FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (9/03)
Search for Real Solutions
Physics professor Dr. Juan Rodriguez (center) works with Brandi Dunn of Milwaukee, Wis., and Jeff Disko of Birmingham, Ala., on a grant-funded project that pairs Centenary students with actual research needs in the community. Last semester, the Disko-Dunn research team, one of several student research teams, developed a device to measure size changes in the paws of mice used for arthritis research.
SHREVEPORT, LA—Students in the advanced physicslaboratory at Centenary are learning about the process of building scientific apparatus in a whole new way.
Rather than duplicating experiments that have been done by others, students are accepting and often conquering the challenge of solving actual and local research questions. They are aided in doing so via “A Community Development Approach to an Advanced Physics Laboratory,” a grant co-funded by the Louisiana Board of Regents and the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana.
For students Brandi Dunn and Jeff Disko the challenge came from Dr. Sandra Roerig, a professor of pharmacology and dean of research at the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport: What could be developed to measure the tiny changes in paw sizes of mice used in studies testing arthritis medicines and inflammation?
The two students, guided by Physics professor Dr. Juan Rodriguez, developed a device that combines a plastic viewing area, a digital camera and a laptop computer to allow for a stress-free measurement. It took half a dozen prototypes to reach a workable solution, but each one was real hands-on learning experience.
“It’s been kind of fun brainstorming and trying to come up with a solution,” Disko said. “We’re not just reproducing results that someone else has already done.”
“It has helped me understand a lot more about how research works,” Dunn added.
“The approach Dr. Rodriguez developed for the Advanced Physics Laboratory is truly innovative in the way it enhances the educational experience of his students,” Dean Roerig said. “At the same time, students developed a device of practical value for my research laboratory. This is certainly a ‘win/win’ situation.”
Now that the two students, who graduated in May, have identified what steps to take to get the right measurements, other students or researchers will likely take further steps to refine and automate the contraption, Rodriguez said. Several other teams will be attacking different community issues each semester, allowing students to design their own experimental method.
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