Island explorations: Discovering effects of environmental research-based lab activities on analytical chemistry students

Janice Hall Tomasik, Dale LeCaptain, Sarah Murphy, Mary Martin, Rachel M. Knight, Maureen A. Harke, Ryan Burke, Kara Beck, I. David Acevedo-Polakovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Motivating students in analytical chemistry can be challenging, in part because of the complexity and breadth of topics involved. Some methods that help encourage students and convey real-world relevancy of the material include incorporating environmental issues, research-based lab experiments, and service learning projects. In this paper, we describe an approach that combines all three of these methods by integrating environmental research-based activities into the second-year undergraduate analytical chemistry course. We discuss the development, implementation, and preliminary evaluation of the research-based labs employed during the new summer analytical chemistry course. Students perform environmental investigations of sites on Beaver Island, Michigan, and prepare reports to contribute to an ongoing research project analyzing these locations that began in the 1970s. Preliminary impacts on analytical students were examined using pre- and postsurveys, including the Chemistry Attitudes and Experiences Questionnaire, and a new survey and questionnaires developed for this work. Responses and grades were compared across three summers, and to those from students in the traditional analytical course. Results suggest that the research-based activities positively impacted aspects of student attitudes, their perceptions of how chemistry knowledge influences understanding of environment issues, and their perceptions of how analytical techniques are applied in the real-world. Students indicated that the new labs provided real-world applications of class content, helped them learn new concepts and gain skills working with others, and helped them feel more confident conducting chemistry-related experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1887-1894
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 11 2014


  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Hands-On Learning/Manipulatives
  • Inquiry-Based/Discovery Learning
  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Qualitative Analysis
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Second-Year Undergraduate
  • Undergraduate Research


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