Teaching Assistant Team in a Graduate-Level Engineering Course

Philip Michael Holmes, Shuai Leng, Cynthia McCollough

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


The graduate school presented in this paper is uniquely situated within an academic medical center. On-campus courses are held in close proximity to clinical space and are often taught with the help of medical physicians and researchers from the medical center. The school provides many areas of study related to medicine, but this paper will focus on the Introduction to Medical Imaging course, which is a required course in the biomedical engineering track of the biomedical sciences doctoral program. The purpose of this paper is to present the distinct advantages and challenges of running a medical imaging course within an academic medical center and how the structure of the teaching assistant (TA) team keeps the course running smoothly. This TA structure could be implemented in courses of other institutions that face similar challenges. The Introduction to Medical Imaging course is taught over nine months. It covers most imaging modalities, including radiography, fluoroscopy, mammography, optical imaging, x-ray computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear medicine, and ultrasound. The course is run by two course directors. These directors determine the overall course structure and how the students are evaluated. They also give lectures in their areas of expertise, which has historically been eight out of the thirty-one lectures given during the course. The remaining lectures are taught by twelve invited lecturers. Herein lies the first advantage of teaching this course in an academic medical center. The twenty-three lectures that are not taught by the course directors are taught by experts from the clinic or from research labs within the medical center. This allows for more in-depth knowledge and understanding to be presented to the students than would be otherwise available in a non-medical setting. The second advantage comes from the connections that these lecturers bring to the course. Since these lecturers have access to medical imaging equipment through their clinical duties and research, the students can have hands-on experience with the machines that they learn about in class. These experiences are facilitated through laboratory experiments using the machines. Because the graduate school campus is located within the medical center, it is easy for the students to attend these labs. The key challenges of running this imaging course come from coordinating with the lecturers and maintaining consistency throughout the course. These challenges are overcome by having a unique structure of the TA team. In this course, there is a junior TA and a senior TA. The junior TA is responsible for the day-to-day elements of the course, such as distribution of course material, grading, and office hours. The senior TA is responsible for organizing the documents of each lecture, coordinating and scheduling with the lecturers and students, and ensuring consistency in format throughout the course. This TA structure has proven to keep this imaging course running smoothly, despite the complications that arise from having fourteen different lecturers involved in the course. This TA structure could be implemented in courses at different institutions where course coordination and consistency are challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Aug 23 2022
Event129th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Excellence Through Diversity, ASEE 2022 - Minneapolis, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2022Jun 29 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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