Bioengineering education research

Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates

Bioengineering Education Research REU

Please Note: This site is maintained as a reference to the past program. 

The BER REU has concluded as of 2012. 

If restarted, it will not run again before 2015.  

The Bioengineering Education Research REU (BER REU) is unique in focusing on bioengineering education research projects.  The current program, which runs through summer of 2012, is descended from the REU of the VaNTH Engineering Research Center in Bioengineering Educational Technologies. 

The BER-REU begins with a week-long orientation to education research at Vanderbilt, particularly stressing engineering education, as well as an introduction to the ethics and communications components of the REU.  Students then begin projects at one of three research sites (Northwestern, Vanderbilt, or the University of Texas at Austin) and continue to interact through videoconferences on a weekly basis. 

At each site, students work with individual faculty mentors on a project in education research and curriculum development at either the undergraduate or precollege (6-12) level. 

The objectives of the BER REU program are:

  1. To expose students to quantitative and qualitative aspects of research in engineering education, and to research methods more broadly

  2. To have each student gain research experience by doing a project that contributes to the development of curricular materials for bioengineering using learning science principles, and/or to evaluate educational innovations for their impact on student learning

  3. To develop skills in scientific writing and presentation

  4. To develop an awareness of and sensitivity to ethical aspects of biomedical research. 

There are few other opportunities for undergraduate engineering students to learn about educational pedagogy or to do research in engineering education.  This REU provides a structured way to become involved in this field by interacting with experienced bioengineers and learning scientists to do projects that will directly impact bioengineering education at the undergraduate level and the pipeline to engineering. It provides further benefits to students entering any field by exposing students to research practices and integrating training in ethics and communication into the research projects.

Students who go on to graduate school and faculty careers will be able to employ their knowledge of best educational practices in their teaching, and will also have some of the background and tools needed to study learning if they choose to make that part of their research.

The REU is open to students in a wide range of disciplines, and minority students are especially encouraged to apply. 

 Relevant project examples include:

·         Course module design

·         Engineering simulations or animations

·         Creation of blended instruction techniques that mix synchronous and asynchronous modes

·         Learning science research

·         Planning experiments and analyzing data related to assessment of student learning

·         Outreach projects to middle or high schools involving biomedical engineering concepts

Please note that ‘benchtop’ biomedical research itself is not focus of the BER REU; the primary focus of the project will be education.  However, the subject matter of the project will be biomedical content. 


The BER REU is a direct descendent of the VaNTH REU, whose past students had this to say about their experience:

  • “The REU was a very positive influence on my decision to pursue graduate school by allowing me to
    be immersed in a lab environment full-time. Following that first summer, I inquired about and
    obtained an opportunity for research as an undergraduate upon returning to Rice. As a graduate
    student, I have enjoyed perpetuating the cycle as I have had the opportunity to mentor
    undergraduate students the past two summers. The VaNTH REU also exposed me to a nontraditional
    role for a PhD in developing science education curriculum at the primary and secondary
    school levels.”
  • “I was not only able to clarify what I taught to myself, but I was able to see how to impart that
    knowledge to other students effectively”
  • “I had never before heard of the Tuskegee Study, and it was enlightening to learn about this catalyst
    for deciding the rights of human subjects. …The VaNTH REU program has provided me with the
    opportunity to help make a difference in undergraduate education and has given me a better
    understanding of my future potential. “
  •  “By developing a nuclear medicine curriculum, my knowledge in the field has surpassed all that I
    have learned in my undergraduate courses. In addition, my skills in communication and teaching
    have improved greatly due to interaction with students and creating the curriculum”
  •  “In the beginning of the summer we had to diagram a concept map of what bioethics was and I had a
    hard time even defining the word. Now I feel that I am confident enough to understand and question
    some of the ethical issues that I am daily presented with. I often like to jump to conclusions quickly
    without weighing every piece of information, and I learned the dangers in doing so.”
  •  “My favorite part about REU was learning about making proper presentations and the weekly
    conference calls. This has been really useful to me both in classes and at my job.”
  •  “The VaNTH program was the first opportunity I was given to really participate in an active research
    project. My experiences in VaNTH better prepared me for research I later performed at the NIH and
    for my senior thesis.”
  •  “Working alongside other researchers everyday was very useful. These summer settings allow
    undergraduate students the opportunity to ask many questions and work as a cohesive unit.”