Friday, May 1, 2015

From the classroom: My experience in the new hands-on bioengineering course

Julie Yip
Julie Yip is a first-year bioengineering student at the University of California, San Diego. Born and raised in Bakersfield, California, Yip grew up cooking and baking at her mother’s side which led her to want pursue a hands-on career in engineering – but she quickly learned that the field of medicine also greatly interested her. After attending the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS), a four-week residential summer program open to motivated high school students with demonstrated interest and achievement in math and science, Yip chose to marry her interests by attending UC San Diego as a bioengineering major.

The 2014-2015 academic year is Yip’s first in her new field, and she has agreed to share some of her experiences with us here. The following is a reflection of her experience in a new bioengineering course (Bioengineering I) that exposes first-year bionengineering students to hands-on research right off the bat:

Bioengineering I was such a great experience. The class itself embodied everything I had hoped to expect when I chose to study at UC San Diego. I knew the university offered endless research opportunities and a leading education (especially in bioengineering) but I never thought I could have the amount of exposure that the class offered this early on in my academic career.

The format of the class exposed students to a broader and deeper perspective on the possibilities within bioengineering. Bioengineering professors and guest speakers led each lecture, offering students some insight into the speakers’ own specific research interests such as new ways to use electrodes, cardiomyocytes for regenerative medicine and Ebola. In addition, the class was based on three individual, highly interactive group projects: Electrophysiology for Brain-Body-Machine Interfaces; Treatment of Ebola with Limited Resources; and 3D-Printing at Macro-Micro Scales for Organ and Tissue Engineering.

Working on a team project was probably my favorite part of the entire course, and I was fortunate enough to be placed on the one in which I was most interested: the 3D bone printing project. I had no prior experience working with 3D printers, and I had never before entertained the idea that I would get to do so anytime soon. Ultimately and despite some tedious steps, the only way I can most accurately describe the experience of developing our three-dimensional bone print from its original CT scans is in the following words: “It was so cool.”

You must be thinking about how ridiculously dorky I sound. But, really, that dorkiness is indicative of something very special.

The project was not fun solely because we had the opportunity to work with highly advanced technology; the experience was also enjoyable because of the people in my group. My team members were brilliant, driven students – not to mention kind-hearted and easy to work with. And I believe we all shared, more or less, my dorkiness. That is, we were all excited to simply learn. No matter how we got to the class – whether we thought bioengineering sounded like an interesting major during college app seasons or went back to school after graduating and working as a medical professional – we were passionate about what we were doing. I am humbled by them, and I am humbled by my own experience.

 Watch for more from Julie Yip, and more on the new Bioengineering I course.

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