Overview of Capstone Options
Capstone course syllabi and grading rubrics
Advisor, co-advisor and student responsibilities
Project Approval
Grading
Advice for faculty
Advice for students
Frequently asked questions

Overview of Capstone Options

The Capstone design project should produce something that fulfills a societal need, can be implemented by another person or organization, and involves biology or medicine in the problem or the solution.  Students may deliver a wide variety of products, including but not limited to software, electronic instrumentation, cell lines, sensors, surgical tools, prosthetics and implantable devices. The capstone project may also produce a novel or optimized process, procedure or protocol that can be applied in research, industry or clinical practice  The Department offers two options for fulfilling the Capstone requirement: Option A – an individually-based project usually executed in the lab of a faculty member, or Option B – a team-based project usually focused on solving a medical problem and mentored by a clinician.

Option A – individual project that integrates research and design

BIOEN 401 (1-credit) plus 9 credits of BIOEN 402

Please note that if you intend to complete the Nanomolecular Engineering Option, OR apply to the BS/MS program, you must complete a BIOEN 402 project.

Design criteria for Option A

Although the sole product of the design project should not be knowledge, the capstone design project may be a well-defined component within a larger project for which the goal is knowledge. BIOEN 402 also often includes bioengineering research, in which students engage in activities that teach and assess certain engineering capabilities and an understanding of biology or medicine.  For a capstone project to qualify for engineering credit, the Department of Bioengineering considers it sufficient that the project allows the student to demonstrate all of the capabilities listed below.  The project proposal (prepared in BIOEN 401) should state how the research and design project (BIOEN 402) will provide the experience needed to develop these capabilities:

  1. an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics
  2. an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors
  3. an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts
  4. an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions
  5. an ability to apply mathematics (including statistics) and engineering to solve bio/biomedical engineering problems. Preparation on this topic via Capstone should emphasize statistical analysis when appropriate to support conclusions.
  6. an ability to analyze, model, design, and realize bio/biomedical engineering devices, systems, components, or processes

Students’ acquisition of these learning objectives should be assessed via their senior project report, and by direct observation by the faculty advisors, as appropriate.  The grading rubric for 402 should be used as a guide when assessing the learning objectives and assigning course grades.

While conducting the design project, it is expected that students will undertake enough research to determine the state of the art in their field, and perhaps to explore new physical principles that can be applied to their design.  It is also permissible that some time out of the year-long capstone course be devoted to pure research with direct or tangential relevance to the design project.  It is expected that no more than 40% of the student’s effort be devoted to such pure research goals.

Engineering standards:  Projects must incorporate relevant engineering design standards.  “Design standards” are documents that describe the best practices for designing a variety of devices, materials, and processes. Some are considered to be legally binding requirements (to be followed by any Professional Engineer), while others are considered to be guidance. Some are freely available to the public, while others are sold by the responsible organization.

Numerous regulatory agencies and standards organizations collaborate to establish the accepted standards for medical devices/products.  Standard-setting activities include the development of performance characteristics, characterization and testing methodologies, manufacturing practices, product standards, scientific protocols, compliance criteria, ingredient specifications, labeling, or other technical or policy criteria.

The regulatory agencies and standards organizations integral to establishing the standards and monitoring compliance with those standards include, but are not limited to, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JC), Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), and the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and ASTM International.

The type of device/product determines the agency (or agencies) to whose regulation it is subject.  In consultation with their advisors, students need to perform research to determine which standards are applicable to their projects.  Resources are provided below:

Standards Resources

Standards Handout for Students

UW Libraries Guide on Standards. – This guide answers the questions: what is a standard? why are they important? how do I find them?

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Option B –Team design/build course

BIOEN 404 and BIOEN 405 (7 credits total), plus 3 additional credits of Approved Engineering Electives

BIOEN 404 and BIOEN 405 form a two-quarter design sequence, running through winter and spring quarters.  Students work in 2-5 person teams to design, create, and test a system, device, or process that addresses an unresolved medical or health-related problem.  Projects are sought from the broader health care community, including UW Medicine, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and local industry.  Where possible, the faculty, clinicians, or industry representatives provide mentorship for student groups.  Student teams generate oral and written project proposals during Winter quarter, and a final written report and oral presentation/prototype demonstration at the end of Spring quarter.  Please note that students in this track must take 3 additional approved engineering elective credits.

The project should provide students with the experience needed to develop the following capabilities:

  1. an ability to identify, formulate, and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science, and mathematics
  2. an ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety, and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental, and economic factors
  3. an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences
  4. an ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts
  5. an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives
  6. an ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions
  7. an ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.
  8. an ability to apply mathematics (including statistics) and engineering to solve bio/biomedical engineering problems. Preparation on this topic via Capstone should emphasize statistical analysis when appropriate to support conclusions.
  9. an ability to analyze, model, design, and realize bio/biomedical engineering devices, systems, components, or processes

Capstone course syllabi and grading rubrics

For the 2018 graduating cohort, and prior:

BIOEN 402 syllabus rubric

BIOEN 403 syllabus rubric

BIOEN 404 and 405 syllabus rubric

Please refer back for syllabi updates applicable to the 2019 graduating cohort.

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Advisor, co-advisor and student responsibilities

Advisor

The capstone advisor should be the faculty member most closely associated with the goals of the project, and the one who will work most closely with the student. If the advisor is not core or adjunct faculty then a core faculty co-advisor is required and the student will be registered under the core faculty advisor. The core advisor accepts responsibility for assuming supervision of the student should the situation with the primary advisor fail.

The capstone advisor is responsible for helping the student develop a project (usually during winter quarter), for reviewing and approving the written capstone proposal (spring quarter), for directly supervising the student’s work or assigning an immediate supervisor (normally a post-doc or PhD student), for giving periodic feedback to the student about his or her progress, and for grading the capstone project (402) according to the associated grading rubric.

The capstone advisor is responsible for turning in a grade promptly so as not to jeopardize the student’s graduation or financial aid. (See N grades, submitting capstone grades, and submitting a change of grade)

Bioengineering Co-Advisor

The Bioengineering co-advisor is a member of the core Bioengineering faculty.

The Bioengineering co-advisor is responsible for:

  1. Reviewing and approving the written capstone proposal
  2. Providing guidance to the primary advisor, if necessary
  3. Reaching agreement with the primary advisor on the course grade
  4. Submitting grades in a timely way (because the student will be registered under the Bioengineering co-advisor) ;
  5. Representing the department to make sure the content and level of the project are appropriate.
  6. Assuming responsibility for the student should the situation with the primary advisor not work out.

Student

The student is responsible for:

  1. Finding an appropriate capstone advisor and together developing a project
  2. Completing a project proposal in BIOEN 401 (spring quarter, junior year) for Option A
  3. Obtaining the approval of the capstone advisor(s)
  4. Setting up a work schedule that fits the lab and allows steady progress
  5. Showing respect for the lab facilities and group members, by following all lab protocols, and showing up at agreed-upon times
  6. Communicating clearly and regularly with the advisor(s) and immediate supervisor,
  7. Asking questions as needed
  8. Attending BIOEN 402 / 404/5 class meetings
  9. Reporting unresolvable issues to the academic counselor or capstone instructor
  10. Completing the agreed-upon project on time, or negotiating project and timeline changes in advance with the Advisor, subject to departmental limits
  11. Delivering the appropriate reports and presentations on time for faculty review and grading

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Project Approval

The project proposal for 402 is written during BIOEN 401, Spring Quarter of the junior year. The student and advisor (and co-advisor, if applicable) all sign off on the proposal. BIOEN 402 proposals will be evaluated for design content.. See the criteria for design.  Proposals for Option B (BIOEN 404/405) are written during Winter quarter senior year in BIOEN 404 and are evaluated by course instructor and project mentor for design content.

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Policies applying to 402 (the year-long individually-based research/design project)

Petitioning to have a project supervisor who is not Bioengineering core or adjunct faculty

Affiliate faculty and other faculty with no Bioengineering appointment may be suitable project supervisors. In such a case the student needs to find a co-advisor from the Bioengineering core faculty and submit a petition to the Student Affairs Committee (via the academic counselor).

The petition consists of:
  1. A one-page letter requesting the co-advising arrangement and explaining the project and detailing the design (402) component. The student should also attest that he or she discussed the pertinent parts of the Capstone help file with the primary supervisor (overview, criteria, advisor and co-advisor responsibilities, and grading).
  2. Emails from both co-advisors agreeing to the advising arrangement. The academic advisor will solicit co-advisor petitions at the start of Spring Quarter.

Project time limits

BIOEN 402 must take at least 2 quarters and should not take more than 4. Whether the student begins enrolling for BIOEN 402 in Summer or Autumn Quarter, the project should be completed by the end of the following Spring Quarter and a cumulative grade should be given then.

If the project isn’t completed, the PI has the following choices:

  1. Grade the student on the work completed and submitted, according to the rubric.
  2. Approve a one-quarter extension by giving the student an Incomplete; allow the student to complete the project during summer quarter, and then grade according to the rubric and submit a change of grade. Note that the thesis must be submitted by the last day of instruction, summer quarter. No further extensions are possible at that point and a grade must be given.

If the project extends into the summer, the student’s graduation must be deferred until August. The student must inform the academic counselor so that the graduation date can be moved.

Project report due dates

The BIOEN 402 report is due the last day of class instruction of the final quarter of registration in the course.

Continuous registration

Once the independent study project is begun, students are expected to be continuously enrolled in 402  until the project is completed. Any exception would need to be approved in writing by the advisor (PI) via email to the academic counselor.

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Grading

*Please note that information for BIOEN 403 is still presented here for transition from the old requirements to the new requirements, which apply starting with the class of 2019.

N grades

Both 402 and 403 are “hyphenated” courses. Faculty advisors do not give a decimal grade each quarter. Instead, they submit an “N” each quarter until the final paper is submitted.

Once the final paper is submitted, the student is graded by the appropriate grading rubric and a decimal grade is submitted. The decimal grade retroactively fills in the prior quarters.

Submitting grades

The faculty advisor submits an N grade for any student in 402 or 403, until the final paper is received. At that point the student’s work is graded according to the course grading rubric, and a decimal grade is submitted.

Co-advisors need to communicate well to avoid late grade submission, which can interfere with financial aid or delay the student’s graduation.

The deadline for online grade submission is 5 p.m. on the Tuesday following the last day of finals week.

Submitting a change of grade.

Once the grading period for the quarter has ended, grades cannot be submitted online through Catalyst Web Tools. However, change of grade requests or late submissions can be submitted through the Office of the Registrar online Grade Change form. Due to the need for manual processing for submissions through this form, it will be 2-4 business days until the new grades appear on the student record.

For questions on change of grades or late grade submission contact ude.n1519479532otgni1519479532hsaw.1519479532u@ffo1519479532dargu1519479532.

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Advice for faculty

Quarterly communication with student

Students are advised to meet with advisors at least quarterly to ask for an assessment of their progress. Advisors may find it helpful to use the BIOEN 402 grading rubric  to guide the conversation.

If there are problems with student behavior or performance (for example, not showing up in lab, not putting enough effort in at the beginning of the project), advisors are encouraged to notify the academic counselor as soon as possible.

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Advice for students

Communicating with advisors

The student should send a summary email every week or every other week to his/her advisor, immediate supervisor and any co-advisor, summarizing what he/she did that week, giving any results, outlining any obstacles, and saying what he/she is planning to do about those obstacles.

Once a quarter the student should request a conversation with his/her advisor to review progress. The student might find the course grading rubric to be a helpful guide to this conversation. The student should take notes, and address any weaknesses.

Avoiding problems

The student can avoid the vast majority of capstone project problems by:

  1. Setting up clear expectations for attendance and communication with his/her advisor, and then following through (e.g. showing up when promised)
  2. Sending regular (at least semi-weekly) email updates to his/her advisor, immediate supervisor and any co-advisor
  3. Asking rather than assuming
  4. Allowing a lot of time for his/her project in the first quarter
  5. Contacting Holly Williams, Clay Schwenn, Chris Neils, or Alyssa Taylor right away if problems arise

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Frequently asked questions

“Can I/my student be paid for my/his/her capstone work?”

A student may be paid for hours worked in excess of those earned for credit. For example, if the student is registered for 3 credits, the first 9 hours worked are for credit; any additional hours may be paid at the discretion of the faculty member. We do not expect students to be paid for their capstone work.

“If my 402 project extends into summer, when will my degree be posted?”

A student who extends his/her project into summer will graduate in August and his/her degree will be posted around the beginning of the second week of September.

“Should I ask for/grant an extension?”

A student should consider carefully whether a later graduation date will conflict with his/her post-graduation plans. Faculty should consider whether the request is reasonable. Faculty should also consider that they will be responsible for submitting a timely change of grade; failure to do so may cause delays in posting of the student’s degree. BIOEN 402 projects can only be extended one quarter.

“I granted (or I have been granted) an extension. How do I handle the grades?”

Once the final paper has been submitted and graded, the faculty member needs to submit a change of grade to change the N to the decimal grade. Changes of grade are submitted online; see the Office of the Registrar online Grade Change form.

The student should:
  1. Remind the faculty to change the grade
  2. Provide the exact course prefix, course #, quarter he/she was last registered in the course, and the exact grade he/she was originally given (usually N)
  3. Provide his/her legal name and student ID number

“How many hours should I expect to spend in lab?”

Most capstone students spend 15 hours a week in the lab, sometimes more, while enrolled in 402.

“When is my project paper due?”

The project paper (404/5) or thesis (402) is due the last day of instruction in the student’s final quarter of registration in that class. This is to give the advisors time to read and grade the paper and turn grades in on time.  In addition to the final report, students are also expected to participate in the annual Bioengineering Capstone Symposium.

“Which option should I chose, A or B?”

Both tracks can provide great preparation for industry, medical school and other professional fields. If you intend to pursue graduate school (PhD., BS/MS, other Masters) we recommend Option A: Independent Research & Design (BIOEN 402). Option B provides the flexibility for and Fall Quarter experience beyond courses on campus, such as an internship or study abroad. This is a good subject for an advising appointment with the counselor or one of the capstone instructors. We encourage students to speak with current seniors or alumni about their capstone experiences.

“Can I do both research and team design in my senior year?”

Yes, you can still participate in research in a faculty lab during your senior year and also participate in the Team Design option (Option B) to fulfill your capstone requirement. You would register only for BIOEN 404 and 405. Your participation in research would not be tied to capstone or a specific degree requirement. This is also a question about time management and balancing commitments. If you are considering staying in a research lab and also doing team design, please consult with an academic counselor.

“Can I change tracks?”

Switching from Option B (BIOEN 404/5) to BIOEN 402 is not permitted.  Changing from 402 to 404/5 is allowed, within limits, and requires a petition to the Student Affairs Committee. The petition serves as a checkpoint for advisors to ensure that students are on track to graduate and have a successful capstone experience.

To change from Option A to Option B, a student must:

  1. Meet with an advisor to discuss switching tracks.
  2. Provide a brief rationale for changing tracks that also addresses plans to stay in the research lab and strategy for managing time research and Team Design.
  3. Have the new proposal approved by the Student Affairs Committee by the last day of instruction of Fall quarter.

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