Improving ethics studies through a spiral themed curriculum in biological systems engineering

Christan Whysong, Jenny Lo, Kumar Mallikarjunan

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


To enhance ethics training during the undergraduate career, engineering ethics material should be presented throughout the engineering curriculum. The Departments of Engineering Education and of Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech aim to implement ethics throughout a four-year program by utilizing a spiral curriculum, that is to continue revisiting the same subject material with increased difficulty at each occurrence. This is one of the goals of the Department Level Reform (DLR) project at this university, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The two departments have started to compile a library of ethics case studies related to Biological Systems Engineering, particularly Bioprocess Engineering, along with different ways to implement these ethics case studies. The preliminary work was performed as part of an undergraduate research project during summer 2005. As initial work, genetically modified products were chosen as the main topic because it includes several key ethical issues. Sustainability can be observed when students review the genetic modification of major food crops, such as corn and soybeans. Students may study how different countries view genetically modified products while looking at the labeling laws found in each country. Intellectual property can be studied when looking at the patenting of specific genes and the idea of the terminating gene. Animal rights can be discussed when looking at different transgenic animals and how they are used once produced. The aforementioned issues may be addressed by including ethics training into the Biological Systems Engineering curriculum through existing labs and projects. These ideas may be incorporated in the form of a class discussion, a posting to an electronic portfolio, an online discussion, an assignment of a research project, and questions as part of a write up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006
Event113th Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition, 2006 - Chicago, IL, United States
Duration: Jun 18 2006Jun 21 2006


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