Keck Foundation LOI

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\centerline{\large \bf Multidisciplinary Science Curriculum Modules and Student/Faculty Research}


Earlham College requests \$342,400 to develop multidisciplinary science curriculum modules and student/faculty research projects focusing on a common core problem: metals in the environment. This project will emphasize collaboration among our natural science departments, including biology, chemistry, computer science, geosciences, mathematics, and environmental science. Scientific research is becoming increasingly multidisciplinary and collaborative; therefore, it is essential to train our students to develop multi-faceted approaches to problem solving. This project will introduce an important scientific problem, ask students to collect and analyze data, and to make interpretations using different disciplinary perspectives in both coursework and independent research projects with faculty. We believe this idea of collaborative multidisciplinary learning will transform our undergraduate curriculum in the sciences and provide a model for programs among the sciences at other liberal arts colleges.

A grant from the Keck Foundation would support a modest amount of equipment, curriculum module and seminar development, and student/faculty summer research, over three years. Curriculum modules will be created for both introductory and upper-division science courses. Field, laboratory, and computational methods will be integrated in the modules for students at all levels to experience first-hand how modern scientific inquiry is carried out using a multidisciplinary approach. Our study of metals in the environment will generate module and research topics reflecting faculty expertise, student interest, and local impact. Following the scientific and pedagogical success of this initial topic, we intend to expand it to reflect the changing interests of students, faculty, and the community. We will study anthropogenic impacts on two local ecosystems: nearby Springwood Lake with documented pollution impacts from industrial activity and a site on campus.

Earlham College is a four-year, private, coeducational institution providing a liberal arts education for 1200 undergraduates.  In 2000, Earlham ranked eighth among 1302 institutions of higher learning in the Biological Sciences category of the Baccalaureate Origins Report.  One quarter of Earlham students major in science.  Earlham's teaching philosophy strongly emphasizes collaborative student/faculty research, both within courses and extracurricularly.  Earlham students regularly present papers at the annual Butler University Undergraduate Research Conference and at the annual Merck/Earlham College Undergraduate Research  Conference, and at national conferences in a wide range of science disciplines. Students are frequently co-authors on papers submitted to refereed scientific journals.

Four aspects of our project work together to make it powerful: 1) our focus on local problems; 2) the combined use of field, laboratory, and computational methods; 3) the longitudinal involvement of students as they take introductory through upper-level science classes; and 4) showing students how modern science is multidisciplinary with teams of scientists who inform and illuminate the different disciplinary perspectives of a problem.


Curriculum modules relevant to this proposal will be incorporated into 6 introductory courses in 5 departments in the Sciences. Almost every one of Earlham's 1200 students will take at least one of these classes before they graduate. Additionally, curriculum modules will be incorporated into at least 7 upper-level courses in 4 departments in the Sciences.

{\bf Introductory Course Modules} - To illustrate how traditional topics can be introduced in an innovative way using this environmental project as a unifying theme, we propose to incorporate a new environmental chemistry component into our general chemistry class (typical annual enrollment of 90). This unit will introduce students to fate and transport modeling of metals by measuring the distribution coefficient, Kd, which is a common parameter used to estimate the concentration of metal pollutants in aqueous systems. Students will learn the significance of Kd, a measure of the soil sorption capacity, by determining this parameter in standardized material and applying the procedure to soils collected from our study sites.

The module will be conducted over two laboratory periods. The first week will consist of a spectroscopy lab, where the students will be introduced to absorption spectroscopy for the determination of the metal concentration in water, and to infrared spectroscopy for the characterization of soil components. In the second week, students will use atomic spectroscopy to determine Kd of one or more metals. The effect of pH on Kd will also be investigated for the soils. The results will be used to discuss such environmental issues as acid rain and metal mobilization. The soil Kd results will be compiled in a database for use in fate and transport modeling.

{\bf Upper Division Course Modules} - Hydrogeology serves to illustrate an application of our project to an upper-level course. The lab modules for hydrogeology will target complete hydrogeologic characterization of both the on-campus research site and Springwood Lake. For the on-campus site, we will install ground water monitoring wells and multi-level piezometers. Subsurface hydraulic properties will be determined via constant-head slug tests and constant-discharge pump tests. Quantitative analyses (using Earlham's Inductively Coupled Plasma spectrometer) will establish baseline metals concentrations. Students will track the environmental fate of target metals added to the control site under regulated conditions.

The proposed modules for hydrogeology will give students an experience that embodies much of the professional practice of the science. Students will conduct all facets of the subsurface investigation, aquifer property determination, and sample collection. Students in other courses will cooperatively engage with hydrogeology students to develop the protocols for performing the environmental fate experiments, chemical analyses and equilibrium speciation modeling.

{\bf Summer Research} - Overall, we propose that the summer research component of this project will involve at least 6 faculty each year, about 18 projects total, and at least 36 students over three summers.

Chemistry: collection, sample preparation and analysis of metals in a variety of environmental matrices, and the development and implementation of metal speciation protocols; investigation of the redox chemistry of soil; characterization and model synthesis of the metal-ligand complexes present in these soils/leachates.

Biology: sampling of aquatic biota (macrophytes and animals) in Springwood Lake to describe and quantify the food chains; evaluate the extent of bioaccumulation of metals by those organisms; assess the rates of biomagnification occurring in higher trophic levels.

Geosciences: characterization of the physical properties of subsurface soils by conducting whole-soil hydraulic conductivity tests and laboratory grain-size analyses; determine reactivities of soil minerals by quantifying mineral constituents, cation-exchange capacities, organic matter content and surface functional groups.

Computer Science: design, development, deployment, and management of the field monitoring equipment using photovoltaic panels, batteries, imbedded controllers, wireless data transfer interfaces, environmental sensors, and open source tools; modeling of the biochemical and groundwater processes.

\section*{Purposes, Aims, And Impact}

This project will bridge the gap between modern scientific research and science education by incorporating research modules into courses and further developing multidisciplinary summer research activity. In addition to using multidisciplinary approaches in courses and research, we will institute a series of seminars for small groups of students who are enrolled in one of the courses with a research project module. In these small groups, students will discuss and present the work their class is pursuing on the topic, and engage in weekly readings and assignments meant to broaden their understanding of the nature of modern, multidisciplinary science.

An important artifact of this project will be further development of Earlham's Environmental Studies program, which is largely staffed by the same faculty that would be a part of this work.

Because this project will impact the local community, we will hold an annual poster session on-campus for the public in which faculty and students will present their results. We believe this innovative approach of combining classroom scientific inquiry, summer research projects, multidisciplinary discussion, and community participation will give our students a unique opportunity to engage in truly modern collaborative science.


\begin{tabular*}{6.5in}{l@{\extracolsep{\fill}}l} Spring 2007 & Purchase and installation of equipment \\ Summer 2007 & Course module and seminar development, student/faculty research \\ Academic 2007-08 & Initial implementation of course modules and seminars \\ Summer 2008 & Course module and seminar development, student/faculty research \\ Academic 2008-09 & Continued implementation of course modules and seminars \\ Summer 2009 & Course module and seminar development, student/faculty research \\ Academic 2009-10 & Continued implementation of course modules and seminars \\ \end{tabular*}

\section*{Justification For Keck Request}

The costs involved in the proposed multidisciplinary project exceed the capacity of Earlham's operating budget. In order to plan and implement this project, we must secure outside funding. Private and government funding for multidisciplinary projects at 4-year colleges is limited. Furthermore, many focus on one core discipline with collaborative disciplines radiating from the core.




                                 2007       2008       2009      Total


 Faculty Stipends             
   Summer research (@$600/wk) $28,800    $28,800    $28,800    $86,400 
   Project Coordinator         $3,000     $3,000     $3,000     $9,000 
 Student Stipends                
   Summer research (@$400/wk) $38,400    $38,400    $38,400   $115,200 



 Ultrasonic Nebulizer         $15,000            
 Large freeze drier           $25,000            
 Acid digestion system        $25,000            
 Field Monitoring (4@$3000 each):              
   Temperature, pH (digital), conductivity, redox (reduction oxidation 
   potential), pressure transducer, nitrate selective probe, computer, 
   packaging, and communications  
 Total Field Monitoring       $12,000            
 Field Sampling:                      
   Lake sediment cores to 2 m              
   Shelby soil cores               
   Monitoring wells (one time install)
   Drawing equipment              
 Total Field Sampling         $15,000
 Biology sampling gear         $3,800



 Per student (12) per year     $1,000    $1,000     $1,000  

TOTAL SUPPLIES $12,000 $12,000 $12,000 $36,000

GRAND TOTAL $342,400 \end{verbatim}

In 2010, Earlham will be in the final stages of a capital campaign which includes support for an on-going summer student/faculty science research program. This endowment would continue support for the projects described in this proposal.


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