Establishing an Integrated Learning Environment for Undergraduate Students

Educating a new type of engineer requires an innovative learning environment, one that integrates state-of-the-art instructional laboratories and highly interactive communal learning spaces.

These spaces are centralized in our 92,000 sq. ft., world-class research and educational facility, the Martin C. Jischke Hall of Biomedical Engineering, designed in partnership with BSA LifeStructures.  Funding for this facility from both public (State of Indiana, $13M) and private (Whitaker Foundation, $5M, and alumni and friends, >$7M) sources reflects our broad base of invested partners.  However, the educational experiences of our Weldon undergraduates also take place in the many additional multifaceted opportunities provided to enhance their global perspectives, knowledge base, and professional development.  

The entire first-level of Jischke Hall is dedicated to undergraduate education.  An analytical cell biology and biomaterials lab -- with a dedicated, 12-station, cell and tissue culture facility and an imaging darkroom with light, fluorescent, and confocal microscope stations -- is fully equipped with research-grade instrumentation.  The bioinstrumentation lab (which houses the recently-donated Texas Instruments circuit design facility) converts into an experimental biotransport laboratory where students can model, design, build and test flow systems for medical application.  The senior design projects laboratory (recently dedicated in honor of National Medal of Technology awardee Prof. Leslie A. Geddes) is a fully-flexible space that allows up to nine teams to develop projects simultaneously. 

A highly-trained instructional support staff -- which includes two doctoral-level instructional coordinators, two staff engineers, several preclinical study staff, as well as a large cadre of graduate teaching assistants -- allows open access to these experiential learning labs. The outstanding quality of our senior design projects in neural engineering recently inspired Texas Instruments to sponsor a Digital Signal Processing design lab with over $50K in new research-grade software and hardware. Our centralized, 24-station, instructional computing lab is surrounded by multiple team-project rooms and open interaction spaces in the three-story atrium.  The central atrium of Jischke Hall links students to the building’s research labs where more than 75% of our undergraduates have participated in faculty research by the time of graduation (78% for class of 2007 and 87% for 2008).  A ‘fast-track’ program aids accelerated students in achieving a research-focused MS BME degree in one additional year.

In addition to encouraging active participation in faculty research, our undergraduate program provides Weldon students with internship experiences with leading companies in the biomedical industry. Students are facilitated in translating these professional experiences into future careers through an integrated entrepreneurship certificate program, coordinated in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, located across the street from Jischke Hall in the unique, interdisciplinary facilities of Purdue’s Discovery Park. Two of our full-time professional staff members (Academic Advisor and Internship Liaison) integrate with our faculty in a dual-level career advising system. Through these programs and mentoring our students are intentionally drawn into the central culture of the WeldonSchool where research, design, and development of medical device technologies regularly translates into real-world application. The results are high career placement rates with over half of our graduates pursuing advanced degrees.