Complex Systems as a Foundation for Bioengineering

Craig Laramee, Leann Lesperance, Hiroki Sayama, Jacques Beaumont, Walker Land, Donald Gause, and Kenneth McLeod, Bioengineering Binghamton University, State University of New York

The guiding principle of the Bioengineering Program at Binghamton University is that biological systems should be thought of, first and foremost, as living systems; not as chemical systems, electrical systems, or mechanical systems. Living systems grow, develop, repair themselves, adapt to their environment, and learn. These characteristic properties are not designed into living systems, but emerge as a result of self-organization and the interconnections formed during the development process. Growth and emergent behavior, which are inherent to all living systems, rarely play a role in man-made systems, and so these topics are not typically covered in traditional engineering programs. In order for students to develop an understanding of biological systems at a level similar to that which electrical engineers have for electrical systems, and mechanical engineers have for mechanical systems, it will be essential that they develop a deep understanding of emergent behavior. Understanding emergent behavior is the basis of complex systems science, and so we believe that complex systems science should serve as the foundation of an education in bioengineering. Consistent with our philosophy that complex systems science should serve as the foundation of a bioengineering education, we present our core curriculum focused on the fundamentals of complex systems science and its application to living systems.