Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM
PORTALS IN THE GEOLOGY CURRICULUM FOR UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH
Research at the undergraduate level need not be a mystery! The Geology program at Western Kentucky University has intentionally placed portals to undergraduate research throughout the curriculum, giving opportunities to de-mystify “Research.” Courses in Field Methods (GEOL 380) and Analytical Techniques (GEOL 270) are offered early in the course sequence, immediately after Physical and Historical Geology. These applied courses provide training that can then be built upon in later core courses. For example, students in GEOL 270 make thin sections and receive training in Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM), which is used in most of the subsequent core courses. They also are trained in using XRD, XRF, Raman Microscopy, and other techniques (e.g. measuring Specific Gravity). Exercises in Mineralogy and Petrology use and give further experience in these analytical techniques, each time modeling research activities. Students use early exposure to mapping, sediment sieving, and microscopic techniques for Sedimentology and Paleontology and elective courses in Basin Analysis and Sequence Stratigraphy. Students are “doing research” to build their own data sets in the upper-level course instead of viewing static graphs or using idealized data sets. Further analytical training comes in upper-level courses in Advanced Analytical Techniques, Crystallography, Optical Microscopy, and Electron Microscopy. More advanced field training comes through a summer field camp experience. Students may take 1-3 hour credit courses in Independent Research (GEOL 399) or in Teaching Practicum (GEOL 475) as their research or professional interests progress. Short (7-14 day) field courses in the Bahamas, Mojave Desert, and elsewhere, and fieldtrips within courses are also offered. The Geology program at WKU has approx. 85 undergraduate majors and is currently staffed by three tenured and one tenure-track faculty, one Instructor and several Adjuncts. This intentional focus on undergraduate research has dramatically increased the number of students successfully doing meaningful research at all stages of their undergraduate career, giving both important context for classroom experiences, and developing skills necessary for professional careers and graduate school.