A Tale of Two Labs

This isn’t your average laboratory class. With equipment ranging from microscopes to force sensors, the labs in the basement level of the Whitaker building house our major’s only core lab-based classes: BMED 3110 and BMED 3610. Quantitative Engineering Physiology Lab I (BMED 3110) is taught by Dr. Essy Behravesh and Quantitative Engineering Physiology Lab II (BMED 3610) is taught by Dr. Balakrishna Pai. The structure of the two courses is a 1-hour lecture plus a 3-hour lab per week. These lab courses challenge students’ critical thinking skills and their ability to plan experiments and analyze data while working as a group. The students also learn to solve problems with real world conditions by applying what they have learned from their science and engineering classes, and this skill is useful whether you plan to go to graduate school or industry after college.

Each lab class is broken up into groups of approximately 4 people, and unlike the introductory chemistry and physics I and II labs, students do not get a new experiment each week. Instead, they work on a total of 5 modules per semester, with a lab report to go with each module. Students also learn to program LabVIEW, which is provided on the computers in the labs themselves and which can be downloaded onto your own laptops through OIT. LabVIEW, short for Laboratory Virtual Instrument Engineering Workbench, is an important part of the data gathering process, and during class students will program LabVIEW to measure a specific variable and connect it to a device such as a force sensor. Students just starting out in BMED 3110 have trouble getting used to LabVIEW, and some groups may spend a large chunk of lab time troubleshooting and programming, but by the time students get to BMED 3610 they are very proficient at LabVIEW. In fact, a tip for beginners to the physiology labs is to recall MATLAB or any other computer classes you may have taken!

Another unique aspect about the physiology labs that sets them apart from the freshman chemistry and physics labs is that students get the opportunity to design their own experiment. For module 5, the groups are asked to design an experiment with the only requirement being that they gather data with a device designated by the professor. This is by far the most interesting module for many students, but also requires the most time with groups meeting and working on the experiment details outside of lab and class time. Since this class is composed of a lot of group work and perhaps needs extra time commitment, try to take this class with people you know you work well with and have a similar schedule as you, even if you don’t normally socialize with these people.

Real-world problem solving skills are invaluable to any student interested in graduate school, medical school, or industry after Tech. Additionally, for those deciding to stay in the engineering field as they pursue advanced degrees or work, BMED 3110 and 3610 are amazing for honing these skills.