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Undergraduate Research and Curricular Redesign of IPLS Laboratory Courses

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Physics and Physics Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics and Physics

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Paper Authors


Nathaniel Raymond Nunez University of Detroit Mercy

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Undergraduate researcher and Rebuild Scholar at the University of Detroit Mercy department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

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E. Prasad Venugopal University of Detroit Mercy

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E. Prasad Venugopal is an Associate Professor of Physics in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Detroit Mercy. His research interests include physics education research and science and technology studies. Venugopal received his Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, MA.

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The University of _______ is a recent recipient of an NIH BUILD grant aimed at creating a career pipeline with the goal of increasing the participation of under-represented minorities in biomedical sciences research. Reforming the foundational science curriculum and providing undergraduate students with meaningful research experiences, especially in laboratory settings, are some of the goals envisioned and supported by this grant. This paper outlines a project that combines these goals within the framework of a curricular redesign of the introductory physics for life science (IPLS) laboratory courses.

An undergraduate student researcher is tasked with reproducing and extending a physics laboratory experiment published within the pages of The Physics Teacher or the American Journal of Physics. The papers are carefully selected based on the following factors: (1) the central concepts in the paper should be accessible, and typically taught, to students in an IPLS course; (2) the experiment should involve qualitative and quantitative modeling of physical phenomena in a biologically-relevant context; and, (3) the paper should provide an optimal level of information and guidance to the student researcher, requiring them to make independent research decisions while reproducing the experimental results in the paper. To enhance the originality of the research, the student is responsible for suggesting and testing extensions or modifications of the experiment that could be useful in a IPLS laboratory course required of all life-science majors. As a last but important step, the student is required to generate a detailed laboratory manual for the experiment that can be implemented in such a course.

Studies have shown that students who engage in research during their undergraduate training have a higher likelihood of success in graduation rates and research careers. By developing a research experience that is accessible to sophomore and junior life-science majors, and that focuses on physics relevant to biological contexts, this project seeks to provide students with curricular experiences that will better prepare them for careers in biomedical sciences.

The paper asks the following question: what are the benefits and limitations of the undergraduate research model described above? Within the context of this question, the paper will report on the results of an experiment involving forensic applications of Newton’s law of cooling. The research was conducted by a BUILD scholar who is currently a junior biochemistry major at the university. The paper will also provide other examples of biologically-relevant experiments suitable for use in undergraduate research.

Nunez, N. R., & Venugopal, E. P. (2018, June), Undergraduate Research and Curricular Redesign of IPLS Laboratory Courses Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31167

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