HHMI Undergraduate Program Activities
Kenyon College 1997 Annual Program Report
Kenyons HHMI grant has already impacted student instruction across the sciences. As proposed, a thoughtful Pre-Program Evaluation to assess student needs and attitudes about instrumentation in their laboratory courses. This information will help us maximize the effectiveness of our use of lab equipment in courses. This year, a wide range of new equipment was purchased, most of which was immediately and successfully introduced into student labs, from introductory to advanced. The excitement of the students can be seen in the Photo Gallery.
Our Outreach programs have gotten off to a great start with major equipment purchases, and with Kenyon students assisting Mount Vernon Middle School classes. Computers purchased for SCAP (School College Articulation Program), Kenyons minority summer outreach program, are used at the Middle School during the academic year. The Middle School teachers report enthusiastic response to Kenyons support.
Minority and First-generation Summer Research Fellowhips
Prospective students from minority and first-generation college backgrounds can benefit from early encouragement and participation in laboratory science. From Kenyons pool of applicants, we identified fifteen students to offer summer research fellowships for the summer following their first year at Kenyon. The fellowship will require solid performance in one laboratory science course during their first year. Faculty mentors will be matched with students based on mutual interest.
Distinguished Biomedical Lecture Series
Exposure to world-class scientists presenting their work is exciting and motivating to science students. We have invited for next year the first speaker in our Distinguished Biomedical Lecture Series, Kenyon alumnus Harvey Lodish. Lodish will present two lectures, one for the general public and one for a molecular biology class, and he will meet with students over two days.
Major equipment items have already been integrated into lab courses in four of the five participating departments: Biology, Chemistry, Neuroscience/Psychology, and Physics. Mathematics has ordered computers for a new computer lab which Kenyon has renovated and prepared for installation; these will be in place for the fall semester.
BIOLOGY -- Photos
A major effort in biology has been to improve laboratory visualization of cells throughout our curriculum, from the introductory lab course to advanced courses and Honors research. We have purchased a CellScan (Scanalytics) digital imaging system (including 10 software licenses) and an associated Olympus fluorescence microscope ($140,000). This system uses deconvolution software to obtain high resolution images of single focal planes of cells and tissues, and thus provides an economical and user-friendly alternative to confocal microscopy. Students use this equipment to investigate various aspects of cellular architecture, in ways not previously possible at Kenyon.
We have begun to incorporate this equipment into our curriculum, utilizing it in our Introduction to Experimental Biology (Biology 10) laboratory class to examine the effects of increasing cell proliferation rates on the cell cycle and in our Experimental Cell Physiology (Biology 67) class to identify cell types in primary cultures obtained from chick embryos and to compare their morphologies. Over the next two years, we will increase the use of the digital fluorescence microscope in our laboratory curriculum, incorporating additional exercises into Experimental Developmental Biology (Biology 22), Experimental Plant Physiology (Biology 46), Experimental Cell Physiology (Biology 67), and Introduction to Experimental Biology (Biology 9, 10). A member of the Kenyon HHMI committee, David Marcey, will attend an advanced optical microscopy course at the MBL in Woods Hole. This course will help us introduce theoretical aspects of modern microscopy into our curriculum as well.
Undergraduate honors students in Biology are also using the new microscope for several projects. One involves describing the subcellular localization of a protein during oogenesis in Manduca sexta, and another is the description of cytoskeletal rearrangements that occur during the gravitropic response of Phycomyces. This equipment is expanding the scope of undergraduate research at Kenyon, as well as significantly improving our formal lab classes.
We have also recently obtained a large package of hardware and software for the analysis of gel electrophoresis data ($40,000). This package, obtained at extraordinary savings from Scanalytics as part of the purchase of the CellScan system (see above), includes a computer workstation with benchtop scanner, and an extensive array of gel analysis software that will be used in diverse applications from RAPD analysis in our Ecology lab course (Biology ) to DNA sequence analysis in Principles of Gene Manipulation laboratory. We will begin incorporation of this package into our laboratory curriculum in the next academic year.
In year two, with the purchase of computer workstations for our Introductory Laboratory, we will integrate the acquisition of digital fluorescence data on the above microscope with analysis of digital data in the classroom, as we have purchased 10 licences for the CellScan Image analysis software. Students will then acquire data on the microscope, transfer image files to our LAN, and then proceed to analyze the data in teams on the networked workstations. This approach will introduce students to modern methods in optical microscopy and will allow students to revisit a variety of past experiments at will. These workstations will also increase the access of our beginning students to user-friendly statistical packages that they use extensively in Introduction to Experimental Biology (Biology 9, 10).
Our Chemistry program requires updating in many areas to provide investigative equipment that challenges students at all levels to ask questions about chemical structure and function. HHMI enabled purchase this year of a computerized UV/VIS spectrophotometer, a gas chromatograph, and an FTIR.
One improvement the HHMI-funded equipment will provide is to expand availability of advanced equipment at the introductory level. At present, only the honors-level introductory lab, CHEM 17;18, provides this experience. This year the enrollment is 26 students, 18 of whom are women. The laboratory is based on multi week projects, designed to provide students opportunities to investigate chemical systems much as practicing chemists would do. Beginning next year, the HHMI funded instruments will be utilized also in the "regular" level introductory laboratory CHEM 13;14, Introduction to Experimental Chemistry, having an enrollment of about 50 each year.
The students used these instruments either individually or in groups of two or three. In general, the instructor gave a 10-15 minute demonstration of how to use an instrument and computer software, and then let the students work on their own with minimal or no further input, the object being to give the students the sense that they were in control of the instrument and of their work. This independence is important for developing student confidence in their own abilities, especially for those who had not previously confronted such complex, expensive instruments, and were at first slightly intimidated by the complexity and fearful of damaging the equipment. The projects described below, utilizing the HHMI equipment purchased to date are, of course, not the last word. We intend tomodify existing projects and develop new projects so as to utilize this equipment throughout our introductory lab curriculum, so that their use will become as common and routine as was the use of burets fifteen years ago.
An important aspect of scientific research is, of course, choosing instruments suitable for producing the information and data required to solve the problem at hand, and then skillfully interpreting that information and data. We believe these, and future, HHMI funded instruments will make available to our introductory level students a broader range of instrumentation and computer acquisition and analysis opportunities than previously available, and consequently provide them with greatly expanded opportunities to gain valuable experience in choosing suitable instrumentation and interpreting the data produced.
The Hewlett Packard 8453 Diode-Array UV/VIS Spectrophotometer was used to record the UV spectra of several UV absorbing compounds present in commercial sunscreen preparations. Using these spectra, the students investigated the relative effectiveness of these compounds as absorbers of UVA, B and C radiation. They also recorded the UV spectra of several compounds having molecular structures similar to the compounds used commercially, to investigate, very qualitatively, relationships between molecular structure and UV spectra. The prelab class discussion included the basic operating principles of the diode array spectrophotometer, how this design differs from the more common spectrophotometer design, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The GOW-MAC Series 350 Gas Chromatograph was used in exercises designed to introduce introductory students to several techniques in synthetic chemistry. Students synthesized methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen) from salicylic acid and methanol, and purified the crude product by vacuum distillation. They then utilized gas chromatography to determine the purity on their final product by obtaining chromatograms of four samples: methylene chloride (used to extract the crude product from the reaction mixture); methylene chloride and methanol; methylene chloride, methanol and methyl salicylate; and lastly their product. The basic components of a gas chromatograph and basic operating principles were discussed in class, so that students would not view the instrument as just another black-box. This project helped students appreciate the important link between molecular structure and properties such as boiling points and partitioning between solvents (phases).
The Perkin Elmer Paragon 500 FTIR was used in the spring semester, during introduction to organic and biochemistry. The FTIR was used to identify simple organic unknowns using their IR spectra and an abbreviated table of organic functional group frequencies. In prelab lectures, students were introduced to the chemistry of several functional groups and strategies for using group IR absorptions to elucidate molecular structure. In the methyl salicylate synthesis project, students obtained IR spectra of the methyl salicylate and methanol, and were asked to verify that an esterification reaction had occurred by identifying absorptions in the methanol spectrum, and hence groups in methanol, not present in methyl salicylate, and groups present in methyl salicylate not present inmethanol. This experience again reinforced the important link between molecular structure and molecular properties.
The equipment purchased with HHMI funds was put to immediate use in the Neuroscience /Psychology Department. This year the equipment was used primarily in Professor Andrew Niemiecs course Laboratory in Biopsychology (PSYC 61). All four students enrolled in this course are women. The computerized physiological recording devices were used in various lab exercises to give the students firsthand experience recording electrophysiological responses such as the electrocardiogram (EKG), the electromyograph (EMG), the electroencephalogram (EEG), and evoked potentials (EPs). The sensory workstations were used to make psychophysical and psychoacoustic measurements in the course exercises while the computers that control the workstations were also used to run software that simulated electrophysiological recording from single neurons in the auditory nerve. This equipment served to give students in this course significant hands-on experience in making measurements that ranged from neurophysiological studies of single cells in a sensory system to compound action potentials recorded from neuromuscular junctions to behavioral responses of the entire organism.
In addition to its use in Professor Niemiecs laboratory course, some of the equipment was also used by neuroscience/psychology students conducting independent research under the supervision of Professor Jon Williams. For example, the computerized behavior analysis chambers were used in two independent research projects this year. The first project, conducted by Catherine Baez, a psychology major who is also completing a neuroscience concentration, involved investigating the effects of predator odors as natural stressors for rats. The second project, conducted by Michael Zierhut, a synoptic major in neurobiology, involved investigating the role of the rats vomeronasal system in the detection of pheromones after the rats olfactory system had been lesioned with zinc sulfate.
Next year, this equipment will also be used in two new courses that are currently under development: Introductory Methods in Neuroscience (NEUR 13) and Introductory Methods in Biopsychology (PSYC 2). These introductory methods courses will teach first-year students the basic skills necessary for conducting research in the areas of neuroscience/biopsychology. The students in these courses will receive significant firsthand experience with a number of concepts and measurement techniques used in neuroscience/biopsychology. Of course we will continue to use the equipment in independent research projects, where applicable, and we are in the process of developing additional laboratory courses in both the neuroscience concentration and the psychology department (e.g. Research Methods in Sensory Systems).
The Apparatus for the Photoelectric Effect Experiment was chosen by TimothySullivan, based on two weeks evaluating various methods of doing this basic experiment in atomic physics. When PASCO came out with a new version of this apparatus, we were in a position to compare it with his findings, liked it, and bought eight copies for the introductory laboratory. Fifty students in Physics 11, 12 (Classical and Modern Physics), and Physics 16 (Modern Physics) did the experiment in March 1997, and the large majority of them got results that were both accurate and precise. They were able to get a good deal more data than were possible with the home-built apparatus previously used, and they experienced more clearly an important principle of physics.
The Apparatus for Nuclear Counting Experiments arrived this fall in time to be used in an experiment in the required senior-level experimental physics course (Physics 45) on gamma-ray spectroscopy. Four students used the apparatus. Next year this apparatus will also be used for experiments on nuclear detectors and coincidence counting, and ten students will use it.
The fifty students in the two introductory courses did an experiment toward the end of the second semester on gamma-ray spectroscopy using this apparatus. Very few first year students ever do this experiment, but we feel that it is of considerable advantage to have our students work with some of the basic tools of nuclear medicine early in their careers.
c. Faculty Development
A major need in Chemistry has been to hire a second organic chemist whose area of concentration relates to biochemistry and molecular biology. A search was conducted successfully for a bioorganic chemist. We hired Elizabeth Ottinger, who will join the faculty this fall. Ottinger will receive $95,000 in startup costs from HHMI, and Kenyon will provide one course release time to encourage her to implement a research program involving students.
The Mathematics Department has purchased one of the two advanced workstations to be used for independent study projects and undergraduate research projects ($4,500). The new Compaq Workstation was installed just in time to be put to use for end of the semester work and summer science research projects. The new system is now used constantly by students of math.
This coming summer, we plan to install the twenty-six station math computing lab for use by all math classes. The computer lab will help meet an important need identified in our Pre-Program Evaluation.
Kenyon offers an important resource for the Mount Vernon and Knox County Schools, in a rural economically disadvantaged community. Following the recommendation of the HHMI reviewers of our grant, we added two middle-school teachers to our Steering Committee, Lori Beach and Al Helser, both of whom contributed to this section of our report.
Equipment for Middle School Laboratories
The middle school is a particularly critical year for science education, because this is when students make decisions as to whether they will take college-preparatory science coursesin high school. In the first year of our HHMI grant, we assisted teachers to begin purchaseof badly needed equipment items to serve the laboratory component of their curriculum.
The sixth grade classes now have a mobile laboratory cart to use in the regular classroom. This cart has a sink, hand pump for water, a mirror/chalkboard, and locking supply drawers. Recently it was used for an experiment testing acids and bases. The teacher was thrilled to have an area to set up the materials without having to remove other displays, as well as to have the opportunity for immediate clean-up.
An Iomega Zip drive has been purchased to enable teachers to relieve memory space on their classroom computers by using zip disks to store lab projects which contain graphics that use large amounts of memory. One such project was created on a River Study (part of the study was done at the Kenyon Center for Environmental Studies). The two participating classes were divided into eight groups which produced Hyperstudio portfolios of about 5 MB each. In order to share this project with any other classes, the documents can only be transferred via a Zip disk, and can be saved for future use and reference there as well.
Hands-on materials such as rock and mineral sets have also been acquired with this grant money. The teachers report that It is wonderful to be able to supplement the basic learning materials in this way. They are looking forward to completing their equipment purchases after the new textbooks are adopted this summer.
Kenyon Student Volunteers in Middle School Classes
An innovative approach is our planned interdisciplinary course, Science Laboratory Workshop, in which Kenyon students will assist Middle School teachers to devise and implement science laboratory exercises in their classes. This course has been scheduled for next spring, taught by Joan Slonczewski and Dudley Thomas.
In the meantime, Slonczewski tested out the concept in her Microbiology Lab Course, bringing Kenyon student volunteers to the seventh grade classroom of Al Helser, to assist in microscopy. The class had studied the protist kingdom, so the Kenyon students brought protists and some invertebrates, such as algae, hydra, planaria, and Daphnia. The seventh graders were to draw and answer a few questions on these organisms as they visited different lab stations around the room. With four adults in the lab, all stations could be supplied with good specimens and students needing assistance could be helped. The teacher reported it was a rewarding day for his students, and also for the Kenyon students who got a feel for what it is like to work with middle school students. This type of lab is very hard for a teacher to do alone. The teachers are looking forward to more lab connections next year.
Computers for Middle School and the SCAP Minority Outreach Summer Program
Kenyon has long experience with the SCAP minority summer program, in which minority students from disadvantaged backgrounds spend two weeks on campus with intensive work in writing and science. The SCAP director, Dudley Thomas, selected ten semi-portable computers for use of this program, starting in June.
Meanwhile, a Middle School eighth grade class has already used these computers to run Flower Breeder, an outstanding Mendelian genetics tutorial program. The teacher, Fred Dean, was impressed to see how rapidly the students picked up basic principles of inheritance by use of this program. He is looking forward to having the computers available for his classroom in the fall.
Teacher Summer Research Fellowships
Our grant proposed inviting teachers from the high schools and middle schools of Mount Vernon and Knox County to apply for Summer Research Fellowships at Kenyon, modeled after the summer fellowships of Kenyon students. Originally, this program was to be implemented during the second year of the grant. The teacher members of the Steering Committee, however, recommended starting the fellowships this summer. We found a way to do this by postponing some equipment purchases to the second year.
For this summer, two applicants were accepted from teachers at the Mount Vernon High School. Bonnie Schutte will study regulation of protein expression in bacteria, with Joan Slonczewski, joining three Kenyon students supported by Slonczewskis research grant from NSF. Paul Arnold will conduct research in analytical chemistry, with Rosemary Marusak, whose work is supported by Research Corporation.