The impact of bio-engineering: Part I: Do bio-engineering students differ from other engineering students? preliminary results

Moshe Hartman, Harriet Hartman, Jennifer Kadlowec

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The under-representation of women in engineering is of particular concern nationally, both because there is a national need for more engineers, and because women's access to a lucrative and growing occupation is desirable. In research on recruitment into engineering, one of the explanations of women's under-representation in the undergraduate major is their preference for a profession that contributes to the social or societal good more clearly than engineering is traditionally perceived to do. Not only are they less likely to enroll in engineering for this reason, they also may leave the engineering major before completion because they do not see themselves making enough contribution to the societal good as they would in another profession. One field in engineering that has consistently attracted a disproportionately high percentage of women is bioengineering or biomedical engineering. While intuitively it seems that bioengineering and biomedical engineering are inherently female-friendly, little systematic research has demonstrated whether the women attracted to such programs differ in any way from women attracted to more traditional engineering disciplines, either in terms of who is recruited or how they experience the undergraduate program. The recent introduction of a bioengineering concentration at a mid-Atlantic public university provides us the opportunity to begin to fill this vacuum. At this university, on-going survey research enables us to compare the students enrolled in this new concentration to students in the more traditional engineering disciplines, perception of fit in engineering, engineering self-confidence, satisfaction with the program, expectations from completion of the degree (what kind of job they expect to attain), plans for future education and employment. Compared to the rest of the students, the bioengineering students tend to be quite confident in many engineering-related competencies, but they are less confident in others, suggesting that the field may be attracting some students not traditionally in the field. Compared to the rest of the students, more of the bioengineering students expect to make a contribution to society and to have a job they like doing, and are less concerned with the security of the job or having time for outside interests. These findings are presented and discussed in terms of their insight into ways bioengineering might be effecting change in the culture of engineering. As some have feared, more bioengineering than non-bioengineering students intend to finish a degree other than engineering, and less than a third expect to be working as an engineer ten years after the survey. Suggestions for continued research are discussed in the conclusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008
Event2008 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Pittsburg, PA, United States
Duration: Jun 22 2008Jun 24 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)


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