First-Year Students Find Treasure in EUREKA �

Carnegie Mellon News Online Edition
In This Issue

Alumni Return to Campus for Homecoming

University Launches CyLab to Ensure Global Cybersecurity

Four Robots Inducted into New Robot Hall of Fame

Awards Honor Top Journalists

First-Year Students Find Treasure in EUREKA

Carnegie Mellon Leads Charge to Rewire America

University Enters Field of Hip-Hop Music

Red Team Preparing for Robotics Race Across the Desert

New House Receives LEED Certification

Kemnitzer Joins Design School as Nierenberg Chair

Language Educator Named Paul Mellon Professor

Researchers Work to Improve Reading, Science Education
-NSF Grant to Enhance Computerized Reading Tutor
-Psychology To Assist Middle School Science Education

News Briefs

Panel Discusses Role in Orthodoxy Culture

ETC Open House

HR Wins National Technology Award

West Coast Campus Celebrates Expansion

Heinz Student Wins Capitol Hill Fellowship

McGivney Inducted into Hispanic Hall of Fame

Stats Professor Chairs National Committee

ECE Professor Wins Pake Prize

University Honored by Clean Cities Program

Trick Tapped for New Leadership Role

Researchers Receive $2.5 Million for Bio-Molecular Imaging

Entries Sought for MLK Writing Awards

University Announces Partnership with Sri Lanka

Andrews Earns Award for Advances in Automated Reasoning

Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh CLO Host Musical Theater Legend

This Issue's Front Page
Carnegie Mellon News Home
Carnegie Mellon News Services Home Page

forensic sudy

First-Year Students Find Treasure in EUREKA

The Mellon College of Science (MCS) is offering a unique course for first-year students this semester. Dubbed "EUREKA: An Interdisciplinary Laboratory Experience," the course combines topics in biological sciences, physics, chemistry and mathematical sciences, and culminates in a forensic study to solve two fictitious murders.

The course, limited to 20 students to allow for greater interaction between faculty and students, is offered only to first-year MCS and Science and Humanities Scholars (SHS) students.

EUREKA consists of two components—lecture and laboratory work. Each week, a guest speaker delivers a lecture that highlights issues in interdisciplinary science. The first speaker, Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon, spoke on water quality problems arising from combined sewer overflows in Western Pennsylvania. In another guest lecture, Gordon Rule, associate professor of biological sciences, illustrated how scientists use physics, mathematics, biology and chemistry to explain the activity of green fluorescent protein (GFP), an essential component of modern cell biology research.

In the laboratory, students are divided into three groups, each working on their own separate research problems. The experiments chosen for the three research groups illustrate how similar investigative techniques can be used across scientific disciplines. Students rotate into different research groups over the course of the semester, allowing them to work on two of the three projects.

This semester, one research group is using modern biotechniques to study the genetic diversity of bacterial DNA that students have isolated from a variety of soil samples. These techniques are used in areas such as forensic criminal investigation and biomedical research.

A second research group is comparing the way light affects different dyes to explore how light can be used to gather structural and quantitative information about molecules. Capturing this information is crucial in developing substances like new drugs and industrial polymers.

The final group is exploring the conversion of light into heat or motion, the manner in which light affects the growth of some plants and the human eye's response to light. Such work is vital in developing new energy technologies and in understanding how living things interact with light.

In all three groups, students formulate their own research questions and devise their own strategies for arriving at answers, an unusual approach for a first-year course. A goal of the course is to heighten the students' scientific curiosity and to teach them to think like independent investigators and scientists.

"We think that EUREKA-like courses are relatively rare nationwide because most undergraduates do not conduct laboratory work in all four disciplines in their first year. By highlighting the interdisciplinary aspect of today's scientific world, the course prepares students for the complex challenges they will face as scientists," said Eric Grotzinger, associate dean of MCS undergraduate affairs and one of the developers of the course. "EUREKA challenges students to understand and solve problems through creative thinking rather than textbook learning," he added.

Didi Garrity, a EUREKA student interested in pursuing a career in biology, said that learning how different scientific disciplines intersect and complement one another is vital. "The bar is constantly being raised. You have to know what's going on in multiple scientific fields to be a successful scientist today."

As a finale to the course, students will use forensic techniques culled from their lab experience to solve the hypothetical murders of two professors in a fictitious Carnegie Mellon department. In this exercise, students will analyze tire tracks, paint, fingerprints, gun shot residue and DNA evidence to solve the crime. At the end of the semester, the students will hold a mock trial to present the evidence they have gathered.

In the future, Grotzinger hopes to extend the course to more students. "Right now, we're using this semester's course as a trial to see how it works and try out some ideas. Eventually, we'd like to increase the enrollment so that a greater number of first-year MCS and SHS students can take it."

David W. Platt


This Issue's Headlines || Carnegie Mellon News Home || Carnegie Mellon Home