School’s back and between all the welcome back activities, football games, student org meetings and seeing friends that I missed over summer, I’ve hardly had time to think about the fact that I am now somehow a Senior?!  How am I already taking my fourth year of classes?  Looking back to my first semester freshman year till now, my classes have definitely changed from a broad range scope taking classes like Calculus, Intro to BME, and General Chemistry to much more major-specific classes now such as Orthopedic Biomechanics.  As a Biomedical-Mechanical engineer, I’ve taken 18 units every semester (standard for most engineering students), which works out to be about five classes every semester.  As the fourth week of classes is coming to an end and with my first midterm coming up next week (lots of studying this weekend!), I’ve gotten a feel for my hardest and favorite classes for this semester.

My hardest class this semester would have to be BME Senior Design (BME 405), although it is probably one of the most interesting and applicable classes I’ve taken.  BME 405 meets twice a week for three hours on both Tuesdays for lecture and Thursdays for lab.  The first part of the class is focused on weekly labs using a software program called LabVIEW (a visual based computer modeling program), and then for the second half of the course we are divided into groups and have to design and create a Senior project using our skills in LabVIEW and outside sensors and instrument devices.   This class is very challenging because it’s a different type of software every lab requires a detailed write-up looking at the program functions and analyzing how data is both collected and then interpreted.  Our semester project will require our group to take these skills and rather than following a set of instructions, we will create our own project and design all the inputs, outputs, and programming ourselves.  What makes this class so interesting is the type of data we work with.  In our lab today we used Blood Pressure cuffs, Heart rate monitors, Infrared thermometers and EKG sensors.  We built our program in LabVIEW and then collected data from yourself or your lab partners! All really cool information (as a BME student!) to analyze and see how to connect an external device directly into our LabVIEW program! Here are some pictures of the data we collected today:


A Screenshot of our LabVIEW VI Program

My lab partners EKG data that we collected!

As anticipated from the moment I signed up for the class, my favorite class this semester is BME 404 Biomechanics.  The professor also works at the Orthopedics Hospital and since there are only about 15 students in the class, there’s a lot of opportunity to have discussions in class.  So far we’ve looked at different joints in the body especially the hip joint and knee joint and how fractures, arthritis and other stress factors can affect the body’s movement, force-time curves and the different options to repair the joint for different types of injury.  Since I got involved with research in Biomechanics during my freshman year, it’s been interesting to compare and examine another perspective on Biomechanics.  Whereas my lab experiences have been primarily with athletes, our class looks a lot more at injuries and post-op patients.  These are the types of force curves from Orthoload that we looked at in a recent class!

As an engineering student, many people often ask if I ever have time to take classes “just for fun.” And guess what—you can! This semester I’m taking a class that I first heard about on my USC tour I took when I was in high school: Film Symposium.  This cinema class is one of the most popular USC “senior bucket list course” where the class watches movies before they are released to theatres and the professor brings someone from the film industry who worked on the movie for discussion at the end.  I’m taking the class with many of my non-engineering friends and we’ve watched some pretty interesting films and had Q&A sessions afterwards with the producer of one film and the costume designer of the other! Only at USC could students take a class like this!



Claire, Class of 2012