Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 59–66 | Cite as

A Classroom-Based Distributed Workflow Initiative for the Early Involvement of Undergraduate Students in Scientific Research

  • Jon M. Friedrich


Engaging freshman and sophomore students in meaningful scientific research is challenging because of their developing skill set and their necessary time commitments to regular classwork. A project called the Chondrule Analysis Project was initiated to engage first- and second-year students in an initial research experience and also accomplish several scientific objectives. Students take part in a classroom-based, distributed workflow project that aims to produce high-quality data on the physical dimensions of chondrules, mm-sized spherules contained in primitive meteorites called chondrites. Such data are needed to test astrophysical models for processes acting in the early solar system. Student investigators process X-ray microtomography data with resources contained on portable USB flash drives distributed to them. Students are exposed to data collection, data quality evaluation, interpretation, and presentation of their results. Herein, an introduction to the scientific objectives is given along with an evolutionary history of the project. A description of the current implementation of the course is presented, and future directions are discussed. Anonymous student evaluations of the course are used to demonstrate the educational and engaging nature of the project. Finally, we reflect on the possible benefits of such a project for first- and second-year students within STEM disciplines.


Distributed workflow Undergraduate research Crowdsourcing X-ray microtomography Image processing 



The author would like to thank the Fordham College at Rose Hill Dean’s Office for support for this initiative. The Fund for Astrophysical Research provided financial support for the acquisition of computational resources used in the Chondrule Analysis Project. Drs. G. M. Florio (St. John’s University), D. S. Ebel (American Museum of Natural History), and J. Cuzzi (NASA Ames) are thanked for scientific and logistic discussions. Ms. K. Sherman and Mr. M. Perlowitz provided early assistance with developing the necessary computational workflow. K. Florio (Liberty Science Center, NJ) provided many insightful suggestions on an early version of the manuscript. Two anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments. The tomogram shown in Fig. 1 was collected during work performed at GeoSoilEnviroCARS (Sector 13), Advanced Photon Source (APS), Argonne National Laboratory. GeoSoilEnviroCARS is supported by the National Science Foundation—Earth Sciences (EAR-1128799), and Department of Energy—Geosciences (DE-FG02-94ER14466). Use of the Advanced Photon Source was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ChemistryFordham UniversityBronxUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA

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