Integration of Biological Applications Into the Core Undergraduate Curriculum: A Practical Strategy


  • Claire Komives San Jose State University
  • Michael Prince Bucknell University
  • Erik Fernandez University of Virginia
  • Robert Balcarcel Genencor, A Danisco Division


A web database of solved problems has been created to enable faculty to incorporate biological applications into core courses. Over 20% of US ChE departments utilized problems from the website, and 19 faculty attended a workshop to facilitate teaching the modules. Assessment of student learning showed some gains related to biological outcomes, as well as improvement in student confidence. Incorporation of the problems seems to reaffirm student attitudes about their interest in bio-related careers.

Author Biographies

Claire Komives, San Jose State University

Claire Komives is a professor in the Chemical and Materials Department at San Jose State University. She obtained a B.S. degree from Tufts University and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Pittsburgh, both in chemical engineering. She teaches thermodynamics, material and energy balances, process safety and ethics, and biochemical engineering elective courses. Her research involves process development studies with whole cell biocatalysts.

Michael Prince, Bucknell University

Michael Prince is a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Bucknell University, where he has been since receiving his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1989. He is the author of several education-related papers for engineering faculty and gives faculty development workshops on active learning. He is currently continuing the work of Project Catalyst, an NSF-funded initiative to help faculty re-envision their role in the learning process, and researching the use of inquiry-based teaching methods to correct common student misconceptions in engineering.

Erik Fernandez, University of Virginia

Erik Fernandez is a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Virginia. He obtained a B.S. from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. He has taught transport, material and energy balances, and applied math, as well as biochemical engineering and biotechnology courses. His respect for the design of biomolecules drives his research interests in biomolecular engineering applied to protein pharmaceutical formulation and purification as well as protein self-association issues in human disease.

Robert Balcarcel, Genencor, A Danisco Division

Robert Balcarcel is a Scientist II in the Process Development group at Genencor, A Danisco Division, in Palo Alto, CA. He obtained his B.S. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He conducts process development for industrial enzyme manufacturing, taking enzyme production from the bench-scale to manufacturing. Areas of expertise include fermentation, recovery, statistics, and assay development.