Integrating a Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) by Expanding the use of Online Remote Electron Microscopy in the Classroom: An NSF Sponsored Tues Opportunity

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This project involves scaling-up remote instrumentation use of an electron microprobe analyzer (EPMA) at the Florida Center for Analytical Electron Microscopy (FCAEM; This allows for the transformation of courses into one that involves a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE). CUREs have the ability to improve students’ critical thinking, problem solving, and intellectual independence. CUREs also increase retention in STEM disciplines. This CURE has engaged 42 students over two semester at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). This was done by investigating the chemical composition of plagioclase feldspar via remote use of the EPMA in an upper division elective. Students selected, with minor guidance, suitable plagioclase feldspar in a class meeting. During another class meeting, the students remotely operated the EPMA at FCAEM. The students ran the EPMA with minor guidance, exploring and gaining confidence as their exposure to the EPMA progressed. They spent approximately 5 hours using the EPMA. Students took electron backscatter images of their samples, energy-dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) their samples, and then chemically analyzed the plagioclase feldspar using the wavelength-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (WDS). The students then calculated the feldspar mineral formulas and anthorite (An), albite (Ab), and orthoclase (Or) % for the data [student generated e.g., (Na0.558Ca0.430K0.005Sr0.003)(Si2.569Al1.425Fe0.003)O8]. The students were asked to synthesis the feldspar data as a take-home assignment. They explored the coupled ionic substitution found in plagioclase feldspar and how plagioclase feldspar composition related to the overall magmatic composition of the sample. To this date, this project has resulted in 8 FGCU students conducting additional independent research via remote use of the FCAEM EPMA. Surveying suggests this CURE has improved the students’ identity as scientists, given them confidence in their scientific abilities, and has influenced their decision to conduct more research. This demonstrates that integration of a CURE via remote use of an EPMA is easy to actualize at any college or university.

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Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 48, issue 3, no. 24-5