The project, a collaborative effort among Smith College, Holyoke Community College and Mount Holyoke College, is building analytical competence in undergraduate geoscience students through use of Raman and FTIR spectrometers. Benchtop and portable spectrometers are being shared among the three colleges and others in the region, and are being used to develop, implement and assess innovative instructional modules through which students acquire mastery via hands-on, investigative learning. By analyzing unknown minerals and other materials, synthesizing data and predictions, and evaluating experimental results, students are learning not only geological content, but also how to use chemical analyses to solve relevant problems.
The spectroscopic knowledge and analytical competencies that are targeted in the curriculum development are in increasing demand by the nation's geoscience workforce. The project is providing a direct benefit in broadening participation in the geosciences through its engagement with two women's colleges and a community college that serves a diverse population of non-traditional and first-generation college students. Project personnel are also disseminating their approach and curriculum modules beyond the region through a web portal, video postings, and hands-on workshops at national conferences.