FEMLAB modules for bioengineering education

Butler, P.J.1, Ferko, M.C.2
1 Department of Bioengineering, Penn State University
2 Stryker Orthopedics Corporation

As biologists uncover the structural and functional complexity of living organisms, it is increasingly clear that mathematical models are needed to synthesize experimental data and predict biological responses to external stimuli.

Bioengineers are well-suited to develop such models and to add mechanics, fluid flow and other physical cues to the understanding of biological structure and function. In particular, finite element models of continuum mechanics can describe many cellular features and processes while partial differential equations can be used to describe chemical and molecular-scale processes in living cells and tissues.

In order to train a new generation of bioengineers, we have sought to develop computational modules for undergraduate bioengineering students as part of a problem-based learning approach for cell and tissue mechanics, fluid flow, and reaction kinetics. These modules follow a theme based on tissue engineering of a vascular graft to assess the applicability of finite element - type solutions to a relevant biological and health-related problem.