Lake Superior State University
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Alum Success

Rachael graduated from Novi High School in Novi, Michigan. Rachael completed their senior research project by developing a method of detecting blastomyces dermatitidis in soil using PCR. This study lays the foundation for further studying blastomyces dermatitidis in soil samples from endemic regions in northern Michigan. Rachael is a member of the Alpha Chi Honor Society. Rachael recently was selected to go to MSU to train in qPCR techniques and assisted in their cow bacteroides project. Rachael plans to attend graduate school in the future to study biochemistry.

Rachael Cunningham
2010 Outstanding Graduate
Forensic Chemistry

College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences

School of Physical Sciences

Mission/Vision

The School of Physical Sciences is comprised of the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences and the Department of Geology and Physics

The School prepares physical and environmental scientists to address regional, state, national and global problems.  This is accomplished as we:

  • provide students with a sound foundation in the fundamentals of their selected scientific discipline
  • provide students with up-to-date research knowledge in their scientific discipline
  • provide students with opportunities to demonstrate growth and achievement in their selected scientific discipline

The Departments of the School of Physical Science are fully aligned and supportive of the goals of the College of Natural, Mathematical and Health Sciences.  The observable, measurable objectives, and the assessments by which we will measure our accomplishment of these goals include:

  1. GOAL: Develop skills in analysis, critical thinking, problem solving, decision-making and communication.
    OBJECTIVE: offer well-planned and pedagogically sound learning exercises in courses and in research projects.
    ASSESSMENT: annually examine and evaluate course syllabi, course assessment materials, and student research experiences.  

    Data Sets Needed: course syllabi (dean and chair), course assessment documents (dean and chair), compiled Student Research/Projects Experience evaluations (chair and assessment coordinator)

  2. GOAL: Prepare students for careers using their respective degrees and/or certificates.
    OBJECTIVE: offer coursework and training appropriate for employment related to departmental majors or minors.
    ASSESSMENT: require discipline-specific tests of content knowledge (e.g. standardized, nationally-normed tests where appropriate) and student reported employment at baccalaureate level.

    Data Sets Needed: Course assessment (dean and chair), Student Exit Survey (chair and assessment coordinator)

  3. GOAL: Prepare students for graduate schools and professional schools.
    OBJECTIVE: offer coursework and active learning experiences appropriate to the prerequisites of specified  post-baccalaureate programs.
    ASSESSMENT: tabulate student reported application and acceptance rates to post-baccalaureate programs.

    Data Sets Needed: Student Exit Survey (chair and assessment coordinator)

  4. GOAL: Provide hands-on experiences with modern instruments and equipment
    OBJECTIVE:  provide coursework and research opportunities that include opportunities to use equipment.
    ASSESSMENT: regularly inventory equipment and instrument usage records; plan for replacement, upgrades and new acquisitions.

    Data Sets Needed: Compiled Instrument Usage logs and Annual Instrumentation Report/Plan (chair and lab coordinator)

  5. GOAL: Provide highly skilled professors who are also respected scholars.
    OBJECTIVE: recruiting Ph.D.- prepared faculty, reward good teaching, encourage faculty to conduct funded  research and publish results, and encourage participation in professional organizations.
    ASSESSMENT: regularly review faculty engagement in scholarship, teaching and service

    Data Sets Needed: annual faculty HLC report form (dean and chair)

  6. GOAL: Provide unique learning opportunities.
    OBJECTIVE: utilize the unique environmental features of our region, state, continent and world; the facilities of the Crawford Hall of Science, including the Long Planetarium, the Geographic Information Systems lab and the Environmental Analysis Laboratory;  and the LSSU Aquatic Resource Laboratory.
    ASSESSMENT:  annually evaluate the usage and future needs of our specialized learning environments.
    Data Sets Needed: Add self-reporting question to the annual faculty HLC report regarding use of unique learning opportunities (chair and assessment coordinator)

Alternative Management of Anaerobic Landfill Bioreactors for Improved Energy Potential

Josh Kuzimski

Converting municipal solid waste to usable energy is an emergent and growing method for modern waste management. Through microbial facilitation of methanogenesis, methane gas can be extracted from landfill bioreactors to yield a significant amount of usable energy. The hypothesis was that a sufficient addition of sodium acetate to a controlled bioreactor environment would promote larger growth of methanogenic microbes and subsequently promote a greater amount of methane relative to a control (Madigan et al, 2003). In order to simulate an anaerobic bioreactor environment, the method for the study took place in modular sections to cover the design, construction and operation of laboratory scale bioreactors. Upon completion of bioreactor engineering, the biological and chemical components were scrutinized to match ideal conditions of a landfill. Methanosarcina was the chosen genus of the methanogen family to seed the bioreactors, and a total elemental analysis of the waste source was analyzed to approximate methane yield. Over 557 hours, each bioreactor produced approximately 1.3 liters of biogas with less than 1% containing methane. Given analysis through gas chromatography, the bioreactors may have had stunted methane production do to presence of argon gas in the headspace and/or low C/N ratio of the waste. The presence of argon should have been replaced with nitrogen, and the waste source should have contained more carbon per nitrogen. The generation-3 design of constructed bioreactors was successful in containing all gasses, liquids, and solids internally, however did not produce enough methane biogas to accept or reject the hypothesis.

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