Final Design Project Proposal: Format


1.     Letter of Transmittal:  This identifies the proposal so that it will be sent to the correct reviewers in the agency at which it is being considered.  A letter of transmittal will contain:


Contact information – where can you be reached for questions.  Include name, address, phone number, FAX number, email address.  (You may omit any information that you do not feel comfortable to release.  Remember that these reports will be on file for other students in future years).


The date of submission.


Name and business address of the person to whom the proposal is being transmitted – In this case it will be: Steven A. Jones, Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering Program, Louisiana Tech University, P.O. Box 10348, Ruston, LA 71272.


A statement that you are submitting this proposal for review, including the title of the proposal and what it is being reviewed for (Final Design Project Proposal for Biomedical Engineering Senior Design).


Any additional information that you believe will help support your proposal.  Note: be brief.


Expression of gratitude for the addressee’s effort and for that of the reviewers.


Closing, signature, and your name (typed).


2.     Title Page: This provides the reviewers with important information that he/she can reference quickly.  Include:


a.     Your institutional affiliation (Louisiana Tech University, Biomedical Engineering Program). 

b.     The title of your proposal.  This should be descriptive of your project.  Do not use a title like, “BME 402 Design Proposal.”

c.     Your name.

d.     The date of transmittal.

e.     The statement: Final senior design proposal presented to Dr. Steven A. Jones in partial fullfillment of the requirements for Biomedical Engineering 402.


3.     Table of contents.  Section headings must be included, along with the page numbers on which these sections begin.


1.     List of figures and list of tables.  Include figure/table captions and page numbers.


2.     Project summary: This must be no longer than ˝ page in length (250 words). Include 1) The major problem you intend to address and why it is important, 2) The specific aspect of the problem that you will address, 3) A statement of how this problem will be addressed, 4) Indications from your proposal as to how you evaluated the feasibility of the project.  5) A statement of the project’s feasibility. 6) The expected benefits of the project.  The summary should be 1 to 2 paragraphs long.  It will probably be the first part of the proposal that the reviewer reads, and he may use it as an initial screening when he has to review a number of different projects.  The summary can slant the reviewer’s attitude toward your entire proposal, and conceivably the rest of your proposal may never be read if the funding agency has large competition and if the summary is poor, so it is highly important that your summary be straightforward and clear.  Generally this section does not include figures.


3.     Specific Aims:  This section is intended to tell the reader specifically what you plan to do and how you plan to do it.  This section must be no longer than 1.25  pages (500 words max).   Generally this section does not need to include figures or a large amount of explanation because the reader knows that you will elaborate on what you say in the Background section.  A good form to take in your Specific Aims section is:


a)    Identify the general problem you are trying to solve.

b)    State the specific hypotheses or research questions you are trying to answer.

c)     State each objective or experiment that you intend to carry out to answer your hypotheses.  It is highly recommended that if you have 3 hypotheses, you should have 3 objectives, each of which matches up with a stated hypothesis.

d)    State in what way the accomplishments of the objectives will address the hypotheses.

e)    State what impact the results of each hypothesis will have on the general problem.


Try not to make it obvious that you are following this as a “formula.”  Parts a-f must hold together cohesively, not be separate items that you “have to get in.”  The argument you make above will be expanded in the Background and Significance section.  Provide authoritative references.


4.     Background and Significance:  The background has both major purposes and minor purposes.  The primary purposes are: 1) To give the reviewer enough information that he/she can understand what will follow.  2) To establish in detail the importance of the problem 3)  To show that there is a need to solve the problem.  4) To demonstrate that the problem has not yet been solved.  5) To show that the direction you propose is the next logical step in the evolution of the solution.  The minor purposes are to 1) To demonstrate a high likelihood of the project working and 2) To demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the subject.  Generally you do not show that you have expertise by adding irrelevant information in this section.  Rather you show your understanding through a cohesive argument that addresses the primary purposes.  When this is done, the reviewer will be convinced of your competency.  Think carefully about what information is and is not needed.  If you are designing a new total knee replacement, for example, it is appropriate to list for the reviewer several reasons why people need knee replacements and give figures as to the prevalence of each one.  If your project addresses a specific disease that requires a specific type of replacement, you will need to explain what is different about that disease and what the problems are.  However, it is not appropriate to give a complete description about the pathological processes involved in each knee-degenerating disease.  Under the major heading of Background and Significance you should use the following sub-headings:


a.     Background: Tell the reader what he/she needs to know to understand the rest of the proposal.

b.    Analysis of Need: This section will convince the reader that what you propose to do is reasonable and necessary.  It will consist of the following subsections.

i.       The Overall Need: Provide a logical argument which states the problem, justifies that it is a problem, and states why the design you propose is needed?

ii.     Current Solutions: Establish point by point all solutions currently available to address the general problem.  Include any disadvantages that each solution may have.

iii.   Enabling Technology: Give a reason why the atmosphere is now right to address that aspect (for example, through some technological aspect, change in attitudes of society, etc.). This is important.  A reviewer will be skeptical if your idea seems to come from nowhere and will not believe that you happened to come up with an idea that nobody has ever though of before.  The immediate reaction will be either 1) someone has probably done it already or 2) someone has tried it and it turned out not to work. However, if you say that Michaelangelo, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein all thought about it but they did not have the technology available to them to carry it out at that time, it is much easier to convince the reviewer that you are taking the logical next step in the evolution of the problem.

iv.   Problem to be Solved: Having reviewed what is available in part ii above, determine what central aspect is missing from all of the current solutions.  This aspect will be the specific problem you will address, and it should follow logically from the problems that have been shown to exist with other current solutions.  Provide a direct statement of this problem, as in, “The proposed project will create and test a rocket design that is capable of lifting payloads of up to 2,000 pound to an altitude of 1,000 miles and yet is light enough to be carried by an average-sized Brazilian llama.”

c.     Design Criteria: There are two types of criteria that you will need to address.  One is user specifications, and the other is engineering specifications.  You should have separate descriptions of both of these.  User specifications are criteria stated from the point of view of the users.  Engineering specifications are a translation of these criteria into measurable criteria.  For example, in the design of a lightbulb, a user may be concerned with the ability of the bulb to mimic daylight.  The engineering will translate this criterion into other specifications such as 1) the spectrum of the light must be flat from 400 to 700 nm, and 2) the intensity must be at least 5,000 lumens.  Whereas the user criteria will state in general what  you want your design to accomplish, the engineering criteria will be carefully defined, quantitative, and measurable.  Each engineering criterion must refer to one or more of the user criteria.  You should consider such things as cost, durability and functional aspects.  Assign weights as to how important each criterion should be.  You will need this information for your analysis of alternative solutions below.  Each criterion should follow logically from the background you have already given.  For example, if you want to include size as a criterion you must discuss the importance of size in the background section.

d.    Analysis of alternative solutions: Give a number of alternative designs for your problem.  These alternatives are what you could use for your design, they are not necessarily current solutions already in place.  Assign values to the design criteria for each of these designs.  Use the weightings assigned in a. above and a decision matrix technique to determine the viability of each solution.  This analysis will help to demonstrate that your proposed project is the next logical step in the overall problem.


It is critical that the subsections of the Background and Significance section be supported by current literature references.  References from the world wide web, though often useful, are not sufficient to show that you have made a thorough study of the literature.  Refereed journal articles must make up the bulk of your references for your argument to be convincing.


8. Preliminary Results:  This section will, to some extent, support the major purposes of the Background and Significance section, however, its major purposes are to show 1) That the project you propose has a strong likelihood of success, based on some preliminary experiments that you have done (feasibility), 2) That your group has some expertise in the field (either through experiments, surveys of patients, or contact with experts in the field).  Information gained through a literature review should not go in this section, nor should you try to show your expertise by stating that you have reviewed the literature extensively.  Be creative with this section.  Think of simple experiments or rough theoretical calculations that you can do that relate to your experiment.  For example, if you propose to modify a wheelchair, at least you might sit in a wheelchair to see what it feels like from the subject’s perspective.  If your project involves endothelial cells, you might show that you have at least grown endothelial cells before.  If you are making some kind of warning device that uses a sound alarm, test a few sounds to examine their effectiveness.


More examples of preliminary results

A student wishes to redesign a football helmet to reduce the incidence of concussion.  He creates a crude small scale prototype and compares its ability to protect an egg from cracking when dropped from a given height.


A student wishes to combine a cleansing/antibacterial agent with a growth factor for treating diabetic foot sores.  She finds the conditions under which the two agents are stable and determines that: (1) there is a pH at which both chemicals will be stable and (2) there is no obvious chemical reaction through which one of the chemicals would degrade the other.


A student wishes to use electrical stimulation to treat Reynaud’s disease (a problem that results in pain to the extremities as a result of low blood flow caused by vasospasm).  He sets up interviews with three people who have the disease to determine 1) the conditions under which episodes occur, 2) the frequency of episodes, 3) what treatments the subject is using or has used, 4) the side effects of these treatments.


A student wishes to use a chemically-activated heating sources as part of a system to combat hypothermia.  The student should find a sample of the material to be used and determine 1) the total amount of heat it can produce per unit weight, the peak temperature it reaches, and the time duration of the reaction.  The student might then deduce the total weight of the substance needed for the specific application.


9. Research Plan:  This section is designed to convince the reader that you have an idea as to how to proceed and that your plan is organized and feasibile.  Subheadings of this section will be:


a.     Detailed design: Give a detailed description for the design you select.  You must have a figure that illustrates the design.  Don’t even think about turning your proposal in without this figure.  State how you will construct your device.  You must indicate that some kind of quantitative analysis will be applied in the design process, and you must state what that analysis will be.  You do not need to actually have this analysis completed at this time.


b.    Cost Analysis: Give an estimate of the cost of building a prototype.


c.     Method of evaluation: How will you evaluate the merits of your design once it has been built?  Your evaluation should be based on the design criteria you have set up in (a) above.  Be specific about experiments you will run and the data that you will collect.   Provide some detail.


d.    Statistical Analysis: What statistical analysis will you use to evaluate the results of your measurements?


e.     Organizational Structure and Schedule: State how the project will be divided up among the design team.  If you need expertise in a particular area (e.g., mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, etc.) state this and give the role of the expert in that area.  Use the precedence matrix to show that your time plan makes sense.  Give a time-table of specific landmarks in your design and display these in a Gantt chart.  Do not make this general (e.g. project definition, evaluation of solution, etc.), but be specific about your project (e.g., selection of knee material, machining of joint, etc.).


10. Acknowledgements:  Few projects can ever be done without the help of others.  In your acknowledgements name each person who has helped you, with a brief statement of what their contribution was.  Use complete sentences.  Likely candidates for this section are your sophomore assistant, professors with whom you have consulted, people who have personal experience with your problem (although subjects who participate in surveys that are quoted in your paper should remain confidential), and experts in the field whom you have contacted.  Do not acknowledge anyone who is listed on the title page of your proposal or report.  They are already acknowledged on the title page.


11. References:  Any reference that is listed in this section must be cited in the text of your proposal.  You should use references primarily to back up specific statements you make throughout the proposal.  Cite references with the (author, date) format.  For example, “Nussbaum et al. (1990) states that …,” or “Myocardial infarction is the result of coronary artery thrombosis (Nussbaum et al., 1990).”  Remember that “et al.” is an abbreviation for “et alii,” so there is a period after al., but not after et.  Cite your references as:  Author List, Date, “Title”, Journal, Volume, Page Range, and alphabetize them at the end of your paper.  You will always include the range of pages which comprise the article.  In the main body of your text, you will cite a specific page number only if you are taking a direct quote from the article.  However, you should almost never need to quote an article directly.  I suggest quoting an article directly only if you are quoting something that is a matter of opinion by the author of that article.  Otherwise paraphrase.  There is a reason for this.  The way you state something is always dependent on the context in which you are writing.  The context of someone else’s work will almost never be the same as the context of your work.  Therefore, use of someone else’s phrasing will always seem a little out of place and will distract from the point you are trying to make.  Your citations should be mainly journal articles with occasional references to published proceedings or abstracts.  References to the world wide web are not to be used!  Instead, you must find an alternative sources for the statement you wish to cite.  There are two good reasons for this requirement. 1) Web pages are not refereed, so there is no immediate way of determining their truthfulness.  2) Web pages are volatile.  If someone goes back to the same site 1 year from now (or even earlier) there is no guarantee that the same information will be there.  If you have ANY www citations in your proposal that are not refereed journal articles, I will deduct 20 points from your total score. Also, refer to recent journal articles.  If you are trying to establish that something has not yet been addressed, but your most recent article is 1996, your argument is not valid.  Ongoing project development will require you to continue to search the literature for new work in your area.  You will never be “finished with” your literature search as long as you continue to work on the project.


12. Qualifications of the Design Group: State who will work on this project and their qualifications.  This will include you as the principle investigator.  Please specify what special experience you have to work on this project.  This section will also include other people who you know will be working on the project (e.g. your sophomore assistant).  Since you do not know in advance everyone who will be involved, specify the other people by their qualifications.  For example, “A biomedical engineer with a concentration in electrical engineering will be needed to perform ….”


13. Budget: State the cost of this project in the following terms: 1) Personnel (in most cases this will be zero cost since the students will be donating their time). 2) Supplies. 3) Travel. 4) Equipment 5) Other costs.  It is likely that supplies will be the largest category, and in many cases the only category that is non-zero.


14. Budget Justification:  Any costs specified in the budget section must be justified.  You should also specify anything that may be considered “matching funds,” such as the time donated by yourself and your fellow students.


15. Research Facilities: State what facilities you will have available to you for this project and how they will be used.  If someone has stated that they will provide a piece of equipment for your use, include that.  This may include instrumentation from the undergraduate laboratory, equipment committed to the project by one of your professors, or equipment that you will be able to borrow from someone outside of the university.  But be specific.  Do not just say that such-and-such laboratory will be used.  State what equipment will be used from that laboratory and why it is needed for this project.


16. Miscellaneous:  Use good grammar, spelling and organization.  These aspects are paramount in convincing your audience that you have the necessary competence to carry out your work.  Make your report as easy to read for a reviewer as possible.  Make tables and figures as complete as possible.  Do not make the reviewer flip back to the text to find out what “Alternative 1” is, or what a particular abbreviation stands for.  Make table and figure captions self-explanatory.  In general the table or figure caption should tell the reader what the overall point of the figure/table is.  For example, do not say simply: “Number of Diabetics vs. Time.”  Rather say: “Number of Diabetics vs. Time.  This shows that the number of diabetics have increased exponentially in the past 10 years.”  Number all pages.  The reports must be typed double-spaced, with 1-inch margins on both sides, a 1-inch margin on top, and a 1.5 inch margin on the bottom of the page.  Use 11-point type.  Include your previous report (where applicable) as an appendix.  Also include reviews from your colleagues and rebuttals to those reviews as appendices.


17. Writing Constructs to Avoid: Please avoid the following in your writing:


Do not use first person.  Passive voice is fine.


Never use the phrase “due to the fact that.”  This is wordy and can be replaced by the more succinct “because.”


Do not use words like “quite” and “very.”  These are always superfluous and usually do not add the intensification desired.  Compare the following two sentences:  “Arthritis is very painful.”  vs “Arthritis is painful.”  Interestingly, the use of the word “very” makes the sentence sound more subjective and less authoritative, tending to reduce its impact rather than intensify it.


Do not indicate any signs of doubt.


Do not express opinion.  Nobody will care what you think.  If you say, “I believe that this project will lead to improved diagnostic procedures for hepatitis,” it sounds less authoritative than, “The proposed project will lead to improved procedures for hepatitis.”  And you certainly do not want to say, “I believe that the incidence of tuberculosis has increased over the last 5 years.”  You want to say, “The incidence of tuberculosis has increased from 4000 per year to 8000 per year from 1997 to 2002 (Nussbaum et al., 2002).


Do not use statements like, “The American Heritage Dictionary defines bursitis as inflammation of a bursa, especially in the shoulder, elbow or knee joints.  The reader will infer that you did not know what bursitis was when you first started this project, so you looked it up in the dictionary.  This approach may be okay for someone who is writing for a newspaper, but is inappropriate for someone who is working in the field.  Consider how much more convincing it is to simply say, “Bursitis is an inflammation of a bursa (Boyer et al., 1983).”  Be aware also that the dictionary may not be the best place to go for a clinical definition of a disease.


Steven A. Jones

Senior Design (BIEN 400, 402 and 404).