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The Research-Friendly Curriculum


The Research-Friendly Curriculum Integration of Undergraduate Research and Teaching by Bert E. Holmes Carson Distinguished Chair of Science The University of ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Research-Friendly Curriculum

The Research-Friendly Curriculum Integration
of Undergraduate Research and Teaching by Bert
E. Holmes Carson Distinguished Chair of
Science The University of North
Carolina-Asheville Saturday, January 24, 2009
  • Overview
  • Models for Incorporating Undergraduate Research
    into the Curricula.
  • A. Many school adopt a sequence of stand-alone
    research courses that are required.
  • 1. Distributed throughout the curriculum
  • OR
  • 2. Senior/junior year courses
  • Regardless of which method is used the
    traditional courses need to prepare students to
    fully benefit from the intense experience.

B. Research integrated into traditional
courses C. Interdisciplinary undergraduate
research experience Future advances in
cutting-edge research will be at the interface of
different disciplines. How do we prepare
students for this using our traditional (or
non-traditional) courses? 1. Research teams
from multiple departments 2. Integrated
laboratory experiences D. Other options
  • II. Typical Evolution of Undergraduate Research
    Courses at Many Colleges/universities.
  • Research courses are electives for some
  • Research courses are required for Honor students
    (or only for BS but not for BA majors)
  • One of two research courses are required for the
  • (maybe reorganize the upper level laboratory
  • Multiple research courses or a significant
    requirement (one-half of the senior year) are
    required for the major.
  • E. At some point in this evolution it is
    realized that cook-book or verification
    laboratory experiments (the traditional
    curriculum) does not fully prepare student for a
    meaningful mentor-guided research experience.
  • Consider my experiences Starting teaching in

1. Starting teaching at Ohio Northern
University in 1975 (undergraduate university with
about 2,400 students) and began engaging students
in research because I enjoyed it. 2. Became
aware of CUR in 1980 and began reading the CUR
Newsletters. Was tenured in 1981. 3. Moved to
Lyon College (college with 450 total students) in
Batesville, AR in 1983 as the Head of the
Mathematics and Sciences Division with the
expectation that I would build a strong science
program. Made undergraduate research the
keystone of our program. 4. By 1986 I realized
that having required research courses was not
sufficient because students were not being
prepared by the traditional curriculum to engage
in research. 5. Develop my first
mini-research experience in first semester
general chemistry laboratory for fall 1986.
  • The synthesis of Alum KAl(SO4)2-12H2O
  • In reality the K can be replaced by Li, Na,
    Rb, Cs or NH4 cations and the Al3 can be
    replaced by Cr3 or Fe3
  • We gave student teams the task of preparing
    another alum. The following year we added
    analysis of waters of hydration, potassium,
    sodium, iron and sulfate ions to the regular
    laboratory. We then added a requirement that
    they not only prepare an alum but that they also
    provide analysis to support the formula.
  • 7. Next we converted an entire course to
    project-based experiences. Our second semester
    general chemistry laboratory became an analysis
    of the environmental impact of building a new
    baseball field on our campus.
  • 8. Of course, preparing students to engage in
    research required that I remain active in
    undergraduate research.

  • III. The traditional laboratory or lecture
    courses must prepare students to fully benefit
    from the research experience.
  • Early in the curriculum there should be 2-4 week
    long mini-research exercises. These must be
    well defined and limited in scope.
  • Sophomore and/or advanced courses could become
    semester-long mini-research experiences (maybe
    3-5 separate projects).
  • Interdisciplinary experiences should be
    emphasized and the design could be one of the
  • 1. Student take two integrated laboratories at
    the same time. (chemistry and biology) or
    (chemistry and environmental science) or
    (mathematics and physics) or (statistics and
  • 2. A single laboratory course focuses on an
    interdisciplinary experience.

  • Examples of a 2-3 week long project
  • 1. First Semester General Chemistry
  • a. Titrations and Comparisons of Common
    Antacids and Nutritional Data 
  • b. Comparison of Synthesized Soap and
    Commercially Available Soap
  • c. Determining the Relative Acidity of Soft
  • d. Analysis of the Effectiveness of Soap
    Synthesized from Different Oils
  • These are rather routine but here are some more
    unusual examples.

  • e. Comparing Calorimeters by Determining the
    Enthalpy of a Reaction 
  • f. Synthesis of a Liquid Magnet
  • g. Synthesis and Determination of Density, Cloud
    Point, and Heat of Combustion of Biodiesel Fuel 
  • The Measurement of Conductivity for Sports Drinks

2. Examples in Organic Chemistry (semester long
projects) a. Separation and characterization of
six compounds in a mixture (benzoin,
2-methyl-1-butanol, trans-cinnamic acid,
4-methylacetophenone, methyl phenylacetate, and
trans-stilbene). Use of TLC column
chromatography for separation and IR and NMR for
analysis. b. Synthesis Esterification (teams
proposal and conduct the synthesis and
characterization of different esters) c.
Synthesis of Organic Dyes. (ditto) d. Synthesis
of hexaphenylbenzene. (ditto)
  • Interdisciplinary examples in a single course
  • 1. Analysis of Tannic Acid Concentration in Tree
    Leaves and Comparison to the Tree's Ability to
    Resist Predation (chem/bio)
  • 2. Analysis of different metal ions in stream
    water (shallow vs. deep pools, slow vs. rapid
    stream flow, etc.). Influence of sample site on
    analyses results (chem/envr).
  • 3. Measurement of E coli (Escherichia coli ) in
    various locations at waste water treatment plants
    pig or cattle feed lots (chem/bio).
  • 4. Effectiveness of different anti-bacterial
    agents in destruction of Escherichia coli.
    (bio/allied health)

  • An entire course focused on interdisciplinary
    projects. Second semester general chemistry
    The theme is Phytoremediation (plants that remove
    metals from soils)
  • In this interdisciplinary laboratory course,
    groups of beginning students complete
    semester-long projects studying soil chemistry,
    plant uptake of metals, and environmental
    analysis while applying their knowledge to the
    research area of phytoremediation.
  • Debra Van Engelen, Bert Holmes and co-workers
    Undergraduate Introductory Quantitative
    Chemistry Laboratory Course Interdisciplinary
    Group Projects in Phytoremediation J. Chem.
    Educ. 2007, 84(1), 128.

Examples of semester-long projects in the Second
Semester General Chemistry (Phytoremediation)
Laboratory 1. Investigation of the Effects of
Varying Salinities on the Ability of Water
Hyacinth to Hyperaccumulate Cadmium in its
Shoots 2. Phytoremediation of Lead Nitrate by
Coleus Blumei 3. Comparison of Cadmium
Hyperaccumulation of Chives in Terrestrial versus
Aquaculture Conditions 4. Analysis of the
Hyperaccumulation Abilities for Geranium, Aloe
and Spider Plants for Copper 5. Affect of Soil
Acidity on Hyperaccumulation of Zinc by
Marigolds 6. Analysis of Hyperaccumulation of
Ag and Cu by Lactuca Sativa
  • Hyperaccumulation of Lead by Brassica genus
  • Study of Cadmium, Manganese, and Lead
    Accumulation in Scented Geraniums (Pelagonium sp.
  • Investigation of Hyperaccumulation of Various
    Heavy Metals in Pteris Cretica
  • The Variation of Cadmium Hyperaccumulation with
    Plant Growth in Brassica Juncea
  • Hyperaccumulation of Arsenic in Water Hyacinth
  • Hyperaccumulation of Arsenic by Azolla
  • Hyperaccumulation of Copper by Brassica Juncea
  • Analysis of Various pH levels on
    Hyperaccumulation of Lead by Brassica Oleracea

15. Metal Analysis of Botanical Gardens
Creeks. 16. The Quantitative Study of Lead
Accumulation of Mentha Piperita in Fertilized
Soil and Varying Levels of Contamination. 17.
Hyper Accumulation of Lead with India Mustard 18.
The Ability of Polystichum setiferum to
Hyperaccumulate Lead NOTE Students are
limited to 10 different metals (some are too
toxic to use and some we dont have easy ways to
measure concentration) and the plants must mature
within 10 weeks.
Students learn to digest soils to extract the
Plants growing during the semester.
  • Examples of interdisciplinary course designs.
  • 1. Macalester College Integrated courses in
    general chemistry and cell biology for first-year
    students. The double course was organized around
    six units
  • a. Energetics Harvesting (Bio)Chemical
  • b. The Regulation of Biological Processes
    Chemical Kinetics and Equilibrium
  • c. Membranes and Electrochemical Gradients
  • d. Acids and Bases and the Regulation of pH
  • e. Intracellular Compartments and Transport
  • f. Cellular Communication. Schwartz, A.
    Truman Serie, Jan. J. Chem. Educ. 2001, 78,

  • Statistics and General Chemistry laboratory at
    Lyon College. Partially integrated courses in
    general chemistry and statistics for first-year
    students, in early 1990s.
  • a. Chemical measurements laboratory exercise in
    which the results from the chem. lab. served as
    the data that the statistics course used as an
    introduction to statistical analysis.
  • b. Linear plots of mass vs. volume in a density
    laboratory in general chemistry served as the
    data for linear regression analysis (std. of
    slope and intercept) for the statistics course.
  • c. Enthalpy change for acid-base reactions in a
    calorimetry laboratory served as the basis for
    some advanced statistical analysis.

  • Harvey Mudd College-an Interdisciplinary
    Laboratory in chemistry, physics and biology.
  • a. Thermal properties of an Ectothermic animal
    (Students first measure the cooling rates of
    Aluminum cylinders and analyze the effect of
    mass, surface area and volume. Then students
    measure cooling rates for lizards of various
  • b. Carbonate content of biological hard tissue
    (shells of oysters, hens eggs, skeletons of
    reef-building corals)
  • c. Structure-activity investigation of
    photosynthetic electron transport. (Students
    measure the rate of electron transport in
    photosynthesis in spinach chloroplasts. Then
    students then add substituted quinones that serve
    as models of herbicides that inhibit
  • d. A genetic map of a Bacterial Plasmid.

  • Critical Elements in multi-week long
    mini-research projects
  • A. The projects should mimic the process of
    inquiry of the discipline. (generate an idea,
    research the literature, propose the
    investigation, design the experiment, conduct the
    experiment, analyze results, communicate results
    orally (via PowerPoint), in writing, and/or on a
    poster to your peers)
  • B. Use research teams.
  • C. Need a narrowly defined project with a
    specific theme.
  • D. During the semester techniques needed to be
    successful in the research can be taught.
  • E. Select a theme with multiple permutations.

Final thoughts 1. Harder to teach 2. More
time intensive for the faculty 3. Need
computer-base literature search software 4.
More costly than cook-book experiments 5.
Students may need open access to the
laboratory 6. Some students really like this
approach. 7. Difficult for graduate teaching
assistants to teach using this approach.
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Incorporating Research Into Our Curricula
Curricular Models, Strategic Planning and Case
Study The ultimate goal is to engage students in
research because you become a scientist by doing
science. You learn best when no one knows the
answers. It is better to know some of the
questions than all of the answers.
  • I. Evolution of curricula requirements (typical
    for many institutions)
  • Research courses available as an option (satisfy
    an elective in the major)
  • Research courses are required for Honor students
    (or only for BS but not for BA majors)
  • One or two research courses are required for the
    major (maybe reorganize the upper level
    laboratory requirements)
  • Multiple research courses or a significant
    requirement (one-half of the senior year) are
    required for the major.
  • Research is required by the college for all

  • Evolution of the Research Curriculum in
    Chemistry at UNCA.
  • A. 1969-1995 Research courses were electives
    (averaged 5.7 graduates in the 1990s)
  • B. 1995-1999 One research course required of BA
    majors and two for BS majors
  • C. 2000-2004 Three experimental/theoretical-based
    research courses required of all graduates.
    (averaging 12.1 graduates with a high of 17)
  • D. 2005-present. Three courses required for BA
    and may be literature based research. For BS
    graduates there are five experimental/theoretical-
    based research courses required.

  • Description of the 5 research courses in
    chemistry at UNCA.
  • A. CHEM 280 Introduction to Chemical Research
  • 1. Review use of SciFinder Scholar
  • 2. 30 minute presentations by research faculty
  • 3. Students interview at least 3 faculty
  • 4. Students rank three potential faculty
    mentors--a faculty mentor is selected.
  • 5. Student do a background literature search,
    write a 10 page introduction to the research and
    an abstract of the proposed work.
  • 6. Students write a research proposal for the
    UGR Office

  • CHEM 415 Introduction to chemical seminars.
  • 1. Students work to develop their oral
    communication skills.
  • 2. Students develop and present a poster of
    their research.
  • Students meet with their faculty committee (three
    faculty) and write the first draft of their
    experimental section.
  • Students conduct 10 hrs/week of research.
  • C. CHEM 416 Chemical Research I
  • Students conduct 10 hrs/week of research
  • Students give their first oral presentation of
    their research on a Saturday(s)
  • Students present the first draft of their
    experimental results section.

  • CHEM 417 Chemical Research III
  • 1. Students conduct 10 hrs/week of research
  • Students give their second oral presentation of
    their research on a Saturday(s)
  • Here we judge competency to be a chemistry major.
  • Students present the first draft of their Senior
  • E. CHEM 418 Chemical Research IV
  • 1. Students finish all research work.
  • 2. Finish writing and then submit their final
  • 3. One final presentation and a celebration.

  • IV. Administrative Issues
  • A. Faculty workload
  • B. Cost of supplies
  • C. Instrumentation must be rugged for student
    use but also research quality.
  • D. Open access by students to research

V. Strategic Plan A. Select a team to guide the
plan. B. Make the plan fit the
mission/strategic plan of the university or the
department. C. Brain storm among stakeholders
to come up with the essentials of the plan. D.
Develop a timeline for your plan. E. Identify
individuals who are responsible for each
component (step) of the plan. F. Implement.
VI. Advice A. Take bite-size pieces-let it
evolve B. Conduct inventory of research-like
experiences on your campus. C. Considering
faculty workload in your plan is essential.
(differential workloads) D. The curriculum
should be designed to prepare students to fully
benefit from the research experience.
E. Use a team approach-everyone has talents and
you want to take advantage of each persons
talents to make the team succeed. F. Make
student/faculty collaborative scholarship
asignificant experience. Dont dabble. G.
Understand the mission of student/faculty
researchat your institution.
  • My mission statement
  • The student and teacher/scholar(mentor) working
    together to address significant unresolved
  • Student/faculty research develops the student
    into acolleague, a scholar, an artist, or even a
  • H. Undergraduate research is teaching Mentor
    guidedresearch develops in the student a way of
    knowing - amethod of reasoning - a process for
    creating. This isthe denouement of education
    (the highest form ofteaching and learning).
  • I. Plan carefully, boldly and wisely from the
    bottom upand from the top down.

VII. Case Study Lyon College in
1983/84 Department of Biology and Chemistry 450
- 500 Students
  1. I was the second chemist and the first to start
    aphysical chemistry laboratory. A second
    biologistwas also hired that year.
  2. There was no history of undergraduate research.
  3. The only major instrumentation was an AA and aGC
    and both were 8 years old.
  4. No research laboratories or space for research
  5. Few students majored in science the
    freshmanchemistry enrollment was 23 students and
    there were nograduates in chemistry and only
    three graduates in biology in 1983.
  6. Mean ACT was 17.9 in fall 1983.

Case Study Lyon College Department of Biology
and Chemistry 1993 - 98 470 - 525 Total Students
  • Four chemistry faculty, all with Ph.D.s, and
    threebiology faculty conducting research and
    publishing results.
  • Freshman chemistry enrollment ranged from 58 to
    93students (45-58 of the entering freshman
  • Summer stipends for 15-27 chemistry students and
    8-11students in biology.

  • Faculty external grants averaged 175,000 from
  • 5. The total number of chemistry graduates
    increased from4 from 1982-87 to 28 from 1993-98.
    Typically, 25-40of each graduating class
    majored in biology or chemistry.For the 1993-98
    period, 22-31 total graduates in biologyand
    chemistry annually.
  • 6. Six NSF curriculum/instrumentation grants
    (CoSIP, CCLI and ILIP) in chemistry and eight
    significant matching grants totaling 550,000.

7. The mean ACT was 26-27.5 during
1993-1997. 8. CUR asked that I help author How
to Get Started in Research in 1996 with a second
edition in 1999. 9. Undergraduate Research
Presentation Day during the spring Board of
Trustees Meeting.
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  • Important Lessons
  • Strategic plans at the department level will
  • Have all disciplines involved in undergraduate
    research. Dont let a set of haves and have
    nots exist.
  • Department leadership is key.
  • Decisions about hiring and retaining faculty are
  • Improving the sciences rapidly raises the
    entrance test scores (SAT or ACT).
  • It requires about 5-10 years to fully develop a
    program with only a grass-roots effort.

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Thank you for your time and attention.