We describe a set of case-study driven labs for an upper-division biological physics course. These labs are motivated by case-studies and consist of inquiry-driven investigations of Brownian motion and optical-trapping experiments. Each lab incorporates two innovative educational techniques to drive the process and application aspects of scientific learning. Case studies are used to encourage students to think independently and apply the scientific method to a novel lab situation. Student input from this case study is then used to decide how to best do the measurement, guide the project and ultimately evaluate the success of the program. Where appropriate, visualization and simulation using VPython is used.Direct visualization of Brownian motion allows students to directly calculate Avogadro's number or the Boltzmann constant. Following case-study driven discussion, students use video microscopy to measure the motion of latex spheres in different viscosity fluids arrive at a good approximation of NA or kB. Optical trapping (laser tweezer) experiments allow students to investigate the consequences of 100-pN forces on small particles. The case study consists of a discussion of the Boltzmann distribution and equipartition theorem followed by a consideration of the shape of the potential. Students can then use video capture to measure the distribution of bead positions to determine the shape and depth of the trap. This work supported by NSF DUE-0536773.
American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts
- Pub Date:
- December 2006