STEM courses on the rise in honors program

Dr. Michael Jabot in the Classroom, Honors Program, STEM, Molecular Genetics Major, Biology Major, Biochemistry Major, Chemistry Major, Teen Education Major, Physics Major, Mathematics Major

SUNY Professor Emeritus Michael Jabot discusses biodiversity, a topic of EDU 226: Earth as a System, which examines how other Earth systems contribute to biodiversity and how changes in the health of those other systems affect biodiversity as a whole.

There are more science, technology, engineering, and math honors courses than ever before at SUNY Fredonia — a far cry from the spring semester of 2016, when honors courses in STEM disciplines were primarily limited to general graduate school education. college basis.

Today, Honors students can choose from three Honors STEM courses – PHYS 152: Observing the Sky, taught by Dr. Michael Dunham; STAT 260: Introduction to Data Science, taught by SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Joseph Straight; and EDU 226: Earth as a System, taught by SUNY Professor Emeritus Michael Jabot.

Three additional Honors STEM courses will be offered in Spring 2023: BIOL 109: Biology, Health, and Medicine, taught by Dr. Scott Ferguson; PHY 205: Science and Civilization, taught by Dr. Justin Conroy; and HONR 304: Biodiversity, taught by Dr. Thomas Hegna.

“The increase was intentional, to reflect the demographics of honors students. Today, more than 70 students majoring in a STEM field represent 16% of all honors students. – Dr. Natalie Gerber

“The increase [in STEM Honors courses] was intentional to reflect the demographics of honors students. Today, more than 70 students majoring in a STEM field represent 16% of all students in the Honors program,” said Natalie Gerber, a professor in the Department of English who also leads the Honors program.

The nearly 50 students majoring in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, molecular genetics, and teen education: Biology accounts for the largest share of students majoring in a STEM field. There are also many math majors within honors.

At least two professors – SUNY Professor Emeritus Ted Lee and Dr. Jabot – have taught three different honors courses, and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry lecturer Krista Bellis has taught CHEM 113: Chemistry and the Environment, on multiple occasions since 2018 The online format of this course has proven particularly appealing to honors students who have very busy class schedules, Dr. Gerber noted.

Jabot has also taught HONR 306: Digital Storytelling, Spring 2022, HONR 227: Natural Science Sustainable Development Spring 2017; and EDU 226: Earth as a System, in fall 2021. This is how Jabot introduced HONR 306: Digital Storytelling ahead of the spring 2022 semester.

The timely topic of COVID-19 was the focus of a spring 2022 course, HONR 304: Pandemic Health, taught by the former chair of the biology department and Professor Lee, who previously taught two other honors courses: BIOL 109: Biology, Health, and Medicine, in Spring 2020 and HONR 227: Natural Sciences: From Aspirin to Viagra, in Fall 2016.

“These are recent selections and are not always offered. They demonstrate that Honors is increasing its courses in STEM,” Gerber said.

“Specialist faculty are free to choose how to make their courses distinctive in their disciplines,” Gerber explained, “by adding more hands-on projects, more student discussion-based learning, or more rigorous assignments.”

Honors program courses offer faculty the opportunity “to teach the material closest and most dear to their own research,” Gerber said.

Dr. Conroy and acting chair of the Department of Biology William Brown have made it a point to work with the specialist program, Gerber said. They and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Andy Karafa have been very supportive of honors courses branching out into different disciplines, Gerber said. She also noted that Academic Affairs has also offered significant support, allowing honors to diversify their program offerings.

A provision of the honors program, called a learning contract, allows students to replace part of the program requirements with an applied learning experience which may include directed study, field experience, learning assistantship, internship, a service-learning project and/or volunteering. project, according to the honors program website. Other opportunities include study abroad programs, dissertations, advanced learning projects, and independent research.

A member of the Honors Program Advisory Board, Lee supports applied learning experiences and Honduras/study abroad as options for Honors Program learning contracts.

A growing number of students have designated applied learning experiences involving directed research to replace a specialized course.

Zach Yek, a senior physics student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and a Keeper of the Dream scholar, completed an astronomy research project in 2020, for PHYS 469: Directed Research, which resulted in an article, “Detection of a Disc Surrounding the Variably Accreting Young Star HBC722”, published in the journal Research Notes of the AAS (American Astronomical Society). Yek received the Undergraduate Student Award from the Astronomical Society of New York for the best research of an undergraduate student in New York State.

The paper, co-authored by Yek, Dunham and six other authors, reported the detection of a disc of material surrounding a young star currently experiencing a dramatic burst in brightness, representing a temporary burst of material accretion on the planet. ‘star.

Joseph Vargas, also a senior graduate in physics, from Rochester, NY, also completed a PHYS 469 directed research project with Dunham. Mr. Vargas’ project was to analyze protostellar data collected during a space survey of the molecular cloud of Perseus. After Vargas hand-measured the aperture angle of the protostellar outflows by hand for various collected images, a series of statistical tests were performed to ensure that the measurements were similar to Dunham’s, Vargas explained. .

Since an unknown amount of material from the star’s core is ejected in these symmetrical conical jets, the study can help understand how stars get their final mass.

Vargas described this method of comparison in an article summarizing Dunham’s results; the document could be published next year.

Two students majoring in molecular genetics with minors in chemistry—Raven Crossett, from Horseheads, and Gabrielle Cruz from Erie, Pennsylvania—have been nominated for Goldwater Scholarships, highly competitive, merit-based awards offered to students who prepare for a career in mathematics, natural sciences or engineering.

“Honors has amplified its STEM offerings, and STEM Honors students are doing amazing things,” Gerber said.

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