Undergraduate Education Program

Grant Abstracts 2017

Central Washington University

Carey Gazis
Ellensburg, WA
December 2017

In fall 2016, the Geological Sciences Department at Central Washington University moved into a new $64 million science building equipped with a modern analytical geochemistry laboratory funded by the State of Washington, the Murdock Charitable Trust, and the National Science Foundation.  Particularly unique capabilities are in the fields of environmental and agricultural research (e.g. water, snow, wine, soils and aerosols) that span the fields of geology, chemistry, biology, and environmental science.  The department now seeks to incorporate these new laboratories and instrumentation into the undergraduate curriculum and to provide meaningful undergraduate research opportunities by developing the Water, Air, Soil and Snow Education and Research (WASSER) program.  Newly designed curriculum modules are anticipated to serve about 350 students each year.  Overall goals of the project are to provide non-major students with science inquiry activities that use modern instrumentation to collect meaningful data, and to prepare science majors to become proficient analytical scientists equipped with the hands-on training necessary to excel in the current STEM workforce.  The university is an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution located in a rural agricultural region and thus serves a significant population of minority and first-generation college students.

Council of Independent Colleges

Katherine Whatley
Washington, DC
December 2017

The Council of Independent Colleges proposes to improve teaching effectiveness in STEM disciplines at smaller colleges by preparing faculty members to utilize methods developed by Nobel-laureate Carl Wieman.  These methods have been shown to be superior to traditional approaches.  Research in cognition and neuroscience shows how to significantly improve learning.  Students are challenged with increasingly complex problems, and, aided by extensive feedback, they emulate how scientists think and discover new knowledge.  Initiatives led by Wieman and other scientists transformed science instruction at the University of British Columbia and the University of Colorado at Boulder.  He and his colleagues at Stanford have used the method successfully for years.  In each of two workshops over a period of two years, expert teachers already versed in the method would work with teams of four faculty members each from nine CIC member institutions over a five-day period.  Participants would complete the program with an understanding of the background of cognitive science, as well as with feedback on actual classroom exercises that they would design during the workshop and implement at home.  CIC expects that faculty members also will serve as resources for colleagues in their departments.  A final report for all CIC members will document improvements in student learning outcomes at participating institutions for two years following the workshops.

LeTourneau University

Darryl Low
Longview, TX
December 2017

The scanning electron microscope (SEM) is an extremely useful piece of equipment capable of analyzing samples at high magnifications, and has been utilized in a variety of different fields of scientific research.  Almost 20 years old, the existing SEM at LeTourneau University has outlived its useful life and was limited to analyzing metallic samples because it operated at high vacuum.  The purchase of a versatile SEM capable of operating at lower vacuum and low voltage is expected to have a significant and widespread impact across campus.  In addition to modernizing Materials Joining courses which use the existing SEM to analyze joints between metallic substances, lab courses in Biology and Chemistry will add lab modules to introduce students to SEM imaging.  The engineering program will use the SEM to study composite materials and corrosion in a laboratory benchtop water treatment system.  As access and appropriate training would be open to all interested LeTourneau faculty, this single instrument will enhance student and faculty capabilities across campus.

Northern Arizona University

John Georgas
Flagstaff, AZ
December 2017

There exists a pressing national need to provide students with expertise in informatics, an interdisciplinary skill-set fusing computer science, statistics, the natural and social sciences, the arts, and business.  Informatics has emerged as a key competency in modem scientific inquiry and practice given the centrality of massive data sets and their analysis.  The School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems at Northern Arizona University proposes to implement a pathway that significantly expands learning opportunities in informatics for students across all disciplines, while also providing an avenue for further study in the Bachelor of Science in Informatics degree program.  The proposed pedagogical approach focuses on research-based learning in areas that have clear positive impact on human and environmental health, along with other techniques that are particularly supportive of the recruitment and retention of under-represented students, including women, ethnic minority, and first-generation students.  The work builds on substantial recent university investment in informatics education and research, and is distinguished by the systemic adoption of appropriate pedagogies integrated into the curriculum.  The proposed activities will reach more than 900 students during this project.

California State University, Monterey Bay

Nathaniel Jue
Monterey Bay, CA
June 2017

Recent disruptive innovations in DNA sequencing technology and the advent of “Big Data” science have significantly changed the skills necessary to work professionally within the field of biology.  This requires changing undergraduate education and training to incorporate genomics and bioinformatics.  California State University, Monterey Bay will scaffold bioinformatics and genomics across the biology curriculum to promote specialization and mastery in the skills and concepts related to them.  They propose to: (1) integrate genomic modules and course-based research experiences into all course levels, ranging from a genomics-focused first-year seminar and core lower-division biology courses to senior capstone research courses and (2) develop and implement a new genomics and bioinformatics concentration within the bachelor’s degree in biology.  In the first year, course-based research experience modules will be developed for six courses with two being taught and assessed, and a new biology concentration in bioinformatics and genomics will be submitted for university approval.  In the second year, four modules developed in the previous year will be taught and assessed, and seven modules and a new first-year seminar will be developed.  In the third year, the remaining modules will be taught and assessed, and four modules and a new first-year seminar will be developed, taught and assessed.  This work will provide the basis for a broader model in higher education on how to integrate genomics and bioinformatics into a traditional biology curriculum.

George Fox University

Robert Harder
Newberg, OR
June 2017

George Fox University’s College of Engineering is centered on humanitarian design.  Its undergraduate students are passionate about building state-of-the-art devices that address important societal needs in safety, health, and poverty.  To meet the needs of a rapidly growing enrollment, engineering faculty have built a collaborative design-build environment called the Engineering Innovation Center.  In this new space, they plan to grow student expertise in electromechanical systems, affording them the opportunity to create prototypes using versatile, high-strength materials with embedded circuits.  These devices are known as molded interconnect devices.  Molded interconnect devices integrate conductive pathways directly onto a 3D substrate without the need for a large 2D printed circuit board.  Traditional methods of creating molded interconnect devices require expensive injection molding equipment that is not suitable for rapid prototyping or small-scale production.  With the machines requested, students will have the opportunity to build devices that can have significant humanitarian impacts in the digital world.

National Center for Science and Civic Engagement

Eliza Reilly
Stony Brook, NY
June 2017

The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement (NCSCE) will establish and advance robust partnerships between indigenous populations and local formal and informal educators to improve educational outcomes for all students, promote cultural understanding, and foster long-term collaborations on issues of common concern.  The project will extend the successful Hawai’i NCSCE strategy to Alaska and four new state pilot projects.  Over the three-year project, 75 formal educators and administrators will partner with 37 native community leaders and 120 informal educators to host a series of meetings to deepen collaborations and embed programs.  Local environmental and health issues will provide context for inquiry-based learning that transcends perceived conflicts between local tradition and scientific ways of thinking.  NCSCE will leverage its national community of transformation to support professional development for lasting institutional change and community partnerships.  The partnerships will be developed specifically to last beyond the project period as a necessary, mutually beneficial collaboration for the success of all students, health of the community, and care of the shared environment.

Pacific University

David DeMoss
Forest Grove, OR
June 2017

The School of Arts and Humanities (SAH) at Pacific University seeks to expand undergraduate research in the arts and humanities.  The goal is to provide all arts and humanities students with faculty-mentored research opportunities that encourage higher levels of thinking and creativity.  The objectives are: (a) all SAH students will have an opportunity to develop and deepen their research skills as SAH departments (working individually and collaboratively) use backwards design to integrate research into every level of the curriculum; (b) SAH students will further pursue their research in conjunction with faculty in a focused, interdisciplinary summer institute; and, (c) SAH students will have opportunities to disseminate the outcomes of their research through a newsletter, a peer-reviewed online, multimodal SAH undergraduate journal, and presentations at national and international conferences.  Leadership teams, consisting each year of one member from each SAH department, will guide progress for the year, oversee the integration of undergraduate research in the curriculum, assess progress towards outcomes and track student/faculty perceptions and attitudes during each stage of the project.

Portland State University

Zhiqiang Chen
Portland, OR
June 2017

Portland State University plans to develop an online electron microscopy platform that will offer nanoscience education to undergraduates via virtual instrument simulators.  The platform will serve as a national model for undergraduate education programs with complex scientific instruments by improving and expanding research and technical training.  This project will complete the ongoing development of a transmission electron microscopy (TEM) simulator in the platform, carry out an education assessment to compare the costs and learning outcomes for using on-site, hands-on TEM versus the TEM simulator, and disseminate the simulator via existing education courses and programs by offering the platform to undergraduate students from any university.  The project is bridging a gap between existing virtual products too narrowly focused to meet the needs of undergraduate education. It launches effective instrument-based education infrastructure to a broader audience without the need for large capital instrument investments, particularly for undergraduate students with limited resources to attain desired learning outcomes.

Westmont College

Eileen McQuade, Michael Everest
Santa Barbara, CA
June 2017

Westmont College seeks to develop its biology and chemistry students into practicing scientists, by developing their skills of independent scientific inquiry and fostering curiosity and collaboration.  Each year, approximately 350 students are enrolled in biology or chemistry lab courses and 45-50 graduate with degrees in those majors.  While the departments have a strong tradition of faculty-student collaborative research, this is often limited to a selective group of upper-division students.  Westmont proposes to increase student exposure to real science practice throughout the curriculum in order to develop the scientific habits necessary for success in the professional world.  The plan is to: (1) revamp the curriculum to incorporate more inquiry-based lab exercises that require students to think and act like professional scientists; (2) increase the rigor of the statistics and analysis our students do in laboratories; (3) improve and maintain laboratory instrumentation to ensure students gain independence and competence with the latest technology; and, (4) restructure a senior capstone course to center around a student-hosted research seminar series.  By expanding inquiry-based research throughout the curriculum, the project will teach students how to ask good questions and gain the competence and confidence to use the scientific process to seek answers.

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