(Last Update: 2021 March 22 21:48 PDT )

Names and pronouns
Learning outcomes
Hours expected
Class discussions
What to buy
Software needed
Laptop policy
Recording policy
Academic Integrity
Accommodations for Disabilities
Title IX and CARE

Instructor and Assistant(s)

Names and pronouns

The pronouns "he, him, his" are best when referring to me in the third-person. It is acceptable to address me as "Kevin", "Professor", "Professor Karplus", but not as "Dr. Karplus" (I have a Ph.D., not an M.D., and prefer not to use "Doctor" as a title) or "Mr. Karplus".

Although I will attempt to learn student names and pronouns, I have much lower than average ability at remembering names and faces. On Zoom, with poor lighting and web cameras, I'm lucky if I recognize people who I already know well. It will be surprising if I manage to learn and retain more than one name a week. Please do not be offended if I get your name or preferred pronoun wrong—my disability with names and faces is to blame, not any intention to insult.


The labs are contained in the textbook, rather than as separate lab handouts. The entire book (except for sections marked "optional" in the book) is required reading for BME 51A+B—the chapters provide essential understanding for the design work in the labs, and homework will be preparation for the labs.

It is essential to read the lab chapters and do the design work before coming to lab—this is a design class, not lab-demo class, so most of the writing and thinking has to happen before the lab time. Students in past years who did not have completed designs before lab wasted a lot of lab time doing pencil-and-paper work and had trouble getting their designs built and tested.

Each lab will be done with a different partner (and occasional singletons). There should be no repeat pairings across the two quarters. Partnerships will be assigned randomly by the instructor and posted on Piazza. Zoom will be set up with breakout rooms corresponding to the partnerships, and Canvas will have the partnerships entered.

Each lab report will be done in two drafts: one due before the lab, one due after the lab. The first draft should be a joint effort of the two partners—the second usually will be also, but partners can decide to submit separate reports (generally a recognition of a failed partnership).

If you want to submit separate pre-lab or lab reports, you must inform Kevin Karplus and your lab partner by e-mail at least 8 hours (and preferably more) before the deadline, so that the group can be split. Otherwise only the last submitted report for the group will be graded.

Clothing in the lab is unrestricted, except on days when we do soldering. On those days, you should wear long pants and cotton clothing, to avoid burns from spattered solder. Safety goggles (provided in your kits) are also required while soldering.

4 Jan 2021–8 Jan 2021Lab 1: setting up
11 Jan 2021–22 Jan 2021Lab 2: temperature measurement
25 Jan 2021–29 Jan 2021Lab 3: sampling and aliasing
1 Feb 2021–12 Feb 2021Lab 4: hysteresis, touch sensor
15 Feb 2021–26 Feb 2021Lab 5: pressure sensor (blood and breath pressure)
1 Mar 2021–12 Mar 2021Lab 6: optical pulse monitor


The course is intended for sophomores and juniors with priority given to bioengineering majors, but is open to anyone who meets the prerequisites:

Note: starting in Winter 2018, Applied Electronics for Bioengineers is a sequence of two 5-unit courses, BME 51A (Winter) and 51B (Spring), rather than two 4-unit courses (as in 2017) or a 7-unit course plus lab in one quarter (as in previous years), to reflect the workload experienced by the students, to make the pace more manageable for both students and faculty, and to increase the capacity in the course, which is constrained by the number of lab hours needed a week.

The theme for the course is "connecting real-world signals to computers using analog electronics", and we will be working with interfacing thermistors, microphones, electrodes, photo-detectors, capacitance sensors, and strain-gauge pressure sensors to microprocessors (note microphones and electrodes are in BME 51B, the rest in BME 51A). The signals we will be looking at will be related to physiological measurements (blood pressure, heart beat, and so forth), but the principles can be applied to many other measurements.

Currently, the best description of the course is in the textbook written for the course, but students interested in how the course evolved may be interested in the posts on Prof. Karplus's blog:

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to

The course is an engineering design course—I tried to make the labs require design, not just cookbook procedures. The complexity of the design tasks should ramp up through the two quarters.

Hours expected

BME 51A is now a 5-unit course, which means that 15 hours a week of work are expected for the median student. Here is a rough breakdown of the hours:

4.1pre-lab and lab writing
3.2in lab
2.7video lecture

Class discussions

We do not have mandatory class discussion sections, but we do have required labs (2 or 3 meetings a week). Questions are welcome during lab times, as well as during office hours. If you want to communicate with the group tutors, your fellow classmates, or the instructor, you can use the Piazza forum https://piazza.com/ucsc/winter2021/bme51a.

The Piazza forum will also be used for communications from the instructor or group tutors to the class—particularly for changes to due dates, assignments, or other urgent materials. Set up Piazza to e-mail you when there are updates, and check Piazza daily.

What to buy

Tools and Parts

This year the parts and tools are covered by campus funds (no lab fees allowed this year). There are about $84 worth of tools, parts, microcontroller board, and USB cable. These tools and parts will be provided in the first lab meeting, as we will be using them immediately. If you drop the course, you must return the parts and tools.

The parts list for the quarter can be found at https://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/bme-51a-w2021-parts-and-tools/

Some tools are yours to keep at the end of the course—others are loaner items and must be returned at the end of BME 51A or BME 51B.


To offset the high parts cost, we'll be using only free on-line material for the textbook.

Applied Analog Electronics
Note: students enrolled in the class will be given a coupon for a free electronic copy of the textbook, including all subsequent updates published through LeanPub. I don't believe in requiring students to buy anything that I profit from.

The book is a fairly large file (23.4 MBytes), so I recommend keeping a copy on your laptop, rather than trying to download it from the LeanPub site each time you need it.

The most recent version of the book is the 2020 Sep 11 one, but I'm hoping to release a new version in December 2020, with minor bug fixes and additions. You should be fine reading the September edition, but pick up the new one once it comes out. I sent out coupons for free PDF copies of the book to everyone registered for the class—you should use the coupon only once, as you can get all future updates of the book for free just by logging in to the LeanPub site.

I have been writing this book specifically for this class, and it is never quite done. I welcome corrections to the book. I will be paying at least 25 cents for the first report of anything I accept as being an error—more for more serious errors. Error reports should be done on the Piazza site for the course. (Students will be paid at the end of BME 51B.)

Soldering instructions

Watch a few of the soldering videos, then fill out the form for soldering SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), before the first lab session. You are required to have completed the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) from UCSC Baskin Engineering Lab Support (BELS) before you are allowed to solder:

New (starting Fall 2020) is an Addendum to the Soldering SOP for soldering remotely (i.e., at home). You need to read and digitally sign the Addendum as well as the SOP:

All About Circuits
This is supposedly a somewhat slow-paced introduction to electronics that makes few assumptions about what you already know. The format, as 100s of HTML files, is a bit awkward to read, but fairly easy to search with Google (by adding "site:allaboutcircuits.com" to the keywords in the search box), so indexing is not really an issue. The book starts at about a middle-school level, but gets up to the beginnings of circuit theory. The operational amplifier chapter looks usable, though it does not have a design focus—circuits are presented as almost magical rather than carefully analyzed from first principles (as is done in more theoretical circuits books) or from design rules of thumb (as is done in books like Horowitz and Hill).

In the early years (before my book draft), students found this the most useful of the on-line sources, as the tutorials assume no prior knowledge.

The author of All About Circuits has also made a number of video lectures and practice worksheets available. Not all the worksheets are relevant to this course, but it should be fairly evident which are and which aren't. I won't assign these, but you are encouraged to try them on your own if you need more practice.

Wikipedia pages
I've identified a number of useful Wikipedia pages and collected them at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Kevin_k/Books/applied_circuits
Of course, Wikipedia often has several different pages on a given subject, and I may not have found the most appropriate ones for the class—so I'd appreciate any pointers to other Wikipedia pages that are relevant to the class that you think we should share. These pages should help fill in the gaps where my book does not cover information you need, but because they are encyclopedia articles, not a coherent textbook, there will often be times when the available articles are not tutorial enough or not detailed enough. When that happens, you'll want to consult other on-line (and paper) resources.

In previous years, many students found the Wikipedia articles too difficult for them, though they are often a better reference than All About Circuits, allowing you to go deeper into the material.

Wayne Storr's Electronics Tutorials
http://www.electronics-tutorials.ws/ has a number of tutorials that are supposedly faster paced than the All About Circuits ones.
MIT's circuits course
If you prefer video lectures and lecture notes to books, you may find the lectures in the circuits course at MIT to be useful. Based on the course description, this is a rigorous traditional circuits course, having more material than EE101 at UCSC. We'll be doing less theory and more hands-on stuff, and our order of material is very different, so it is not a great fit for our course, despite the prestige of the MIT branding.
Texas Instruments' Op Amps for Everyone
TI's Op Amps for Everyone duplicates some of the material in the Wikipedia book, but provides more detail and a cleaner presentation of some of the op-amp material. TI publishes it for free, in order to encourage engineers to design using the parts they sell.
Analog Devices' Op Amp Applications Handbook
The Op Amp Applications Handbook by Walter Jung, is published free by Analog Devices. Most of it is far too advanced for this course, but Sections 1-1 and 1-4 may be useful.
Complex number tutorials
The Art of Problem Solving Alcumus site has very good algebra tutorials (including complex arithmetic) if you need review.
Other free on-line books
E-books directory has a collection of pointers to free on-line electronics books. If you find that one of these is at the right level for the course, let me know—a quick look suggested that several might be suitable, but none were a perfect fit.
Horowitz and Hill
A classic electronics text that fits the flavor of this course (though it covers much, much more) is Horowitz and Hill's Art of Electronics. Horowitz and Hill have one of the best explanations of op amps that I've read. The chapters relevant for this course are mainly Chapters 1 and 4.
The second edition (1989) is still usable, though many of the parts described in the book are no longer available. The third edition, released in 2015, is worth the money for those who plan to go further in electronics than just this course.


Students are expected to bring a laptop with two USB-A ports to labs The software will run on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.

The Analog Discovery 2 USB oscilloscope, function generator, and power supply that will be used in the labs is controlled by Waveforms 3, which is freely down-loadable from https://store.digilentinc.com/waveforms-previously-waveforms-2015/ The software can be run in "demo" mode without the hardware attached, which is useful for learning the many features of the software.

Students can (theoretically) also buy their own for use at home from http://store.digilentinc.com/analog-discovery-2-100msps-usb-oscilloscope-logic-analyzer-and-variable-power-supply/. If you choose to buy one, be sure to get the academic pricing (a substantial savings). Unfortunately, AD2 units are backordered, and Digilent thinks that ones ordered in December may be delivered in March—there are a small number available through distributors, but these will not have the academic discount. You'll need a power supply as well—I recommend the Meanwell SGA12u05-P1J (5V 2.4A) supply, which fits well in the box with the USB oscilloscope.

Data-acquisition software was developed specifically for this course, and is available from https://github.com/karplus/PteroDAQ Documentation is downloaded with the source, but only the installation is reasonably documented right now (there is also documentation in the textbook).

To run the PteroDAQ data-acquisition system, you will need Python2.7 or Python3. Note: Mac OS X often comes with an ancient version of Python, so you are likely to need to update your Python. I recommend the Anaconda Python distribution (see https://anaconda.org/anaconda/python and https://docs.anaconda.com/anaconda/install/), which loads a lot of Python modules that are useful, like NumPy, SciPy, and MatPlotLib. In particular, the filtering software in the SciPy package will be needed for digital filtering of heartbeat signals.

You can use the Python.org site Python (either 2.7 or 3.4 or newer). If you use python.org python, you'll have to install a number of the packages yourself.

We'll be doing plotting and model-fitting examples with gnuplot. You can choose to use other tools if you are more familiar with them and have sufficient mastery of them to fit complicated functions that involve complex-number arithmetic and to produce good-looking graphs, but no help will be available for systems other than gnuplot. (Excel is not acceptable plotting software.) Gnuplot can be downloaded from the http://www.gnuplot.info/ website, but installation on Macs is sometimes tricky—there are instructions in the textbook if the gnuplot.info site does not provide a command-line-executable file.

All pre-lab and lab reports will need to be prepared with LaTeX. You can either install your own stand-alone copy of LaTeX (see https://www.latex-project.org/get/) or use https://www.overleaf.com, which allows collaboration between authors. There is a trick for getting collaboration without paying a license fee: sign someone else up (see https://www.overleaf.com/user/bonus). If you pass on your link to someone else in the class, when they sign up using it, you can have a collaborator on each of your projects. They can then post their link on Piazza, someone can use that, and so on. A few people will end up at the end of the chain(s)—they may have to get friends of family to sign up.

A template for lab reports (which can be used with stand-alone LaTeX or overleaf.com) is available at https://www.overleaf.com/project/596b60947639ba5d59e0874f

Software written specifically for the course—all of which is free:

Laptop Policy

You should bring your laptop to every lab. It will need to have at least one and preferably two USB ports that can be connected to a USB micro-B connector (as data connections, not just power). You will use the laptop to communicate with the Teensy board running PteroDAQ (data-acquisition) software and with the Analog Discovery 2 USB oscilloscope/function generator/power supply/network analyzer/impedance analyzer.

Recording Policy

Students in the class may make audio recordings and take photos for personal use (note-taking and review), but not share them with people not in the class, nor post the recordings or photos on the web or other social media.

Academic Integrity

Anyone caught cheating in the class will be reported to their college provost (see UCSC policy on academic integrity for undergrads), will fail the assignment, and may fail the class. Cheating includes any attempt to claim someone else's work as your own. Plagiarism in any form (including close paraphrasing) will be considered cheating. Use of any source without proper citation will be considered cheating. If you are not certain about citation standards, please ask, as I hate having to fail students because they were improperly taught how to cite sources.

Read Section 7.13 (Citation) of the textbook twice, to be sure you understand the rules.

Collaboration without explicit written acknowledgment when the assignment is turned in will be considered cheating. Collaboration on lab assignments is expected, even required—but that doesn't remove the requirement to acknowledge the collaboration.

Classroom Accommodations for Disabilities

Officially approved DRC notification:
UC Santa Cruz is committed to creating an academic environment that supports its diverse student body. If you are a student with a disability who requires accommodations to achieve equal access in this course, please submit your Accommodation Authorization Letter from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to me privately during my office hours or by appointment, preferably within the first two weeks of the quarter. At this time, I would also like us to discuss ways we can ensure your full participation in the course. I encourage all students who may benefit from learning more about DRC services to contact DRC by phone at +1-831-459-2089, 459-4806 (TTY), or by email at drc@ucsc.edu.

Title IX and CARE

UC Santa Cruz is committed to providing a safe learning environment that is free of all forms of gender discrimination and sexual harassment, which are explicitly prohibited under Title IX. If you have experienced any form of sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, know that you are not alone. The Title IX Office, the Campus Advocacy, Resources, and Education (CARE) office, and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) are all resources that you can rely on for support.

Please be aware that if you tell me about a situation involving Title IX misconduct, I am required to share this information with the Title IX Coordinator. This reporting responsibility also applies to course TAs and tutors (as well to all UCSC employees who are not designated as "confidential employees", which is a special designation granted to counselors and CARE advocates). Although I have to make that notification, you will control how your case will be handled, including whether or not you wish to pursue a formal complaint. The goal is to make sure that you are aware of the range of options available to you and that you have access to the resources you need.

Confidential resources are available through CARE. Confidentiality means CARE advocates will not share any information with Title IX, the police, parents, or anyone else without explicit permission. CARE advocates are trained to support you in understanding your rights and options, accessing health and counseling services, providing academic and housing accommodations, helping with legal protective orders, and more. You can contact CARE at +1-831-502-2273 or care@ucsc.edu.

In addition to CARE, these resources are available to you:


Students will be graded primarily on the five design reports, due biweekly, but there will also be points for quizzes, homeworks, and the pre-lab drafts.

Don't trust the Canvas summary of your grade—use only the total number of points collected. Because the Canvas gradebook has no clean mechanism for any grading scheme except accumulation of total points, I have recast the grading mechanism to be just point accumulation.

worktotal points available
final design reports400
pre-lab drafts of design reports88
10 in-class quizzes100
other homework87

Total points=675


lowest points for grade
gradefrom percentageused
A 633620
B 464463
C 295295

The grading scale for each of the five design reports will be

letter gradepoints

The pre-lab reports will be graded on a similar scale as the lab reports, but scaled to a different total. They will vary in weight, depending on how long and difficult they are. The weights given in the schedule are tentative and may be changed.

The homework will be weighted approximately 1 point per question—the points given in the schedule are tentative and may be changed.

There will be some short in-class quizzes, to check that students have done the reading. These should be similar to the homework (which is easier than the pre-lab drafts).

In addition there may be one or two more substantial quizzes, each with weight equal to one of the design reports. The need for larger quizzes will be determined mainly by how diligent students are about doing the homework and pre-lab design work. (I haven't needed to do the large quizzes for several years.)

Because of the size of the class and the grading bandwidth, reports, quizzes, homework, and pre-lab drafts will not be accepted late and cannot be redone for credit.

The grading standard for the design reports is expressed as points, but is not really "point-based"—I'm not looking for specific items and taking off points if they are wrong or missing. Instead the grading is holistic, taking into account all aspects of the writing. A good report that covers all the main ideas of an assignment earns a B. If it is very well written, it gets a B+. Extras beyond the essentials can raise the report to an A-, or (if exceptionally good) an A, but the essentials must be correct and clear before extras add anything to a report.

Poor writing can lower a complete report to a B- or lower. Parts that are missing, inconsistent, or wrong will lower the grade further. Inconsistently reported component values or serious errors in the schematic may be enough by themselves to reduce the grade below passing.

The interpretation of the total points will be adjusted somewhat based on the exact number of points available and how difficult the quizzes and homeworks turn out to be (some of the questions are new each year).


Homework schedule is still somewhat tentative, due to the rewrite of the book and changes in the lab schedule. Homework, pre-lab reports, and lab reports will all be turned in as single PDF files through Canvas. ("single" added 2021 Jan 21—previously announced on welcome video and on Piazza). The deadline will be 11 a.m. on the due date—that is in the morning. There is a 3-hour grace period (to 2 p.m. Pacific Time) for late submissions, but anything later than that will not be accepted. Submit before the deadline, and use the grace period only for dealing with upload problems of wrong-file problems. On partner submissions, use the grace period to check that your partner has submitted a readable PDF file.

Quizzes will be open generally from 1 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific Time on Thursdays. They are timed, open-book, open-notes quizzes, with no internet or human help permitted. You have to submit a single PDF file with the quiz answers before the quiz times out—practice using a scanner app (or however you will be creating your PDF files) before taking the first quiz.

This course is deliberately "front-loaded," with heavy reading and homework loads at the beginning of the quarter, but light loads in the last two weeks of the quarter (reversing the pattern of most other courses).

DueRead before class or labTurn in before 11 a.m.
Mon Jan 4Lab 1 (=Chapter 3)
Tues Jan 5 (Preface optional), Chapters 1 and 2 (Why electronics, Background)
Wed Jan 6 Chapters 4 and 5 (Voltage, current, resistance; Resistors and resistance-based sensors) Exercises 2.1–2.14 (14 points)
Thur Jan 7 Quiz 1
Fri Jan 8 Lab 2 (=Chapter 8) Exercises 4.1–4.11 (11 points)
Mon Jan 11 Chapter 6 (Signals) Exercises 4.12, 4.13, 5.1–5.8 (10 points)
Pre-lab 2 first draft (covering Pre-lab 2.1–2.4; 8 points)
Wed Jan 13 Chapter 7 (Design report guidelines)
Thur Jan 14 Quiz 2
Fri Jan 15 Chapter 9 (Sampling and Aliasing), Lab 3 (=Chapter 14) Pre-lab 2 second draft (covering all pre-lab questions; 16 points)
Mon Jan 18 NO CLASS
Tues Jan 19 Chapter 10 (Capacitors) Exercises 7.1–7.8 (8 points)
Wed Jan 20 Chapter 11 (RC filters) Exercises 10.1–10.8 (8 points)
Thur Jan 21 Quiz 3
Fri Jan 22 Chapter 12 (function generators) Exercises 11.1–11.3, 11.5, 11.7, 11.9, 11.10 (7 points).
Sat Jan 23 Lab 2 report
Mon Jan 25 Chapter 13 (debugging) Chapter 15 (oscilloscopes) Pre-lab 3 (16 points)
Wed Jan 27 Chapter 16 (hysteresis), Lab 4(=Chapter 17) Exercises 12.1, 12.2, 13.1, 15.1 (4 points)
Thur Jan 28 Quiz 4
Fri Jan 29 Exercises 16.1, 16.2 (2 points)
Mon Feb 1 Chapter 18 (amplifiers) Pre-lab 4 (16 points)
Wed Feb 3 Chapter 19 (Operational amplifiers) Exercises 18.1, 18.3–18.5 (4 points)
Thur Feb 4 Quiz 5
Fri Feb 5 Chapter 20 (pressure sensors)
Sat Feb 6 Lab 3 report
Mon Feb 8 Lab 5 (=Chapter 21) Exercises 19.1–19.5 (5 points)
Wed Feb 10 Exercises 20.1, 20.2 (2 points)
Thur Feb 11 Quiz 6
Fri Feb 12 Chapter 22 (optoelectronics)
Sat Feb 13 Lab 4 report
Mon Feb 15 NO CLASS
Tues Feb 16 Pre-lab 5 (24 points)
Wed Feb 17 Chapter 23 (transimpedance amplifier)
Thur Feb 18 Quiz 7
Fri Feb 19 Sections 24.1–24.4 (active filters)
Lab 6 (=Chapter 25)
Exercises 22.1, 22.2, 23.1–23.7 (9 points)
Mon Feb 22
Wed Feb 24 Pre-lab 6 (8 points)
Thur Feb 25 Quiz 8
Fri Feb 26
Sat Feb 27 Lab 5 report
Mon Mar 1 Exercises 24.1–24.3 (3 points)
Wed Mar 3
Thurs Mar 4 Quiz 9
Fri Mar 5
Mon Mar 8
Wed Mar 10 Chapter 26 (microphones), Lab 7(=Chapter 27)
Thur Mar 11 Quiz 10
Fri Mar 12
Wed Mar 17 Lab 6 report (7:30pm)

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Questions about page content should be directed to Kevin Karplus
Biomolecular Engineering
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
318 Physical Sciences Building