If you have read my previous posts, you will know that I completed my undergraduate education here at the University of Rochester in biomedical engineering. I received my bachelor’s degree in May and began my pursuit for a master’s degree in September. It is difficult for me to compare the core TEAM classes with undergraduate courses because I did not take any business courses while I was an undergraduate; however, since I have continued with BME as my concentration for TEAM, I have had the opportunity to take a step back and accurately compare and contrast undergraduate-level BME classes with graduate-level classes. For the most part, I have found that the differences between the two levels of courses are typically dependent on the course itself and the decisions of the professor who teaches it.
In the fall, for my concentration, I completed two biomedical engineering courses that each ran for only half of the semester, and one biology course. In September and October I took Controlled Release Systems and in November and December I took Biomedical Nanotechnology. The first difference that I noticed in these graduate-level biomedical engineering courses was that they were much more specialized. These two classes focused heavily on a particular topic, which I really liked. It was great to feel that I was becoming an expert on these two topics because of the small class size and in-depth lectures. So in general, these two classes were pretty different from my undergraduate classes.
On the other hand, the biology course that I took last fall, Developmental Biology, was very similar to an undergraduate-level biology course. In fact, it was cross-listed as an undergraduate course so I was taking it alongside many senior biology majors. I sat in the same lectures as these students and took the same tests. I thought this was an effective learning environment for me because my peers had a lot of biology background. While I do have some biology background, I do not have as much as a biology major so I was able to learn not only from my professor, but also from my peers.
The two courses that remain to complete my concentration are Bioprocess Engineering and Biomedical Ultrasound. These two courses are, in a sense, a combination of the two types of classes previously described. These two courses, similar to Developmental Biology, are cross-listed as undergraduate courses; however, the coursework for graduate students is a little bit different. In Bioprocess Engineering, I will complete an extra project at the end of the semester. In Biomedical Ultrasound, I will complete a project individually whereas undergraduates complete it in groups. Also, in this class, graduate students often have an extra question or two on our homework and tests.
So in short, as you can tell, the differences and similarities are course dependent. I would not say that graduate courses are significantly more difficult than undergraduate courses; however, they do provide more in-depth conversation, learning, and critical thinking – something I truly value about graduate school.
– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)