Northeastern Section - 54th Annual Meeting - 2019

Paper No. 23-1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


BHATTACHARYYA, Prajukti, Geography, Geology, and Environmental Science, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 120 Upham Hall, 800 Main Street, WHITEWATER, WI 53190 and YAVUZCETIN, Ozgur, Physics, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 163 Upham Hall, 800 Main Street, WHITEWATER, WI 53190

The unique geological setting of Iceland makes it ideal as a natural science laboratory. A course based in Iceland can be used to engage students in deep learning and promote scientific curiosity. On our campus we designed an interdisciplinary travel-study course titled “Geology and Physics of Iceland” co-taught by geology and physics faculty. Undergraduate research projects were the central focus of the course. Ten students from a wide variety of disciplinary backgrounds, academic preparations, and physical ability levels participated in this course. They proposed, conducted and collected data on their own research projects while in Iceland, and after returning, continued analyzing their data and samples and presented their research to a general audience on-campus.

We observed several direct and indirect benefits of offering an interdisciplinary course around Iceland. Most of the student participants had not previously been exposed to mentored research, and they did not consider themselves to be “researchers” prior to taking this course. Those students were introduced to the excitement of conducting independent research projects in the context of this course, and more than half of the student participants continued working on their projects well beyond the course expectations. Students from different disciplinary backgrounds worked together in small groups, exchanged ideas, and supported each other in their projects. Moreover, this course provided an opportunity for students with a wide range of physical ability levels to participate in field-based scientific research that otherwise would not have been available to them. The interdisciplinary aspects of this course also helped students to discover the interconnections between different disciplines, such as physics and different branches of the geosciences, while studying various geologic and tectonic features of Iceland. In this presentation, we will highlight the benefits of using Iceland for teaching undergraduate interdisciplinary science courses, and describe lessons learned from our experience in teaching such a course.