Senior Capstone Project, University 1
Rationale for the capstone project
Scope of the Bioen 482 project
The structure of the capstone experience
The Bioen 481 class--Ramping up the 482 project
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 2
Rationale for the capstone project
We believe that Bioengineering students are best served by an
early personal exposure to the excitement and challenges of
hands-on research and development.
Bioengineering 482, the required 8-credit Senior Capstone
Research/Design Project, assists in the transition from student to
engineer by providing training in research and design
A successful research/design experience is the centerpiece of the
undergraduate education in Bioengineering.
While laboratory involvement can commence at any time, it must
begin by Autumn Quarter of Senior year.
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 3
Impact of the Capstone Project
– To the Undergraduate Student
» Invaluable experience in research and design in their chosen field
» Synthesis of classroom experiences
» Marketable skills and items for their CV
– To the Mentoring Graduate Students and Postdocs
» Experience mentoring and managing subordinates
» Acceleration of their own research projects
» Assistance from highly motivated students on a specific timetable
– To the Faculty
» Enhanced progress on existing research projects
» Low-cost initiation of new projects and generation of preliminary data
– To the Department
» Expanding the scope of existing research strengths to the undergraduate experience
– Research laboratory space
– The time of faculty, staff and graduate students
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 4
The Challenge: balancing project content
between research and engineering
Scientific Research Engineering Design
– Discovering mechanisms – The systematic and creative
underlying the universe application of scientific and
– Finding out what happens mathematical principles to practical
– Finding out why things happen ends such as the design,
manufacture, and operation of
– Finding out how things are efficient and economical structures,
organized machines, processes, and systems.
– Finding the mathematical – Making things that perform a
structure behind the facts useful (bioengineering) function or
solve an unmet need
In all cases the final research/design project must include elements that were
designed by the student
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 5
It’s not all black and white
Scientific Research Engineering Design
Quantitative and descriptive Quantitative
Understanding the nature of a problem Solving a (biomedical) problem
Developing tools to better understand Developing tools to solve that problem
Student’s projects are between
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 6
Project Quality Control
Approved projects must have both a research and a
– Following an existing research protocol, no matter how
complex, does not constitute adequate design
– Design not geared toward the solution of a medical or
biological problem does not constitute adequate research
The project write-ups that students write in Bioen 481 in
Spring quarter of their Junior year are reviewed for
content by the Student Affairs Committee of the
Department at the beginning of the Summer quarter.
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 7
What happens in capstone projects? I
Individual projects often 4 Analyze
look a lot like the “standard 3 Perform
model” of normal research experiments 5 Make
Left out of the cycle to right
is the requirement for
frequent communication Apparatus?
with mentors. 6 Communicate
While salary is not provided
for coursework, faculty financial
must have funds available support Update
for supplies and, perhaps, the model*
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 8
What happens in capstone projects? II
More engineering- 6 Perform
oriented projects may 5 Design test protocol 7 Perform
have a cycle more like test protocol
& data analysis
that at right. 4 Build
Obtaining financial apparatus and/or 8 Evaluate
write software results
support is just as
necessary for 3 Plan for 9 Communi-
engineering-oriented data analysis cate results &
projects as in science- conclusions
oriented ones 2 Design 10 Address
experiments 1 Establish or feedback
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 9
If the project is well designed and carried out, the output
of the project (data, designs, analysis, etc.) should form
the core (or all of) a publication in a research journal.
Students are graded by their faculty mentor for the entire
project (often 1 year long) in the quarter in which the
student completes it.
Completion requirements include a written document in
the format of a paper for publication, and, for honors
students, an oral presentation.
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Capstone Project Scope
Not too small
– The work should be significant, and novel.
– Work should be publishable in a peer-reviewed journal, either
as a first author publication, or as a section of one in which
another person is the primary author
Not too big
– Being overly ambitious is a trap.
– Projects should be broken into small steps that are
accomplishable in much less than the time available to the
– This anticipates the problems that are bound to happen.
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 11
From whose laboratories
Bioengineering Core Faculty can the students choose?
– Tenured and Tenure Track (have state dollars to support them, and so have
– Research Track (salaries supported by research dollars, and may not have
any teaching duties)
– Research Scientists are not allowed by UW to be advisors of graduate
Bioengineering Adjunct Faculty
– Are UW as graduate faculty advisors not in Bioeng, but have once advised
or are currently advising Bioeng graduate students
Bioengineering Affiliate Faculty
– Scientist/Engineers not at UW, but with some form of collaborative
research or educational project with Bioeng.
– They may be chosen as capstone advisors only by permission of the
department, and with a core faculty member as a co-advisor.
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A recent NIH-funded undergraduate training grant
(David Castner, PI)
12 competitively selected students are placed in clinical
research labs for 3-month summer projects co-mentored
by clinical and Bioengineering faculty.
Grant provides stipend, travel to an NIH conference,
seminars; has some required activities
CREE summer projects may be used as the jump-off
point for a 482 project
Applications due by January of the Junior year
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Preparing for the Capstone Project
Each student must find a laboratory in which to
do the project
This may require soul-searching on the part of the
students to identify their interests, followed by a
good deal of research on the professors, their
research and their laboratories
There is a schedule of pre-research tasks they
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 14
Fall and Winter of Junior Year
By the end of Fall quarter Tasks for Students
– Identify general area of research interest and names of exactly 3 faculty
members to be interviewed before the end of Winter quarter.
– Whether or not the student will also apply to CREE.
Before or during Winter quarter
– Interview 3+ faculty members (after having researched the labs, talked to grad
students, etc.), leading to a mutual decision to accept student in one laboratory
for the 482 project
By the first class of Bioen 481 in Spring
– Identify which 3 faculty the student interviewed and when
– Identify the lab in which the student will work.
– Indicate whether a firm agreement has been reached with the PI
By week 4 of Spring quarter
– Identify the specific research topic for your project
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 15
Examples of specific advice to the students
View at least one recent research video by each of the top 3
candidates (archived on a departmental web site)
Speak to post-docs, graduate and undergraduate students to find
out what the labs are like (techniques used, work style, funding
stability, presence of other undergrads, pressure level, social life,
Remember that misery loves company, so also talk to students
that left the labs
Familiarize yourself with at least one recently published research
paper by the group
Arrange for a ~30 minute meeting with at least 3 professors to
discuss possible work in their laboratories.
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Examples of Student-Faculty
– be warned that there are reasons why they may be turned down by
– dress as if they are going to job interviews
– prepare appropriate informative paperwork (transcript, list of
courses, other lab experiences) and bring it or deliver it before the
Students should not:
– Be overly casual (in speech, actions, or dress)
– Be excessively familiar
– Be late or cancel without warning
– Come without substantial familiarity with the faculty member’s
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 17
The Bioen 481 Class
Spring quarter, Junior year
Four major aims
– To provide all students with the personal and professional
skills necessary to working with their mentors in a research
– To ensure that all students prepare a plan for completing their
Capstone Research/Design projects on time.
– To explore the nature of science and engineering and how they
interact with the individuals, society, and world around them
– To prepare students for making intelligent and informed career
decisions during and after college
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Lecture and In-Class Discussion Topics
Topics include There are generally guest lectures
– Comparison of Scientific Research on the following topics
and Engineering Design – Intellectual Property
– Developing Good Technical – Science, Engineering and the Law
Writing Skills – Technology Transfer
– Surviving and Thriving in a – The Nature of Small Businesses
– Global Health Issues
– Career Paths for Bioengineers
– Medical Ethics
– The Intimate Relationship between
Science, Engineering and
– Funding Science and Engineering
– What Differentiates Good
Science/Engineering from Bad
– Developing Bioengineering Ethics
– Predicting the Important
Bioengineering Technologies for
the Next 50 Years
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Why Reading Science Fiction
Enhances the 481 Learning Experience
Most of what our students are taught is about things that pertained
>20 years in the past
Most of our students’ working careers will occur 10 - 50 years in
A successful career will, in part, be based on our students making
good guesses of what will be important in the future.
Good science fiction writers as a profession extrapolate from what
we know to what we may know and do.
In a good SF story, and author can try out new ideas, new
technology, and new science, in a realistic context
The story can extrapolate the personal/social/political implications
of the science/technology
A good science fiction writer is running a form of simulation.
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 20
481 Class ―deliverables‖ I
Several self-selected sets of students are responsible for leading
small group discussions of key ideas presented in specific science
fiction readings that their group reads
These readings are generally science fiction books that incorporate
as central themes issues of importance to Bioengineering (e.g.,
tissue engineering, sale of human organs,alteration of human
genetics, cloning, machine-based artificial intelligence)
Teams are graded on the degree to which they create informative
and stimulating discussion related to the topics presented in the
readings for the session.
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481 Class ―deliverables‖ II
We find that many of our students are completely
dissociated from news events of any kind.
This activity is included to promote a habit of life-long
connection with the unfolding events around them.
For a period during the class students are asked to keep a
log of news items related to bioengineering topics.
News items may come from any source, including
newspapers, television, the internet, and direct
The students are graded on the quantity and quality of
the entries in this log.
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481 Class ―deliverables‖ III
Students perform a brief patent search using one or more sources
(USPTO, for example).
Students play the role of an inventor in a small company who
believes he or she has invented a new and effective biomedical
device—the nature of the device is chosen as part of the
The task is to find out if such a device already exists, how it
differs (or they differ) from the ―novel‖ device, who owns the
patents and who licensed them, and whether the company that
licensed the patent(s) is likely to be able to commercialize that
technology, or has already done so.
The deliverable is a 2-page write-up including patent numbers.
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481 Class “deliverables” IV
Students write and hand in two drafts of their 482 research plan.
The papers contain 4 principal elements:
– the social and technical background of their capstone project (3 pages)
– a specific set of experiments to be carried out during the next year (3 pages)
– a timetable of all work to be done during the next year, including both
classes and research, with estimated dates of completion of all steps (1
– a detailed bibliography for parts 1 and 2, done in numbered format (with in-
text citations) and full titles of all references (1 page)
The first draft is graded for content, but not form
The second draft is graded for both form and content.
– In it, writing must be in good formal (not colloquial) English, with attention
paid to punctuation, reference formatting, grammar, etc.
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481 Class ―deliverables‖ V
A 3-minute oral presentation of the research plan
is made to the entire class as a test of oral
presentation skills as a final exam
This gives all Juniors a chance to see what
interesting projects their fellow student are
This has been remarkably popular despite the fact
that it is an exam.
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481 Class Grading
Attendance: 18 x (1 points) 18
Active Participation in Discussions 7
Leading reading discussion session 7
News Log 4
Patent search 4
First Draft of Research Plan 10
Second Draft of Research Plan 25
Oral Presentation of Research Plan: 25
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There are still only two classes that have completed 482 projects,
so the program is still a work in progress.
Undergraduate students are making substantial contributions to the
research programs of their mentors.
Graduate students and faculty mentors have been pleasantly
surprised at the eagerness, competence and efficiency of the
Most students have been completing their 482 projects on time
and to everyone’s satisfaction.
Some 482 projects (as well as internships) have led to hiring of
Bioengineering students by companies that have participated
directly or indirectly in those projects.
So far, the experiment has been a great success.
Senior Capstone Project, University of Washington 27
Things to change
Add a slide near the beginning that shows the
timetable more clearly and points out that
BIOEN 482 is 8 credits. The required
prerequisite, BIOEN 481 prepares the
students for 482, is 4 credits.
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