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Teaching FEM to Biologists/Medics


Could anyone recommend courses, online materials or text books that
would be suitable for teaching the finite element method to someone with
a non-engineering background. This request is on behalf of an MD
student wishing to use the FEM for modelling the wrist. We're initially
looking for introductory materials.

Best regards



SivaSrinivasKolukula's picture


   I think you can use the following book:

  The Finite Element Method Using MATLAB by Kwon and Bang.

The authors gave simple introduction to FEM. M-files for the problems they discussed also given. I think it will be a good one to refer for beginners. The book is available for free download. Google the title you can get....


Ettore Barbieri's picture


that's really challenging, considering their notorious lack of mathematical skills.

Of course, apart from this researcher

 who rediscovered trapezoidal integration in 1994!


Jayadeep U. B.'s picture

This is shocking... to say the least!

It shows the extreme lack of interaction among people from different disciplines...

Could there be such instances, where we mechanicians are laughed upon by people from other fields?



Shabeer Khan's picture

Wish you good luck...

Khan Shabeer

Dear Lee,

Ettore has brought to the table a valid point. The mathematical training of a typical medical student can only be expected to be inadequate.

However, with a bit of serious study, I think this shortcoming can be rectified. After all, what you really need to understand FEM is not a mastery of abstract mathematics itself, but a good (perhaps only "intuitive") understanding of mathematical *physics*.

Looking at the pre-requisites of FEM, I would advise the following course of action.

Ask him to go through the book: "Introduction to Mathematics for Life Scientists" by Prof. Edward Batschelet [^ ][^]. Ask him to finish it completely on his own. If he likes the book, or at least "survives" through it, then he can certainly look forward to understand the basics (the fundamentals) of FEM as well.

Of course, there would still remain certain further prerequisites from mathematical physics and engg.: at the very least, the phenomena and mathematics of partial differential potential and diffusion equations, and some exposure to solid mechanics (strength of materials). For both, the texts written at the Diploma level (in the Indian education system, that is), would be perfectly suitable. (In India, the three years' Diploma courses in engineering can be pursued directly after the X standard. Their course-work is an eye-opener to what all concepts can be made accesible right within 3 years after the X standard!)

Once the prerequistes are done (perhaps with your help), then he would be ready for studying FEM itself. Here, a couple of books I would single out over others are: Daryl Logan's, and Hutton's. The levels of these books might still be slightly beyond the reach of this MD student, but if he can complete the pre-requisites, he could easily finish these books on FEM too---with some help from someone like you.

And, if he doesn't or can't finish Batschelet in the first place, he would be better off using FEM just as a tool. After all, they don't try to do courses in quantum and solid state physics just to be able to effectively use X-rays and MRI, do they?

But, in any case, I would strongly advise against his using Schaum's series for learning the prerequisite mathematics. It would be easy for him to get that piece of advice, I suppose. And, certainly I know people (yes even non-engg graduates) who pass their tests using Schaum's series. But it is a poor way to approach these things. Schaum's can be useful if you are already a student of engg./physical sciences. But, mathematics is such a subject---you can pass tests, even with flying colors, by simply getting a "hang" of abstract manipulations, by a sort of pattern-matching technique, but without understanding anything. You get "it" (the proficiency in solving test problems) easily, but then you also lose it even more easily. Without having developed any real understanding in the first place, of course!

BTW, I have gone through Batschelet's book myself (long *after* my master's), and have found it to be not only written exceptionally well, but actually helpful to me. Yes, even engineers/physicists are likely to find something of value while going through it---the concretizations and the explanations are that great.

My two cents.



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