Each of my books has been different from any other book on its topic, but more so with Biology for Engineers than the others. There just was not a book out there that looked at the engineering of biology. I had been involved in the earliest stages of the biological engineering movement in the American Society of Engineering Education and the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, and had written extensively about the field in general and about its philosophical foundations.
Others had as well, but filling in the details and specifying exactly what should constitute education in the field was another matter. That was coming extremely slowly, and it almost seemed as if the great minds involved in the establishment of biological engineering as a distinct discipline could not divorce themselves from their own engineering education paradigms and define what should be the educational requirements for a discipline of engineering broadly based upon the science of biology.
One thing I knew for sure: I had received a very broad-based agricultural engineering education at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, augmented by elective courses that supported my own interest in the emerging field of biomedical engineering. I wanted to be sure that the breadth of my education was transposed into educational breadth for budding biological engineering students. So, when I realized that no one that I knew was going to write a biology book in a way that emphasized the engineering view of science and how science is utilized in a creative way, I began to write what I thought should be included in such a text.
The way that I have found to write a text that I can be satisfied with is to teach a course on the topic. I start with a framework for material to be included in the course and let the students assist me by letting me know what is good about the approach and, most importantly, what is missing. They usually are not shy about giving feedback.
So, this text was pieced together like ornaments on a Christmas tree, one piece at a time and placed strategically on the proper branches. When the framework was not inclusive enough to accommodate new facts, then the framework was expanded. This process continued for nine years.
During this time, I have learned a huge amount by reading a lot of books and articles. Every time I came across something that I thought should be in a book on biology for engineers, I wrote it down and placed it appropriately in the next draft. Whenever I read about a new advance in biology or engineering related to biology, I gave myself a test, and this test took the form of a question: Is this topic covered in the book? At least the fundamentals of the topic had to be introduced so that students, when they came upon more details in later readings, would have seen the basic terms and introductory concepts. I knew that I could stop writing further drafts when I could continually say to myself, after reading newer articles, that all the new topics were already included in the text. I have reached that point.