MULTIDISCIPLINARY MICROSCOPY COURSE FOR UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH STUDENTS IN THE NATURAL SCIENCES
MCNAMEE, Brittani D., Department of Environmental Studies, University of North Carolina Asheville, 1 University Heights, CPO #2330, Asheville, NC 28804, email@example.com
An electron microscopy course has been taught at the University of North Carolina Asheville for about a decade as a 1-credit lab/seminar course to train undergraduate research students the fundamentals and operation of the university’s scanning electron microscope (SEM) and energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS) systems. Faculty from the Biology, Physics, and Environmental Studies departments have taught the course and student enrollment has included the univeristy’s Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Environmental Studies departments as well as from neighboring Warren Wilson College and Western Carolina University. In the 2016 Fall semester, the course was expanded to 3-credits (2 hour lecture plus 2.5 hour lab each week) to also include the fundamentals, applications, and operation of the polarized light microscope (PLM) and X-ray diffractometer (XRD) as well as the fundamentals and applications of other microscopes and chemical analysis instruments. Traditionally, the course has had enrollments of 6-9 students and was increased to 13 for the 2016 Fall semester.
The course expansion enabled an introduction of other equipment and facilities the university has to offer as well as showcasing how multiple analyses can be integrated to solve scientific problems. In past semesters, the course has been restricted to only students working on research projects with faculty advisors. However, the 2016 Fall semester was opened to students with or without research projects and the result was a very wide range of course projects and the start of new research projects for the next semester. To expand the course, a higher enrollment was required which proved to be challenging in small laboratory spaces so students were divided into four lab groups. This resulted in students working with the instruments every other week while working on take-home lab worksheets on their “off” weeks. A common weakness of the course that was noted in student evaluations was the multitude of technical difficulties experienced by the complex equipment throughout the semester attributed to their age and increased use. Common strengths noted were the interdisciplinary nature of the course and the range of instruments discussed.