News | Stephen Chang
While recent times at Bethel have been filled with news of department cuts and employee layoffs, there have been moments of goodness in times with seemingly nothing to celebrate. In the physics department, two grants have been awarded. Keith Stein recieved a $143,557 grant and Nathan Lindquist recieved a $252,393 grant, both from the National Science Foundation.
Stein noted that in years past, physics students approached the lab experience through the traditional method that many of us have come to know – that is, “the recipe book.” The recipe book style of labs gives students a numbered, detailed explanation of how to perform the lab, and often times, as Stein remarked, “produces predictable results … [which are] cookie-cutter in nature.”
Instead of having his students follow typical recipe-based labs and produce “cookie-cutter” results, Stein wanted to see his students become more involved in the process.
“In the real world you will face open-ended problems that you need solutions to,” he said. Stein would instead like to see his students engage in projects, which he believes “encourage students to think both creatively and objectively,” as they are responsible for all aspects of the project, rather than just following a set of instructions.
"[Projects] are a real-world experience that involves problem solving … [and] produces an unknown solution, much like in the real world,” Stein said.
Luke Ness, a junior in the physics department, described his experience with the open-ended projects as positive, remarking, “I feel that it was a great experience because you have to think about the concepts, and how to want to apply them, which is a lot tougher conceptually, than following a boring cookie-cutter lab someone has already set out for you.”
While the process of implementing the changes from lab to project style learning in the physics department may take some time and effort, Stein is hopeful that his students will be able to take more away from the learning experience through the changes that will be made.
Lindquist's grant from NSF is entitled “Super-resolution plasmon-enhanced imaging and spectroscopy with patterened metallic surfaces and dynamic illumination.” The grant is for over three years and its main purpose is to support research to develop new methods of taking extremely high resolution chemical images of surfaces. These new images will help students to not only see what something looks like under the microscope but also what it is made out of.
Lindquist says that his students are already involved in this project, setting up lasers, building an atomic force microscope, making special surfaces with chemical patterns and re-configuring their microscope. He also stresses that students will now be able to attend national conferences, present and publish because of this grant. Lindquist believes that these are great opportunities for his students.
“I plan to involve this research directly in some of our advanced lab class projects and senior research projects. Plus, incorporating new and exciting science into any lecture is always a good idea,” Lindquist said.