Bridging Biology and Physics Undergraduate Education through Nanoscience: A New Mexico Network Approach
This proposal will support exploratory Phase 1 efforts to integrate nanoscience broadly into the undergraduate curriculum in New Mexico postsecondary institutions through faculty development. A main goal of this project is to develop a state-level educational network that unites faculty at community colleges with faculty at research universities in a shared teaching enterprise. The project participants comprise faculty who teach courses in biology and physics at research institutions such as New Mexico State University (Las Cruces) and University of New Mexico (Albuquerque) and community colleges such as Dine College, Shiprock, and New Mexico State University, Alamogordo branch campus. Nanoscience was selected as a topical theme because it is an important interdisciplinary scientific area that is underrepresented in biology and physics undergraduate courses at these institutions. Project objectives will be achieved through development of faculty expertise.
An Advisory Committee will provide oversight and assessment of project progress. Faculty will receive training in nanoscience, and course development in three general areas: (1) Measurement at the Nanoscale: Exploring the Invisible, (2) Nanoscience and Energy Technology, and (3) Nanostructures and Biological Systems. Learning materials such as course modules, case studies, and lecture presentations that are produced by this project will be widely disseminated through the New Mexico Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (NM-INBRE) of 6 state universities with its ACCESS Grid, the NMSU Teaching Academy, the NMSU Honors College, and a dedicated project public domain website. This project aspires to develop a network of committed science educators in the state of New Mexico who can develop synergistic strategies that cut across disciplinary and institutional boundaries.
The project aims to address the learning needs of nontraditional students, many of whom are first generation and members of underrepresented minority groups (Hispanic, Native American). A long term goal of this project is to develop the intercollegial foundation that will permit development of a broader scale Phase 2 project in future years.
The plan is innovative because the project unites faculty in physics and biology in both community colleges and research intensive universities with the goal of establishing a collaborative educational network that can bring an interdisciplinary approach to the development of nanoscience curriculum appropriate for undergraduate students. The project is multifaceted because it promotes nanoscience in two diverse disciplines, provides faculty development experiences in a workshop setting, and encourages consideration of the teaching challenges faced by educators working in urban and rural settings with students of different socio-economic backgrounds. As is appropriate for an educational proposal, the project will produce new materials that may benefit other educators. Educational components complement the research and teaching interests of the participating research faculty, therefore, the proposed activities will allow faculty to bridge research and education in the classroom.
This collaborative team effort will unite faculty from postsecondary minority institutions across the state of New Mexico with high enrollments of Hispanic and Native American students. Women and minority faculty who are members of biology and physics departments are represented among the project participants. As a result, the project builds educational infrastructure and forms collegial partnerships across institutions with high enrollments of students who are underrepresented in STEM disciplines. The project also includes diverse faculty and bridges disciplines. Materials produced by the project will be made freely available through dissemination efforts. Introduction of nanoscience themes though course development will have a broad educational impact for students who reside in an arid region of the southwestern US in one of the most impoverished states in the nation.