2016 CUR Conference

The theme of the 2016 CUR Conference was Advancing Undergraduate Research: Collaboration and Innovation in a Global Society. Below are highlighted sessions by GeoCUR councilors and members. Please view the full conference program for a listing of all sessions.

WORKSHOP: Facilitating Instruction and Research with Undergraduates Using Remotely Operable Microbeam Instrumentation

Presenters: Jeffrey G. Ryan | Sven Paul Holbik | James MacDonald | Mary Beck
University of South Florida | Florida International University | Florida Gulf Coast University | Valencia College

Making use of research instrumentation in undergraduate science courses is a common practice, but one that has historically been limited by access to instrumentation, which creates a range of challenges in providing a classroom of undergraduate students with substantive hands-on educational experiences. This NSF-TUES funded Expansion project is building on the success of a CCLI Program funded pilot effort at USF- Tampa in integrating the use of both electron probe micro-analysis (EPMA) and scanning electron microsocopy (SEM) into introductory and upper-level courses in the earth sciences via remote operation technologies. Students use these instruments (housed at the Florida Center for Analytical Electron Microscopy at FIU in Miami, FL) in real time in their classrooms, conducting both structured laboratory activities and open-ended investigations of collected samples. In this “workshop” you will get hands-on experiences with the FCAEM EPMA and SEM instrumentation as well as an overview of instructor and student instructional resources which are provided via the FCAEM website, and a summary of our salient results in terms of student engagement and facilitation of undergraduate research. You will have the opportunity to discuss with our investigator team how you might take advantage of the FCAEM instruments and resources in your own courses, and the chance to schedule mentored use time on one of the FCAEM instruments to familiarize yourself with the system, and try out your analytical/educational strategies. Our TUES project includes funding to support “tryout days” for new instructional users.


PANEL PRESENTATION: The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Earth and Environmental Sciences (SURFEES) Program: Targeting Community College Students through Research Experiences at 4-Year Colleges

Presenters: Christopher Kim | Hesham El-Askary | Rosalee Hellberg
Chapman University

Effectively recruiting and engaging diverse community college students in STEM research experiences is an increasingly important goal of the National Science Foundation, but has not historically been the primary focus of most NSF-REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) Site programs. The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Earth and Environmental Sciences (SURFEES) program at Chapman University, a primarily undergraduate institution in Southern California, is the site of the first NSF-REU program in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences that selects participants exclusively from local partnering community colleges. The SURFEES program incorporates specific mentor and participant pre-experience training, pre-, mid-, and post-assessment instruments, and programming targeted to the earth and environmental sciences as well as to community college students. Perhaps most importantly, the application, selection and pairing of student participants with faculty mentors was conducted with specific goals of identifying those applicants with the greatest potential for a transformative experience while also meeting self-defined targets of under-represented minority, female, and low-income participants. In this panel discussion, the program’s principal investigator along with SURFEES faculty mentors from disciplines including biology, earth system science and food science will present initial assessment results of the first two participant cohorts from summer 2014 and 2015, discuss lessons learned for creating/adapting an NSF-REU site to involve community college students, and share individual observations about the student-faculty mentoring and research experience associated with this unique program.


PANEL PRESENTATION: Investigating the Earth and Other Planets Via Virtual Globes such as Google Earth, NASA World Wind, and Cesium

Presenters: Jeffrey G. Ryan
University of South Florida

Aside from serving as a widely used geospatial visualization platform, Google Earth provides ready access to a large and growing collection of earth and planetary observation datasets, as well as to “crowd-sourced” imagery and visualizations which students can investigate through course-based structured research experiences as well as via independent investigations. These and other geospatial visualization platforms (examples include GeoMapApp/Virtual Ocean, focused on observational data from the world’s oceans and seafloor; and Cesium, a new open-source virtual map and globe engine) present a wealth of opportunities for engaging undergraduates in the interrogation of global datasets. This set of Presentations will highlight investigations of Earth observation datasets accessible through Google Earth Engine, of the extensive NASA database for Lunar and Mars imagery accessible through the Planets option in GE, and of time-slider, Gigapan, and new 3D visualization resources available through the NSF-funded GEODE project (Google Earth in Onsite and Distance Education). Participants will have the opportunity to delve into and evaluate a range of open-source global geo-data resources and visualization tools.


PANEL PRESENTATION: Engaging Students in Course-Based Research: Reports from PCAST, NAS, and Examples from Earth/Environmental Sciences

Presenters: Laura A. Guertin | Mark L. Lord | Sarah K. Fortner
Penn State Brandywine | Western Carolina University | Wittenberg University

The national “Engage to Excel” PCAST report (2012) and “Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum” NAS Convocation Report (2015) makes a strong call for using research in our courses. Course-based research offers students training and practice with what we do as scientists and helps to bridge the gap between our teaching and our research. In addition, course-based research is inclusive and supports student success. In this session, we will share information from these published reports, provide examples of successful undergraduate research projects in courses, and strategies for involving different components of research into courses at all levels. Participants will leave with a concrete plan for integrating research in one of their own courses.


WORKSHOP: Innovation and Collaboration: Creating Opportunities without Reinventing the Wheel

Presenters: Cynthia A Merriwether-DeVries | Sarah K. Fortner | Jon Grahe
Juniata College | Wittenberg University | Pacific Lutheran University

The session will begin with a brief introduction to the history of the Innovation and Collaboration Task Force and the activities conducted in support of the CUR Innovation and Collaboration Strategic Pillar. Participants will be introduced to the newly launched Case Studies in Innovation & Collaboration website to glean ideas for collaboration opportunities applicable to their home institutional environment. Participants will develop a preliminary plan to implement and analyze a project upon their return to their home campuses. Participants will interact with faculty who have successfully implemented demonstration projects presented on the case study website. Participants will be encouraged to consider supports and challenges related to the application of collaboration strategies in their specific discipline and in their specific community contexts. Participants are encouraged to come with specific illustrations of the corporate, public sector and social service organizations in their home communities that could serve as potential community partners. Project ideas generated by faculty or community partners should be summarized by participants prior to the workshop. PLEASE NOTE: If the participant does not have project ideas it is important to consider the unmet needs in their home community and or potential industry partners to approach on return to their home campus. Participants are encouraged to visit the Case Studies website in advance of the workshop.


PRESENTER: Teaching Through Research in the Sciences: a Student Cohort Model

Presenter: Weston Dripps
Furman University

All Bachelor of Science students within the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences are required to complete a senior thesis based on original research completed during the summer prior to the senior year. During fall of their senior year, students enroll in a course designed to methodically guide them through the process of writing their senior thesis. Students meet as a cohort with an instructor twice a week and then individually with their thesis advisor on a weekly basis. The course provides detailed instruction on writing the various components to a thesis and requires that students generate multiple drafts of each section of their thesis with set deadlines. Upon completion of the course, students have written a full draft of their thesis, and have submitted an abstract to a professional meeting. The spring term is used to further revise the thesis, present the work at a professional meeting, and defend the thesis at a public departmental defense. The recent addition of this course to the curriculum has provided substantially more instruction, structure, and collaboration within the research process, has significantly improved the quality of the research work, and has enhanced the thesis learning experience. The cohort model has changed what was previously an individual, independent, fairly isolating thesis experience to a peer supported, communal, collaborative bonding endeavor. This model requires a significant time commitment and active participation by all faculty overseeing thesis projects in order for it to be successful. From a curriculum development standpoint, the course has allowed the department to identify the core skills students need to successfully complete the senior thesis as well as exposed some competency weaknesses (e.g. graphing skills, hypothesis development, managing large datasets), which have subsequently been scaffolded throughout the curriculum, so that students build these skills prior to engaging in the senior thesis.


POSTER: Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate STEM Curriculum: A Convocation Report from NAS

Presenters: Laura A. Guertin | Elizabeth L. Ambos | Jeffrey G. Ryan
Penn State Brandywine | Council on Undergraduate Research | University of South Florida



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