Problem solving in the biological sciences and engineering

Emily Dosmar

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


This course introduces students to computational tools for solving problems in biology and biomedical engineering. The primary thrust of the course is structured programming in MatLab. In addition, we explore data description, the proper presentation of data, effective use of spreadsheet tools in data analysis, and structured programming.

Course URL:
Course Size:


Course Format:

Lecture only

Institution Type:

Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no pre-requisites that is a compulsory component of the freshman biomedical engineering curriculum. Students are typically in the first term of their freshman year when they enroll in this course.

Course Content:

This course covers data presentation and processing, data representation and data summary statistics, logical programming including IF statements, loops (FOR and WHILE), writing functions in MATLAB, plotting in MATLAB, imagine processing in MATLAB, and a brief introduction to user interaction and GIUs.

Course Goals:

Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:
-Graphically present data in multiple ways and compute summary statistics by hand or using computational packages.
-Assess the appropriateness/validity of presentation graphics and suggest improvements, within the context of the course.
-Detail the basic steps used in algorithm/program development and testing and explain these at the level a high school student could understand.
-Develop appropriate algorithms, implement these in MATLAB or Excel and apply them to solve problems in biology and/or biomedical engineering.

Course Features:

This course contains four MATLAB modules, each with a summary project of increasing complexity. In the first module, students use SWITCH statements to write code for a magic 8 ball. In the second module, they write code that will randomly generate a sequence of DNA, convert it to RNA, and finally to amino acids. In the third module, students use Procrustes analysis to analyze a series of skulls, and in the fourth, they perform image analysis on brains with Alzheimer's Disease. The final project of this course is code development aimed to teach a specific biomedical engineering-related concept in the form of a game.

Course Philosophy:

This course teaches programming techniques from the very beginning and assignments to reflect the skills they develop throughout the term. The assignments are also related to their chosen major: biomedical engineering and biology.


Students are assessed using quizzes, exams, and projects.


[file Introduction to Problem Solving in Biology and Biomedical Engineering (Acrobat (PDF) 253kB Sep11 22) 'Syllabus']

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