2013 Conference of the International Medical Geology Association (25–29 August 2013)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM


MCGUIRE, Jennifer T., Biology, University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Ave, St. Paul, MN 55105-1080, jtmcguire@stthomas.edu

A lecture-laboratory course in Medical Geology was designed at an introductory (sophomore) and advanced (junior/senior) level for a private undergraduate university in the Midwest. The course has been taught three times since the spring 2010. The introductory-level course was designed for science or non-science majors and the course fulfills a core-curriculum requirement. The upper-level course was designed for biology or geology majors. Due to teaching load limitations, these courses were also taught with a joint lecture and separate lab sessions. Students in both upper and lower levels came with highly diverse backgrounds. As such, the semester was divided into three broad units. The first unit allowed students to discover key background information in geology and human health sciences. Lectures, labs, and in-class exercises were created on topics such as earth materials (focus on mineral formation, dissolution, and transformation); aqueous geochemistry (focus on basic thermodynamics, Eh-pH controls, and radioactive decay); human gestational development (focus on neural tube development and defects); basic human anatomy (functions of systems such as cardiovascular, respiratory, skin); and cancer (including an introduction to genetics and epigenetics). Lab and lecture activities also introduce key concepts of risk assessment. In the second unit, students integrate their understanding of the knowledge covered in unit 1 by lecture and laboratory projects targeting primary routes of exposure: 1) the water we drink, 2) the food we eat and 3) the air we breathe. Projects make use of data from the primary literature as well as data collected as part of the laboratory. Data collected in prior classes is also analyzed. The third and final unit allows students to select a topic of interest from the wide field of Medical Geology. Students research the key geological and biological controls on either an element or human health condition. Students have ranked this course highly (average of 59th and 69th percentile for upper and lower levels respectively) compared to other “Geological & Related Sciences” in the IDEA Discipline database. Anecdotally, it is the only course I teach where students regularly come early, stay late, and generally are thoroughly engaged with the content. As an instructor, that is grand fun.
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