BE Board:Undergraduate curriculum liaison

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The BE Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Representative is required to attend all the curriculum committee meetings (3-4 meetings per term) and report back to the BE Board. He/she is encouraged to suggest agenda items for the committee on behalf of the BE Board. The representative is expected to speak on behalf of the BE graduate students regarding curriculum, advising, community/culture, and other issues at the regular meetings. Special projects are often organized through subcommittees, which include some permanent members of the committee, along with additional ad hoc members who have special insight and expertise.

My statement of intent during elections - lest I forget :)

Some specific goals I have for the position:

  1. Create opportunities for graduate students to participate in the development of curriculum. Students pursuing academic work will develop courses throughout their career, yet have few opportunities to participate in this process during the BE graduate program. The development of a new major provides an especially good opportunity for this type of experience. I will develop new avenues for students to voluntarily participate. One good example of this is BE.109, which is being developed in part on the OpenWetWare wiki: BE.109
  2. Incorporate a "responsible biological engineering" course in the curriculum. Requests for an ethics-type course specific to biological engineering have been made at the previous two BE retreats. I believe that such a course is critical for biological engineers and will push on this issue with the undergraduate curriculum committee.
  3. Maintain a reasonable TA requirement: As the number of BE courses increases with the new major, there will be an increase in the amount of TA hours required to support these courses. I will work to represent the best interests of the BE graduate student community during this transition.

Current Activities

Graduate student participation/education in curriculum development

  • Online collborative space to lower barriers for contribution in course development. (e.g. BE.109)
    • More specifically, if you were so motivated to create a module for BE.109, you could spec it out, post some protocols and a description of why the module is relevant on the BE.109 wiki page. If the instructors liked it they could flesh it out more, incorporate it into the class, and throw some credit your way. If not maybe some other school will come accross it on the web and implement it, who knows. Not sure if anyone has this level of motivation...
    • BE.180 is also being developed on the wiki - please help out!
  • Curriculum development seminar series: curriculum chat
    • We have put this idea into motion and the first seminar will be on Nov 3rd, 6-7:30 in 56-614 and will be a discussion of BE.180 with Drew Endy.
      • Presentation can be found here
    • Also, have created a wiki page about the seminars: curriculum chat.
    • Second curriculum chat discussed BE.320 - Biomolecular Kinetics and Cell Dynamics, with Doug Lauffenburger and Forest White on Jan 25th.

"Responsible biological engineering" course

At the retreat I believe the rebuff to the request for an ethics-type course was that HASS requirements are set at the institute level. Have to look into this a little more, although BE is able to define two HASS CI-M subjects (Communication Intensive in the Major). These are intended to "teach the specific forms of written, oral, and/or visual communication appropriate to the field's professional and academic culture." Not sure how much leeway the department has with those. Will probably pursue this at both the department and institute levels.

Started a wiki page to aggregate information about responsible biological engineering at MIT.

"Underground Guide" to BE Courses

Eta Kappa Nu (the course 6 honor society), does a great student-run survey of all the course 6 classes. They then compile the results and publish them on the web. It's an amazing resouce, far superior to the typical MIT class surveys, and I would love to see BE have something similar. Spoke with George Eng, president of the MIT BMES Society, and it sounds like they have tried/are trying to set something like that up. I think this is a good opportunity to get involved in course assessment, something which is particularly important for all the new courses in BE. So if anyone is interested in spending some time thinking about the best way to assess courses (best being most useful to the student) let me know, I'm sure the BMES society could use help getting this project going.

TA Requirement

Craig Rothman suggested: "Can I suggest that you help the M.Eng. students have the opportunity to get funding through Teaching Assistantships? It would be a lot easier for us to have this avenue of funding as Course 6 M.Eng. students do, and it could alleviate some of the burden off of the Ph.D. students as the number of undergrad classes increase."

I think this is a great idea, I'll check into it.

Right now funding is "via self-support, RAs, or if you can find your own TAship in another department somehow."

UG Curriculum Committee Meetings

Below are notes on the topics relevant to the BE Board from the UG Curriculum Committee Meetings.


  • Dinner with BE undergrads to talk about graduate school in BE, BE in general, etc.


  • There appeared to be some interest among faculty in participating in Curriculum chats. Linda and David would like to meet with interested members of the board to give their thoughts on future topics for the curriculum discussions. See discussion above for more information.

Useful Resources

Web Links


Feel like helping??

During the nominations it seemed like there were a number of students who were interested in participating in the curriculum development process. I'll take as much input/direct help that people are willing to give, so if you have a specific request or would like to help with one of the projects above, please let me know.


Jason Kelly