Enhancing Undergraduate Chemistry Education through Incorporation of Research-based Environmental Experiments

Grant Details


Chemistry (12)

Stewardship of the watershed and sustainability of natural resources requires training of students in the science of Environmental Chemistry. This project incorporates authentic research-based laboratory experiences that highlight environmental testing, watershed sustainability, and current research topics into undergraduate chemistry courses. The goals of this work are to 1) increase interest and skills of students in chemistry, 2) increase real-world relevancy in general chemistry courses, 3) enhance two outreach programs, one involving middle school children and one involving the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College, by incorporating environmental testing units into their programs, 4) improve undergraduate environmental, chemical, and toxicology research by additional instrumentation and training, 5) increase data and information on environmental contaminants in the mid-Michigan area for the community. In freshman and sophomore laboratories for chemistry majors as well as non-majors and students preparing to be K-8 teachers, students are studying environmental toxic entities in water and soil including: metal ions (mercury, cadmium, lead, and chromium) and other contaminants (nitrates, nitrites, phosphates, and dissolved oxygen). Implementation at two locations gives students the opportunity to study sampling methodology and actually collect samples directly at the Chippewa River close to the Central Michigan University (CMU) main campus and at the CMU Beaver Island facility located several miles off the western shore of Lake Michigan. The results of the analyses of local rivers and soils are presented to the public by students, and harmful levels, if found, are reported to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Undergraduate students also are part of a research project dealing with the use of imprinted resins in wastewater remediation. The students' research experience is enhanced by instrument refresher training to deepen their analytical instrumentation knowledge. With that preparation the students are able to concentrate on developing research ideas, implementing necessary experiments, analyzing data, and ultimately presenting their results. The effects of the curricular changes will be assessed by an evaluator external to the department. The assessment will determine the efficacy and ease of implementation of the enhanced laboratory procedures developed by the investigators, and their impacts on student learning gains and interest in chemistry.

Intellectual Merit: The project expands the chemistry program at CMU by implementing selected environmental analyses into the existing curricula and motivating student interest in chemistry with self-designed and research-based laboratory projects.

Broader Impacts: Each year this project directly impacts about 1000 undergraduate students in chemistry at CMU, as well as 20 students at the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College, and approximately 40 gifted middle school students. Community members are kept abreast of current data on environmental contamination obtained by the students. Not only are the students participating in research, but it is a research that is much needed in the mid-Michigan area since this work provides a tool for monitoring 'hotspots ' that are not currently being monitored due to financial strains on the State. By completing the laboratory experiences and seeing real-life applications, students are expected to expand their critical environmental awareness and motivate their interest in chemistry.

Effective start/end date05/15/1004/30/13


  • National Science Foundation: $190,688.00


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