Unit: Molecular Biosciences & Biosystems Engineering
Program: Biological Engineering (BS)
Degree: Bachelor's
Date: Fri Oct 01, 2010 - 11:13:19 am

1) Below are the program student learning outcomes submitted last year. Please add/delete/modify as needed.

The BE program has adopted an outcomes-based assessment process to ensure that students are fully prepared to achieve the program educational objectives (a 3-5 year term vision of the professional trajectory of students graduating from the program).

Each of the program outcomes (a-l) is related to one of the three program educational objectives (1-3), and this relationship is published on the program webpage as well as in the university catalog. To facilitate the assessment of program outcomes, a set of measurable performance criteria were developed by which success in achieving the outcome can be determined.The program outcomes (a-l) including associated performance criteria (lower case roman numerals), mapped under the umbrella of individual educational objectives (1-3), are as follows:

1.Graduates enter professional careers where they apply fundamental engineering concepts to solve real world problems.

a. The graduate has the ability to solve problems involving differential equations.

i. Can apply principles of mass/ energy conservation and force balance to derive differential equations describing a system.
ii. Has the ability to formulate systems of differential equations through coupled/ interdependent variables.
iii. Can formulate and apply appropriate boundary/ initial conditions.
iv. Can apply analytical techniques for the solution of ordinary differential equations.

b. The graduate has the ability to solve physics problems involving mechanics, electromagnetic, and optics; chemistry problems involving inorganic and organic chemistry; problems involving general- and micro- biology.

i. Understands basic principles of how light and electromagnetic radiation interact with materials.
ii. Can identify how molecular structure relates to material properties.
iii. Understands reduction and oxidation processes, and their relationship to chemical energy.
iv. Has a firm understanding of the concept of pH, buffering, and protonation/ deprotonation.
v. Understands fundamentals of cell structure and metabolism.
vi. Recognizes the structure and basic functions of DNA, RNA, and protein.

c. The graduate has the ability to solve engineering problems related to statics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, and thermodynamics.

i. Can analyze the stresses in a statically loaded system, and design system to prevent stress related failure.
ii. Can solve basic problems in kinetics and kinematics.
iii. Can formulate solutions relating pressure, pump power, flow rate, and conduit characteristics/ dimensions in pipe flow.
iv. Understands the relationship between free energy, entropy, internal energy, and enthalpy.
v. Understands the fundamental principles of thermodynamic machines.
vi. Demonstrates understanding of the thermodynamic constraints for energy conversion.

2. Graduates serve the needs of society by designing, manufacturing, evaluating, and/or operating systems in which living organisms or biological products are a significant component.

d. The graduate has the ability to design a system, component, or process in which biology plays a significant role.

i. Can recognize and define the problem to be solved.
ii. Can apply predictive models (e.g. growth, mortality, metabolism, enzyme kinetics) in biological engineering designs.
iii. Understands the role of environmental conditions on biological engineering designs (e.g. cell/enzyme survival/ activity, species competition, growth).
iv. Has fundamental understanding of the material and chemical properties of biological materials.
v. Demonstrates the ability to engineer cost effective solution to control or monitor a biological process.

e. The graduate has the ability to design and conduct experiments to gather information for engineering designs.

i. Can use models of a process to identify the most salient characteristics governing system behavior.
ii. Has the ability to design a simple experiment, with effective controls, to quantitatively measure relevant parameters.
iii. Has a fundamental understanding of accuracy and precision of a measurement, and how these relate to uncertainties in the performance of a design.
iv. Can use appropriate statistical tools to determine the power/ reliability of an experiment.
v. Demonstrates the ability to logically interpret data.

f. The graduate has the ability to use modern engineering techniques, skills, and tools to define, formulate, and solve engineering problems.

i. Prepares appropriate graphics and diagrams for communication of problems and designs.
ii. Chooses appropriate computer applications (e.g. structured code, spreadsheets, simulation to formulate a problem and/or execute a solution.
iii. Demonstrates an understanding of simple fabrication/ manufacturing processes.
iv. Student can design simple circuits for signal processing and measurement.

3. Graduates contribute to their communities by continuing to engage in professional development, ethical decision making, and thoughtful discourse on contemporary issues.

g. The graduate has the ability to function effectively in multi-disciplinary teams.

i. Can share responsibilities and duties with team members.
ii. Has the ability to objectively discuss the problem and the merits of possible solutions.
iii. Can formulate an effective strategy for action
iv. Maintains constructive dialog with team members with different tasks and disciplinary backgrounds

h. The graduate has the ability to identify professional and ethical responsibilities when practicing engineering.

i. Demonstrates knowledge of professional code of ethics.
ii. Can evaluate the ethical ramifications of professional engineering and scientific practices.
i. The graduate has the ability to communicate effectively in large and small groups.
i. Can organize content of a presentation or document according to the informational needs and technical background of the audience.
ii. Can communicate facts supported with evidence and/or sufficiently detailed explanation.
iii. Can effectively address questions and/or assimilate feedback from an audience.
iv. Submits written work without errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage.

j. The graduate has the background to understand the impact of engineering solutions on the surrounding context.

i. Understands the cultural impacts of engineering.
ii. Understands the political impacts of engineering.
iii. Understands the social impacts of engineering.
iv. Understands the environmental impacts of engineering.

k. The graduate recognizes the need to engage in life-long learning through participation in professional conferences, workshops, and courses, and by reading and writing in the relevant literature.

i. Participates in symposia or conferences to explore research and design innovations across disciplines.
ii. Develops independence in researching current literature, patents, and design standards.
iii. Grasp of the fundamentals is strong enough to facilitate the independent assimilation of new knowledge.

l. The graduate has the ability to intelligently discuss contemporary issues.

i. Understands the challenges facing society, and the roles Biological Engineers face in addressing these challenges.
ii. Demonstrates an understanding of current events and their historical context.

2) As of last year, your program's SLOs were published as follows. Please update as needed.

Department Website URL: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/be/undergrad.html
Student Handbook. URL, if available online:
Information Sheet, Flyer, or Brochure URL, if available online:
UHM Catalog. Page Number: 343 (2010-2011 edition)
Course Syllabi. URL, if available online: http://www2.ctahr.hawaii.edu/depart/mbbe/courses.html#_be_courses

3) Below is the link to your program's curriculum map (if submitted in 2009). If it has changed or if we do not have your program's curriculum map, please upload it as a PDF.

No map submitted.

4) The percentage of courses in 2009 that had course SLOs explicitly stated on the syllabus, a website, or other publicly available document is indicated below. Please update as needed.


5) State the assessment question(s) and/or goals of the assessment activity. Include the SLOs that were targeted, if applicable.

For the acacemic year 2009/20010, seven of the twelve SLOs for the Biological Engineering undergraduate program were assessed. These include the following outcomes:

a. The graduate has the ability to solve problems involving differential equations.

b. The graduate has the ability to solve physics problems involving mechanics, electromagnetics, and optics; chemistry problems involving inorganic and organic chemistry, and problems involving general and micro-biology.

c. The graduate has the ability to solve engineering problems related to statics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, and thermodynamics.

h. The graduate has the ability to identify professional and ethical responsibilities.

j. The graduate has the background to understand the impact of engineering solutions on the surrounding context.

k. The graduate recognizes the need to engage in life-long learning through participation in professional conferences, workshops, and courses, and by reading and writing in the relevant literature.

l. The graduate has the ability to intelligently discuss contemporary issues.

These outcomes were the last to be assessed in a rotation using a direct evidence-based assessment approach that was instituted starting in Fall 2008.  The current plan is to now rotate outcomes assessment on a cycle where every outcome is assessed at least once every three years.

6) State the type(s) of evidence gathered.

Direct assessment was based on a variety of documented evidence, including but not limited to:
  1. evaluation of student work (e.g., homework, exams, reports).
  2. graduating student performance on the NCEES- Fundamentals of Engineering (a nationally administered exam that is the first step on the step to engineering licensure).  NCEES reports performance broken down to all of the different sections of the exam, which correlate directly with many of the BE program outcomes.
  3. graduating student exit interview with the BE program chair.
In addition to these direct assessment data, a variety of less formal and/or indirect data was collected including:
  • feedback from students and industry advisors in annual facilitated focus group
  • survey data from alumni and employers of alumni, including feedback solicited by phone from employers
  • student evaluations of faculty and courses
  • College (CTAHR) survey of graduating students

7) Who interpreted or analyzed the evidence that was collected?

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)

8) How did they evaluate, analyze, or interpret the evidence?

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)

9) State how many persons submitted evidence that was evaluated.
If applicable, please include the sampling technique used.

All of the faculty affiliated with the BE program provided completed student work for assessment- this includes 4 regular faculty, and four affiliated faculty from other departments that provide instruction of BE courses.  Exit interview data was provided by the program chair.  NCEES-FE exam results (aggregated for all students in the program) were provided directly from NCEES and made available to all faculty.  Focus group data were summarized and provided by the program chair.  Alumni and employer feedback was solicited, summarized, and made available by the Academic and Student Affairs Office of CTAHR.

10) Summarize the actual results.

BE graduates from 2009-2010 demonstrated an exemplary level of achievement of the assessed program outcomes.  This was most notably demonstrated by the fact that students scored multiple standard deviations above the national average in every category of the NCEES-FE exam, and was generally supported by quality of completed student work relating to the assessed objectives. 

11) How did your program use the results? --or-- Explain planned use of results.
Please be specific.

Evidence suggests that BE students are highly successful at achieving the program outcomes.  Even so, a number of actions are being planned based on feedback from program stakeholders (including students, faculty, alumni, and industry advisors) to streamline the structure of the curriculum, diversify course offerings, and facilitate achievement of objectives. Notably, these include:

  1. Further expansion/ development of hands-on design opportunities for students, including lower division courses where students gain experience in the engineering design process.
  2. Introduction of an Applied/ Quantitative Biology course required for BE students (and serving as an elective for other Engineering majors satisfying the diversification in Biology requirement), in which students are introduced to quantitative aspects of biology and new/ emerging technologies at the forefront of Biological analysis and discovery.
  3. In certain courses, a transition in emphasis from technical writing to more homeworks to help reinforce key engineering concepts/ analysis.

In addition, several institutional changes to the BE program are currently being implemented in order to address key concerns related by stakeholders.  Most notably these include:

  1. Negotiation with the College of Engineering to transition the BE program to a shared administration with the College of Engineering.  This should facilitate recruiting, consolidation of engineering undergraduate majors within a single college, and address student concerns expressed about poor visibility and recognition of the major by normal engineering recruiters.
  2. Broaden the network of alumni and potential employers of BE graduates to facilitate the job search process by BE graduates.
  3. The objectives (vision for the professional trajectory of graduates) to which the outcomes are mapped were modified this year to more clearly express that they are professional expectations of of the graduates.

12) Beyond the results, were there additional conclusions or discoveries? This can include insights about assessment procedures, teaching and learning, program aspects and so on.

As usual, the most notable discovery beyond the actual assessment results related to the nature of the assessment process itself. While standardized tests indicate a high level of performance by BE graduates, it was difficult to find direct evidence of student work related to some of the outcomes assessed this year- most notably for outcomes b (physics, chemistry, and biology) and c (fundamental engineering- e.g. mechanics and thermodynamics). We had initially planned to obtain example student work from supporting departments, but getting the cooperation of the instructors and departments teaching these courses was difficult.  To help resolve this problem we have planned to develop our own quantitative biology course, review many of these topics in basic BE courses to make sure that students can demonstrate mastery of these concepts. Without these adjustments, we can only rely on national exams to assess these outcomes, by which time the students are very near graduation and there is no opportunity to try to address any deficiencies.

13) Other important information:

While our students this year demonstrated excellent mastery of the program outcomes, we note that this was a small sample size (6 graduating students) and there is concern that student performance may not necessarily imply an exemplary performance of the BE faculty or adequate resources for students in a cutting edge, evolving discipline.  The number of students evaluated is not enough to draw statistically significant conclusions, and evidence suggests that newer students in the program have a much lower degree of preparation/ propensity for success in an engineering major.  The faculty expects that it will be much more challenging to prepare these students to achieve the program outcomes and objectives.