Asee peer logo

Fermentation Laboratory Exercise Helps First Year Students Understand Log Transformed Variables

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Demonstration and Project Enhancements in Chemical Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.580.1 - 15.580.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Polly Piergiovanni Lafayette College

author page

J. Ronald Martin Lafayette College

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Fermentation Laboratory Exercise Helps First Year Students Understand Log-Transformed Variables in Linear Regression Abstract

Lafayette College’s Introduction to Engineering course offers students a chance to learn about five branches of engineering. The students spend approximately three weeks with faculty from each branch, and complete three laboratory exercises during that time. In the chemical engineering branch, the students (from all engineering disciplines) monitor and analyze a polymerization reaction, calculate friction losses in a piping system, and produce ethanol in a fermentation reaction. This article describes the fermentation experiment procedure and assesses the student learning that occurs as a result. The learning objectives of the laboratory experiment include: ≠ Gain an understanding of the fermentation process ≠ Learn to perform a regression of logarithmic data ≠ Calculate yield relationships and understand the implications


For many years, the ChE department has surveyed students about their learning styles, using both the questionnaire by Felder and Rousseau1, and the VARK questionnaire2. While engineering students cover the broad range of learning styles, a majority of engineering students prefer a kinesthetic or active learning style. Laboratory experiences are where much of the learning occurs for these students3-5.

First and second year students often have trouble reading data from logarithmic plots (such as the friction factor chart) and many have not linearized nonlinear relationships (such as the Arrhenius equation). In the fermentation laboratory, the students are required to plot the cell number as a function of time, and obtain an appropriate equation. Since the fermentation experiment has been implemented, we have observed an improvement in the students understanding of logarithmic data in later courses

During the fermentation laboratory, the students grow yeast cells in an airlift reactor, measure glucose consumption and alcohol production. The laboratory equipment, which is elegant yet simple to operate, will be described in the paper, along with typical student results. Students must use their results to prepare a linear regression using natural logarithms, a task that many have never done before. Assessment data includes results on a multiple choice quiz, scores on a final quiz problem that is similar to the lab analysis, and information from sophomore students who took the course the year before.

Description of the Experiment

The fermentation experiment was a part of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering block of our Introduction to Engineering course. The experiment followed up on a lecture about fermentation in which students were introduced to the kinetics of fermentation as well as the various measurements of yield (i.e., yield of cells on substrate and yield of product on substrate).

Piergiovanni, P., & Martin, J. R. (2010, June), Fermentation Laboratory Exercise Helps First Year Students Understand Log Transformed Variables Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16488

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015