2024 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Longitudinal Analysis of Strategies for Improving Biomedical Engineering Student Knowledge of Career Paths and Desired Skillsets

Presented at Biomedical Engineering Division (BED) Technical Session 1

Introduction: Students’ initial views of possible biomedical engineering (BME) careers are often narrow and vague [1-2], and stakeholders in the biomedical field have reported that BMEs may lack expertise and technical skills, compared to other engineering majors. While BME career perceptions and skillsets may naturally broaden over a student’s course of study [1], most students do not know where gaps in their knowledge exist. Encouragement of realistic expectations for available post-graduate positions have been implemented via extensive classroom discussions or seminar courses [2-3], which may not be possible to implement in all BME programs. Further, recent efforts have been made to determine the professional and technical skills that stakeholders in the biomedical field deem required or expected of engineers in their workplace [4]; however, direct and uniform translation of this information to students is still needed. Thus, this study investigated whether a short takeover series, which focused on BME career paths and skillsets and was implemented within an established BME sophomore course, could increase knowledge of BME careers and desired skills across undergraduate students.

Methods & Materials: In Fall 2022, 37 sophomores and 42 juniors (all BME majors) signed consent forms to be part of our IRB-approved study. BME sophomores participated in a four-part takeover series, which was incorporated into a sophomore level biomedical engineering courses in Fall 2022. The takeover series included lectures on: (1) the breadth of the BME field, (2) common BME career paths, job titles, and roles, (3) skillsets & experiences desired by BME career sectors, and (4) an alumni panel. To determine the impact of the takeover series, BME sophomores completed an online survey, as part of a course assignment once prior to participating in the takeover series and once after the takeover series concluded. BME juniors, who did not participate in the takeover series, completed the same online survey as part of an assignment at the start of Fall 2022. Survey questions were open-ended and collected data were deidentified before analysis, which included open coding of responses and categorization of codes to identify trends.

Results & Discussion: Prior to the start of the takeover series, 0%, 3%, 11%, and 78% of sophomores identified that BME graduates can pursue careers in government, academia, clinical medicine, and industry, respectively. The percentage of BME sophomores that identified that BME graduates pursue careers in government, academia, clinical medicine, and industry increased to 11%, 27%, 22%, and 95%, respectively, after completing the takeover series. For comparison, 0%, 21%, 5%, and 79% of BME juniors indicated that BME graduates pursue careers in government, academia, clinical medicine, and industry, respectively. Further, prior to the start of the takeover series, the average number of industry job titles or roles that BME sophomores could name was 0.7 titles/roles per student. Following the takeover series, BME sophomores could name 2.6 industry titles/roles per student. For comparison, BME juniors, who were not exposed to the takeover series, were able to identify 1.4 industry titles/roles per student. More importantly, the number of BME sophomores who indicated they did not know of any industry job titles or roles prior to the takeover series decreased from 73% to 10% after the takeover series, while 43% of BME juniors indicated they had no knowledge of industry job titles or roles. The average number of career relevant-skillsets or experiences that BME sophomores could name increased from 2.4 skillsets/experiences per student before the takeover series to 3.4 skillsets/experiences per student after the takeover series, while BME juniors named 2.1 skillsets/experiences per student. Taken together, the career paths takeover series increased knowledge of career paths, job titles/roles, and desired skillsets/experiences by BME sophomore students. Further, after partaking in the takeover series, knowledge exhibited by BME sophomores exceeded that of BME juniors. Further work exploring how this knowledge translates into the pursuit of career preparation endeavors is currently underway.

References: [1] Jamison, C.S.E., et. al., BME Career Exploration: Examining Students’ Career Perspectives. Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, 10.18260/1-2--36753. [2] Frow, E.K., et. al., Promoting Career Reflection among Freshman BME Students. Paper presented at the 2016ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, 10.18260/p.270263. [3] Thomassie, R.E., et. al., High-Enrollment Mechanical Engineering Programs Meeting the Challenge of Career Advising Through a Seminar Course. Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, 10.18260/1-2--30574. [4] Rivera, C.P., et. al., Preparing Early-career Biomedical Undergraduates Through Investigations of Stakeholder Needs: A Qualitative Analysis. Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, 10.18260/1-2--35079.

Authors
  1. Dr. Rebecca Anne Scott University of Oklahoma [biography]
  2. Alex Nelson Frickenstein University of Oklahoma [biography]
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