International design course yields big benefits

Posted: July 19, 2017

Biomedical engineering major Marissa Kamenir experienced firsthand the power of the universal language of science during an intensive, 20-day engineering design and research camp held in Nanjing, China.

Engineers from Ohio State and Nanjing University worked in teams to design and conduct medical research experiments.
Kamenir was one of eight students who traveled to China in May as part of an Ohio State education abroad program led by Mark Ruegsegger, associate professor of practice of biomedical engineering.

Thanks to the power of Buckeye connections, what began as an NIH grant-funded summer job to teach junior biomedical engineering majors how to complete medical device prototypes has evolved into a Maymester course open to all Ohio State engineering majors.

After hearing about the program, Gang Ruan—a biomedical engineering professor at Nanjing University and adjunct professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State—asked to get involved. Ruegsegger enthusiastically agreed and in the summer of 2014 Ruan brought approximately 10 students to Ohio State for a unique, three-week international learning experience.

“That summer was very successful,” Ruegsegger said. “We had mixed engineering teams that worked on aspects of real prototype design and development. They visited the hospital, talked to clinicians and completed an intensive, capstone mini-course.”

The duo felt the global engineering exposure was so useful to students that they decided the Buckeyes would travel to China the following year and thus the International Summer Design Experience (iSDE) was born.

Now the program rotates annually, spending odd years at Nanjing University and even years at The Ohio State University. Each host institution has its own strengths that add a unique slant to the course, Ruegsegger said.

“When we go to different places we’re able to emphasize the facility, resources and strengths of that university,” he explained. “At Ohio State, we do much more hands-on machine and prototype design. In China, we do more research design and characterization. Also, they’re able to involve a lot more graduate students, which is nice.”

This year students were challenged to answer a medical research question by developing a hypothesis, designing and conducting research experiments, and analyzing the results. At the end of the course each team gave an oral presentation to the class.

Students also attended seminars presented by the faculty, visited a third university partner—the University of Science and Technology, China—and toured Philips Healthcare, a global device manufacturer.

“We really pack a lot in those 20 days,” Ruegsegger said.

A major course objective is to give students a global engineering perspective and an appreciation of multidisciplinary and multinational design teams.

Students also visit historical and cultural points of interest.
“Although our native languages and cultural backgrounds were different from one another, I learned that our mutual understanding of scientific methods empowered global collaboration in a research setting,” Kamenir said. “I walked away from the experience excited to learn more about other cultures and work on diverse teams throughout my career.” 

On weekends, the Buckeyes visited cultural and historical points of interest, including the Great Wall, Beijing and the Nanjing University library, one of China’s largest libraries.

Materials science and engineering major Alex Branley enjoyed every aspect of the trip.

“The experience was great—I had a ton of fun doing research with the grad student I was working with, seeing all the different cities, and meeting a lot of Chinese students, professors, and other people,” Branley said. “The particular research project I was working on was really enjoyable because it felt like we were actually helping the grad student with new work she hadn’t done before.”

The course can also benefit students in their future job searches, Ruegsegger explained, thanks to the unique international experience and skills gained.

“They learn some very interesting skills over there and I think with our global economy, companies will really appreciate this,” he said.

The international aspect of the course could soon become even more diverse as a British university is also interested in joining the collaboration. If that happens, the program would become a three-year rotation to allow each university to be a host.

Ruegsegger couldn’t be happier with the program’s success and the impact it has on Buckeye engineers.

“I really enjoy being part of it. It’s an exciting time to see students learn about engineering and discover international engineering,” he said. “I think this program still has room to grow.”

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications, 

Categories: FacultyStudents