Introduction: The development of affordable, practical, and real-life hands-on nanotechnology labs for biomedical engineering students is challenging. Here, we present a three-part series of lab experiments that comprise synthesis, characterization, and biomedical application of gold nanoparticles in a logical and sequential order. These experiences were designed as part of a 1 credit hour lab course to complement a traditional style upper-level 3 credit hour “lecture” course titled “Biomedical Micro- Nanotechnology”. Synchronization of lecture and lab allows students to directly apply their theoretical knowledge to understand and conduct experiments in biomedical nanotechnology. Participation in the lab course is optional, and all students in the lab course were also enrolled in the traditional style course.
Materials and Methods: Students carry out hands-on experiments to synthesize, modify, and apply gold nanoparticles to solve problems in a biomedical context. They are required to write hypotheses, develop aspects of the experimental plans, analyze data, and draw conclusions from the data.
Assessment of learning was primarily evaluated based on the pre-defined learning objectives related to each of the three lab sequences and student performance on a final exam in the lecture course. The effectiveness of the lab sequence was evaluated in both a qualitative and quantitative manner. The performance of students in the lab course (n=21) can be compared to performance of a control group of students who did not opt into the lab course (n=7) and only attended the traditional lecture course. Assessment of learning was evaluated in three ways: 1) self-perceived accomplishment of lab learning objectives reported by students in the lab course through an anonymous survey, 2) instructor evaluation of learning objectives assessed via lab reports, and 3) student performance on the final exam in the traditional style course, ~10 weeks after the lab experiences concluded. The third assessment technique allows us to evaluate the effect of participating in the lab course, as performance of students that are enrolled in the traditional course but not the lab course can serve as a control.
Results and Discussion: The assessment of these learning objectives indicates that at least 80% of students had satisfactory or exceptional performance on all learning objectives as assessed by an instructor via lab notebook submissions. We also asked students about their own perceived accomplishment of learning objectives, which revealed they believe the labs enhanced their learning of the lecture content. Finally, students in the lab had ~9% increase in percent correct answers in the lecture course’s final exam, on questions related to lab topics.
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