The increasing prevalence of cardiovascular and orthopedic disorders has generated a need to engineer biomaterials that improve the quality of life for people with painful and debilitating diseases. Specialized instruction in these areas is needed at the undergraduate level. Yet there are few published lab activities for biomaterials and tissue engineering, and existing activities lack a foundation in materials science. This project is developing interactive experiments that introduce tissue engineering through a biomaterials design perspective, emphasizing mechanics, cell behavior, and drug delivery. In these experiments, cutting-edge methods are adapted so that they can be applied starting at the freshman level through upper-level electives in chemical, mechanical, or biomedical engineering and cellular/molecular biology.
The interdisciplinary project team is producing detailed experimental designs to engage students in the guided discovery of polymer science and its application to the characterization of polymers for meniscus replacement, the study of cell-biomaterial interactions in tissue engineering scaffolds, and the design of magnetic stimuli-responsive hydrogels for pulsatile drug delivery. Through the lab activities, students have research-like experiences that contribute to their development as innovative engineers who are adept at approaching novel problems. Results of the project include tested curricular materials that fulfill a need in STEM education, increased student interest in undergraduate and graduate study in STEM disciplines, higher student retention in science and engineering majors, and students who are prepared to find multidisciplinary engineering solutions to the growing health care needs of the world.