Research Projects

Effect of self-explaining on chemistry conceptual learning

The purpose of this project is to investigate the development of self-explaining as a skill using a multiple-activity design. Findings from the project will shed light into the applicability of self-explaining as an active component of chemistry learning. Research on the self-explaining effect has shown that careful design of activities can lead to authentic learning in the sciences. However, little direct evidence exists that self-explaining (as a learning strategy) provides a useful function in the way(s) students learn chemistry at the college level. This project comes to fill that void in knowledge by investigating the self-explaining effect in the natural environment of introductory chemistry courses. For this purpose, this project focuses on the effect of self-explaining on students’ conceptual understanding and skill development, via multiple in-class activities completed during the chemistry course. The in-class activities consist of chemistry problems that present students with experimental data for them to develop their self-explaining skill. This approach will maintain the outcomes of the project truthful to the undergraduates’ experience in introductory chemistry courses. The outcomes of this project will provide a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of self-explaining in introductory chemistry, thus contributing to the improvement of undergraduate chemistry education.

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Reformed chemistry laboratories: cooperative and project-based experimentation

The goal of this project is to design an academic environment that introduces students to authentic experimental learning opportunities in the chemistry laboratory. In this environment, learners will be able to experiment and not simply go through the motions of reproducing procedures in verification-like laboratory activities. The ultimate purpose is to advance the potential of laboratory education in achieving desired goals such as those put forth by the National Research Council. The curricular reform proposed is aligned with current principles of instructional design and incorporates approaches and results from successful programs already in place at other institutions (i.e., Clemson University, University of South Florida). Furthermore, this project responds to calls by expert and authoritative advising entities and agencies (National Research Council, American Association for the Advancement of Science) to transform laboratory instruction and realize its pedagogical potential. This project will produce a series of laboratory experiences that can be adapted by other higher education institutions interested in reforming their chemistry laboratories, thus contributing to the overall improvement of undergraduate chemistry education.

Carbon nano-onions (CNOs): synthesis and surface modification for environmental remediation applications

In this project, CNOs are used for the removal of organic molecules from water solutions. Currently activated carbon is used due to its sorption properties for hydrophobic/lipophilic contaminants, like organic dyes and other contaminants of concern considering their bioaccumulation potential (i.e., triclosan–an antimicrobial component in personal care products such as toothpaste). Recent studies promote the use of activated carbon as an effective adsorbent of hydrophobic contaminants, even when such molecules are present at low concentrations. This is attributed to the high surface area and porosity of the carbon substrate. The problem with utilizing activated carbon is the later removal of the small particles from the treated water. To circumvent the problem, novel approaches have focused on functionalizing the activated carbon with magnetic materials, like magnetite Fe3O4 nanoparticles. In this way, the resulting material is an effective adsorbent and also susceptible to magnetic removal from the treated water solution. In the case of CNOs, the quasi-spherical shape (maximized surface area) of the material and its small size (i.e., 20 – 30 nm in diameter) makes it a promising candidate as adsorbent of chemical pollutants. This is because the non-polar surface of the CNOs can cause the hydrophobic/lipophilic contaminants to cluster around them, concentrating them into a large particle which could be easily separated from the water solution by filtration or decantation. Also, the incorporation of magnetite nanoparticles into the surface of the CNOs can lead to a composite having magnetic properties, thus facilitating its extraction via magnetic removal.

FUNDED GRANTS

Principal Investigator: College of Science and Engineering Technology - Summer Research Award - Carbon nano-onions (CNOs): synthesis and surface modification for environmental remediation applications, Sam Houston State University, 2019. Funding: $2,500.

Principal Investigator: SHSU Individual Scholarship Internal Grant - Reformed chemistry laboratories: cooperative and project-based experimentation, Sam Houston State University, 2019 – 2020. Funding: $5,000.

Principal Investigator: Teaching Innovation Grants (TIGs) - Implementation of self-explaining-based learning in Chemical Quantitative Analysis: improving conceptual understanding and scientific skills via active learning and performance expectations, Sam Houston State University, 2018 – 2019. Funding: $5,400.

Principal Investigator: College of Science and Engineering Technology - Summer Research Award - Design of novel lab experiences for Organic Chemistry at SHSU, Sam Houston State University, 2018. Funding: $2,500.

Principal Investigator: Teaching Innovation Grants (TIGs) - Redesign of course, instruction and assessment of chemical kinetics in General Chemistry II: improving student learning via active, practice-oriented performance expectations, Sam Houston State University, 2017 – 2018. Funding: $6,000.

Educational Assessment Specialist – Senior Personnel: “A Comprehensive Model for Improving the Success of STEM Majors through the STEM Center.” DUE - IUSE-Developmen & Implem Institut & Comm Transform, 2017-2020. Funding: $2,028,798.