Cluster Programs

Current Projects

Authentic Research in Microbiology
Project goal: To train students in modern microbiology/bacteriology/molecular techniques, prepare them for a career in biotechnology/academia/medical/professional schools.

Description: This course takes advantage of the hands-on/minds-on approach that takes place over a full semester and often extends into the following semester and/or summer. Seeking students with expertise/interest from all fields of biology, environmental biology, chemistry, nursing, and health and human performance, students engage in inquiry-based original research relevant to human infectious disease and environmental impacts, and thus is an example of the cluster-based approach. Students are brought up to speed in the first couple of weeks on the relevant background information, and then are immediately immersed in research/experimental design, with data collection and preparation for presentation over the last two thirds of the semester. Data collected are presented at various venues including, but not limited to, PSU Showcase, Microbiology and Molecular Pathogenesis Program at Dartmouth Meetings, NH-INBRE meetings, other local and international conferences.

External Partners: UNH Center for Genome Studies; Molecular Biology Core Facility – Dartmouth; NH INBRE

Authentic research in Neurobiology

Project goal: to complete the work in order to develop and present a poster that describes new findings.  The preliminary findings are often followed up by one or more team members who conduct Undergraduate research either during the academic year or during Early Spring or Summer.

Description: This is an “Open Lab” hands-on/minds-on semester long series of activities that exemplifies an aspect of the Cluster approach. Several areas in Neurobiology are introduced during the first two days of the semester in Neurobiology culminating in a focus on very recent studies. During these first few days, students ask probing questions of the professor and graduate students and seek to identify 6-8 “open questions” as a class. After some individual consideration, students team up (max size of 4; minimum of 2) to attempt to answer the question that most intrigues them over the course of the rest of the semester (maximum of 4 students/research question). Over the next several weeks, they develop a research proposal, order equipment and supplies, conduct the research, analyze the results, write up a scientific poster and present the poster to a wider audience (at a research conference).

Scientific Education Outreach to local schools

Project goal: One or more of the following:  To build rapport with local teachers encouraging them to seek us out with any questions they have; to build community pride in PSU; to ignite an interest in science; to bring the “Open Labs” concepts to surrounding schools and to introduce the “Cluster approach”;

Description: Approximately 2-3 times/year, students and/or professors bring educational materials into a local classroom and interact with the students and teachers. We have been engaged in these activities for years and plan to continue to pursue them.

Biomedical Research
Project goal: One or more of the following:  To gather develop and present a poster at a scientific conference that describes the new findings. To gather original data that will allow the development of new research proposals. To gather enough original data to write a scientific paper. Students often work in the lab for several semesters.

Description: This is an “Open Lab” hands-on/minds-on series of activities that exemplifies an aspect of the Cluster approach. Approximately 12-16 students work in the Chabot Lab in Boyd Hall each year conducting original research.  While much of the work is done over the summer, a significant portion is conducted during early spring and the fall and spring semesters. The investigations take place in the laboratory as well as in the field (generally in Great Bay, NH at the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory). Students are completely immersed in this experience and are involved in every stage from including hypothesis generation, ordering equipment and supplies, conducting the research, analyzing the results, writing up a scientific poster and presenting the poster to a wider audience (at a research conference). Stipends or course credit available.

External Partners: UNH Center for Genome Studies, UNH Confocal Microscopy center; UNH – Win Watson Lab;  UNH Jackson Estuarine Laboratory; NH INBRE.

Scientific outreach to persons interested in natural history studies in New England.
Project goal: To build report with natural history practitioners of New England who might find GIS/remote sensing useful in their field research programs.

Description: Once a year workshops dealing with the use of GIS/remote sensing in the environmental sciences is offered to professors and students (graduate and undergraduate) who attend the annual conference of the New England Natural History group.
Workshops have been offered for the past two conferences and one is proposed for the upcoming conference in Burlington, VT this spring.

External Partners: The New England Natural History Spring Conference (held at a variety of locations every spring)

Electrocardiogram Hypothesis testing
Project goal: Reinforcement and application of Scientific Inquiry course goals: critical thinking, reading, writing for purposes of scientific communication, conducting research, working with information technology, and collaborating with others
Gain facility with computers and computer peripherals, with simple number manipulation, with simple statistical techniques used in the sciences, and with the scientific method
Description: Over three weeks, students first learn how to use technological equipment to measure the effect of exercise on the cardiovascular system. Working with a partner, students develop a hypothesis as to what could impact the heart rate, how and why. They then design an experiment to test their hypothesis and perform the experiment. A final laboratory report is submitted. The report includes: the data collected, descriptive statistics, an analysis of their results, whether the results were statistically significant, research of similar cardiovascular physiological experiments, a discussion of experimental errors, suggestions for improving the experiment and a conclusion.

Contemplative Communities in the Undergraduate Experience

Description: This teaching-focused project serves a diversity of undergraduate students through the General Education program. We have developed a four-course bundle of General Education courses that could lead to a micro-credential in Contemplative Approaches. The faculty participants listed above have designed four new experimental courses integrating contemplative approaches and curiosity: Curiosity, Observation, and The Scientific Process (SIDI), Curiosity, Perspective, and Shakespeare (PPDI), Curiosity, Playfulness, and Creativity (CTDI), and Curiosity, Ethics, and the Public Good (SSDI). We are piloting these courses in Spring 2018; enrollments in are almost full as of early December 2017. We plan to rigorously assess these courses and intend to present lessons learned from our pilot run in the following academic year at a venue TBD

Developing a Long-Term Environmental Monitoring and Education (L-TEME) Site at the Beebe River (Campton/Sandwich, NH)

Description: This research and education focused project marks the initiation of long-term ecological and hydrologic monitoring program in the Beebe River watershed, a tributary to the Pemigewasset River. The research program will track freshwater and terrestrial ecological conditions and the movement patterns and genetics of eastern brook trout before and following a major restoration endeavor to restore natural flows to five south-facing Beebe River tributaries. Additionally, we are integrating data generated by this research into two existing PSU courses (BIDI 1220 Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity and ESP 2100 Introduction to Environmental Science and Policy) and presenting the results of this work in oral and written formats (past and ongoing venues). We anticipate that engaged faculty and students will contribute to the collection and analysis of a rich dataset through place-based scholarship for years to come. We plan to recruit additional faculty and students from across PSU clusters to become engaged at this site and to broaden its educational impact over time.
External Partners: NH Fish and Game, Pemi Chapter of Trout Unlimited, The Conservation Fund.

Previous Projects

Environmental internships: Spring 16 - Fall 17
Project goal: To link PSU undergrad intellectual “capital” with real, local needs and simultaneously provide real-world experiences for the students.

Description: Each intern “team” had a different theme: 1) A stellar internship quantifying and analyzing trail use for AMC, 2) The collection and analysis of data on pollinator-plant interactions in Colorado, 3)  An initial assessment of the public use value of lands in their jurisdiction guided by the New Hampton CC 4) The analysis and rendering back-logged data for the LPC with guidance from their staff and Len Reitsma.

External Partners: New Hampton Conservation Commission, Appalachian Mt. Club (AMC), Butterfly Pavilion, Loon Preservation Committee (LPC)

Joint offering of a permaculture and tropical biology course: Spring 17
Project goal: To expose PSU students to other cultural and ecosystem contexts while also demanding high rigor in their respective academic pursuits.

Description: Steve Whitman and Len Reitsma conceived the joint course having both been to the site, Maya Mt. Research Farm (MMRF) previously. Tropical Biology is an upper level bio course and the permaculture has been offered by Whitman world-wide. The two courses ran concurrently each with its own set of goals, but with the intent to have each group inform each other. the offering was during Spring Break, 2017.

Sauti - documentary viewing on Oct 10, 2017
Project goal: To expose our community to the inspirational lives and sustained hope of people from other cultures who have endured severe hardship in their youth.

Description: Galye Nosal, the producer of Sauti, came to campus and visited three classes. Dr. Woldemariam’s media studies class on Oct 10 at 3:30 was the first and Dr. Tilghman’s two FYS classes on Oct 11 were the other two. The showing was at 6:30 PM on Oct 10 and Ms. Nosal fielded questions and shared more in-depth perspectives after the showing. The documentary is about five young women refugees living in a refugee settlement in Uganda. Scores of students attended and the event was very mind-opening.

Co-sponsored by: Model UN Student Organization, the Women’s Studies Council, the Peace Wall Cluster Project, and the Peace and Social Justice Studies Council.