with suggestions from the previous CTAHR review calling for increased interdisciplinary curriculum development and delivery.

Strengths of the Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering Department
•    The department is distinguished by its large graduate program with exceptional student support and career outcomes.
•    MBBE department offered the first and main courses in biotechnology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa and is the leader in biochemistry instruction at the University.
•    Faculty within the MBBE department are very competitive in securing extramural funding to drive their programs.  Over 90% of the faculty have grants, many from highly competitive federal agencies such as NSF, USDA, DOE and NIH.  Extramural funding levels are at the top as compared to CTAHR departments.  MBBE is a leader among CTAHR departments with regard to generation of indirect cost funding per faculty FTE.  A significant amount of scientific equipment as been purchased through extramural funding.
•    Faculty publish the results of their research in prestigious, high impact factor, peer-reviewed scientific journals, with staff scientists and students as co-authors.  Since the last review over 170 peer-reviewed journal articles have been published in journals such as Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of sciences, Science, and The Plant Cell.
•    A unique niche teaching biochemistry and biotechnology that allows students the opportunity to customize their program through interdisciplinary approaches.  These interdisciplinary concepts and technologies will allow faculty and students in the department to combine an understanding of biological processes and the mechanisms of biochemical interactions to the physical design principles of engineering.
•    All MBBE undergraduate students experience directed research for multiple semesters. Students meet regularly with faculty and post-doctoral researchers and are mentored by graduate students.  This provides an experiential learning opportunity for undergraduate students and provides graduate students a teaching opportunity.
•    The MBBE department has strong undergraduate and graduate programs including 62 undergraduates, 56 Masters students and 41 Ph.D students.  MBBE has one of the largest graduate programs on campus.  Of the graduate students, 45% are female.  88% of MBBE graduate students are on an assistantship with tuition waiver.
•    The average faculty appointment within the department is approximately 75% research and 25% teaching.  A few faculty have a small extension appointment.  This appointment structure seems to be serving the department well.  Faculty are engaged in undergraduate teaching, including undergraduates in research opportunities, training graduate students, and conducting cutting-edge research.  Tenure-track faculty teach all courses within the department; adjunct and part-time faculty provide no core courses.

Graduate Programs
•    Approximately 20 graduate students attended the on-site review session.  The students were quite engaging and very supportive of the MBBE department along with their major professors and the quality of their research.
•    Excellent diversity exists among the faculty and graduate students; they work in a collaborative manner with graduate students assisting each other and sharing laboratory space and scientific equipment.
•    Graduate students commented in a very positive manner on the flexibility of the program and their ability to take classes in other departments and other colleges and to have faculty from other departments serve on their graduate committees.

Although numerous departmental strengths were identified, the Review Team noted topic areas for discussion and consideration by MBBE faculty and CTAHR administration.

Topic:  Intensive Writing Requirement
Challenge:  Critical thinking and a significant writing requirement is a positive aspect of CTAHR undergraduate programs.  Implementing the requirement in a manner that stimulates student participation will add strength to this requirement.
Recommendation(s):  Undergraduate students accept and appreciate the intensive writing requirement within CTAHR.  Their suggestion is to develop intensive writing courses that are more in line with their discipline of study.  For example, students in MBBE suggested that intensive writing courses in areas such as grant proposal preparation, journal article preparation and other scientific areas associated with biology and engineering would enhance their undergraduate experience.

Topic:  Low Enrollment Programs
Challenge:  According to information provided by the Vice Chancellor for Academic Programs, the Masters degree in Biological Engineering is defined as a low enrollment program.
Recommendation(s):  The Review Team recommends that the University of Hawaii administration consider whether the same criteria should be used to identify low enrollment programs for undergraduate and graduate programs.  In many cases, different thresholds are applied to graduate as compared to undergraduate programs.  Departmental faculty should investigate the possibility in participating with the new graduate program opportunities with institutions in China; this may help to increase graduate student numbers.  In addition, it appears that discussion is currently underway with the College of Engineering to merge the undergraduate and/or graduate program.  Faculty from MBBE and the College of Engineering should engage jointly in discussion of this possibility.

Topic:  Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment
Challenge:  The faculty have seriously engaged in curriculum review and modification.  They have also evaluated individual course content and made modification based on needs of the discipline.  Significant explanation of student learning outcomes and assessment criteria were included in the departmental review material.  However, it appears that student learning outcomes and specific course assessments are not being conducted at the basic course level.
Recommendation(s):  The Review Team recommends that the departmental faculty place greater emphasis on quantifying student learning outcomes and assessment at the individual course and faculty member level.

Topic:  Facilities
Challenge:  The MBBE department is located in facilities with a wide range of quality.  Some excellent office and laboratory facilities are available for some programs, while other programs are in lower-quality space.  This is not unlike many institutions across the country.  The “MBBE Shop” is a very large space, but is suffering from deferred maintenance needs.

Topic:  New Faculty Lines
Challenge:  Departmental faculty have developed a very logical staffing plan to meet the teaching needs of their undergraduate and graduate students as well as addressing future research needs.  Priority for new faculty lines include: (1) biochemistry and the integration of molecular and cellular scale analyses, genomic technologies and bioinformatics, and (2) molecular biology and bioengineering.
Recommendation(s):  Investment in the MBBE department yields an excellent return on investment.  Undergraduate and graduate education is highly effective and extramural support for research is significant.  Several pending faculty retirements are planned in 2015.  The Review Team recommends that these positions be refill, not necessarily in the same area.  Faculty should consider new and emerging teaching and research areas in which they would like to place future programmatic focus.  In addition, the Review Team recommends that as funding becomes available priority be given to faculty hires in this department.

Topic:  Graduate Tuition Waivers are a Positive but Semester-by-Semester Teaching Assistantships Cause Uncertainty
  A very positive aspect of the University of Hawaii graduate programs is that graduate students are awarded a true tuition waiver for their studies.  Graduate students commented to the Review Team that a high level of uncertainty to the timely completion of their graduate program rests with the fact that stipends associated with a teaching assistantship are awarded on a semester-by-semester basis.  In some cases this results and graduate students having to take outside employment to support their graduate program thereby delaying graduation.
Recommendation(s):  The Review Team recommends that University of Hawaii administration developed a mechanism whereby graduate student assistantships, whether research or teaching are awarded for a given length of time; for example, two years for a Masters degree and three years for a PhD degree.


22 MBBE graduates demonstrated a clear plan for professional career development - as taken in MBBE 610 - 100% achieved SLO

Requested that faculty place and align Dept. SLO within their course Syllabus - 50% of courses undertaken have complied.

Production of digital library of MBBE published works - (25% participation presently), but all achieved SLO. Attempting different stratgies to increase student/faculty participation.

On-going work on MBBE student Proposal Handbook/Guidebook to ensure SLO are met with the signature assessment - on-going; but of student assessment examined ; 75% achieved SLO standards.

13) What best describes how the program used the results? (Check all that apply.)

Assessment procedure changes (SLOs, curriculum map, rubrics, evidence collected, sampling, communications with faculty, etc.)
Course changes (course content, pedagogy, courses offered, new course, pre-requisites, requirements)
Personnel or resource allocation changes
Program policy changes (e.g., admissions requirements, student probation policies, common course evaluation form)
Students' out-of-course experience changes (advising, co-curricular experiences, program website, program handbook, brown-bag lunches, workshops)
Celebration of student success!
Results indicated no action needed because students met expectations
Use is pending (typical reasons: insufficient number of students in population, evidence not evaluated or interpreted yet, faculty discussions continue)

14) Please briefly describe how the program used the results.

- Up dated MBBE Handbook to ensure student's understand the Depts expectactions and SLOs

- Relased the MBBE Guide Book to assist students in being sucessfull graduate students (tools, information and resources).

- Emphasised the need for a central data base for student wards and publications - the latter is present focus.

- New MBBE website with information regarding procedures, protocols and Dept. expectations

- Moved to adding a "W" course (Lab based course) to meet requirments from both UG and GR needs.

- Design and implement a new MBBE handbook on Writing Proposals for MS/PhD (signature assessment; rubrics etc)

15) Beyond the results, were there additional conclusions or discoveries? This can include insights about assessment procedures, teaching and learning, and great achievements regarding program assessment in this reporting period.

Need to ensure Dept. expections and SLOs are being met by GR committees

Need for an annual student evalution by mentor, to provide evidence to the Dept that research students are achieving the stated SLOs

16) If the program did not engage in assessment activities, please explain.