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Healthcare and Biotechnology Course Adapts to Pandemic

Jun 04, 2020   |   by Julie Bonette

The engineering professors who co-teach “ENGS 005: Healthcare and Biotechnology in the 21st Century” at Dartmouth had no idea just how relevant the course that they’ve been teaching every spring for the last two decades would become amidst this year's pandemic.

Just weeks before the start of term, Professors Peter Robbie and Joseph Rosen decided to double the course’s maximum enrollment to meet demand. Every one of the 100 available seats was filled within 30 minutes of registration opening.

Robbie and Rosen knew they had to quickly adjust to fit the needs of social distancing and remote learning, and also decided to add additional content pertinent to SARS-CoV-2.

Professor Peter Robbie
Dartmouth engineering professor Peter Robbie
. (Photo by John Sherman)

“Everyone is trying to make sense of this moment we are living through,” said Robbie. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to engage with a broad national community of experts who are part of the extraordinary personal and professional network of Dr. Joseph Rosen.”

Rosen—who is also a professor of surgery at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine, has been working on pandemics since 1999, and has studied major biological events over the last century—tapped his contacts to add content to the course.

“When I was asked to give a section on COVID to the class, I put together lectures by experts. The students have been very excited about the new material,” said Rosen, who noted that he and Robbie also added additional information on technologies related to vaccines and diagnostics.

Professor Joe Rosen
Joe Rosen, Professor of Surgery and Adjunct Professor of Engineering
. (Photo by John Sherman)

Rosen delivered two lectures on the role of cybercare in a pandemic, and since then, the students have been treated to talks from faculty at world-renowned institutions as well as leading military experts, on topics such as synthetic biology and vaccines, telemedicine’s role in the intensive care unit, and the importance of partnerships when responding to pandemics. A full list of the course’s guest speakers follows:

  • “Virology and Coronavirus Overview,” by Scott Layne, MD, Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), School of Public Health
  • “Truth and Lies During a Pandemic,” by Peter Katona, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
  • “Synthetic Biology and Vaccines,” by Omar Khan, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto
  • “DARPA Robotic Arm and Blue Angel Pandemic Program,” by Geoff Ling, MD, PhD, Founding Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Biological Technologies Program and retired U.S. Army colonel
  • “Synthetic Biology for Diagnostics,” by Matthew McKnight, MBA/MPP, Chief Commercial Officer at Ginkgo Bioworks
  • “Vaccine Development,” by Kendal Hoyt, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine
  • “Importance of Partnerships in Responding to Global Pandemics,” by Dave Franz, DVM, MD, Former Commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

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