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Catawba Professors Build Chemistry and Art Connections in North Dakota

August 03, 2015

Category: Academics, Chemistry, Faculty, Students, Theatre Arts


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Two Catawba College faculty members recently attended a summer workshop at Bismarck State College in Bismarck, North Dakota. Chemistry Professor Dr. Carol Anne Miderski and Art Professor Ashley Pierce attended the workshop made possible through Chemistry Collaborations, Workshops and Communities of Scholars, otherwise known as CCWCS, as well as through a National Science Foundation grant.

CCWCS workshops are offered throughout the nation on a variety of niche chemistry topics. The workshop included lots of hands-on activities applicable to Catawba students of Chemistry and Visual Art. This fulfills one aim of CCWCS workshops, which is to provide participants with perspectives and content available for incorporation into teaching at the undergraduate level. 

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Bismarck is the capitol of North Dakota and Bismarck State College has grown by leaps and bounds in the past five years allowing ample classroom space and chemistry lab accommodations for a variety of esteemed workshop participants. Participants included organic chemists, inorganic chemists, physics professors, two analytical chemists, a printmaker, an art historian and three general art professors.

Dr. Miderski and Professor Pierce will be using what they learned by incorporating workshop elements into a chemistry and art honors program course available to Catawba College students in the spring semester of the 2015-16 academic year. The Aesthetic Alchemy honors course the two are creating will explore the connection between chemistry and art with a focus on the tactile arts of the American Southwest. They plan to incorporate chemistry in context throughout course lecture and discussion, as well as through the hands-on lab sections of the course. They will also incorporate workshop materials directly and indirectly as they continue developing and refining the course over the coming months.

Upon returning from the workshop, Pierce stated that she "appreciated the range of teaching styles within a wide variety of highly specific areas of expertise." Continuing education for educators is, she believes, among the very best investments, as it is an investment not just in the individual but also in many future generations of students and citizens.

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 Pierce

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 Miderski

"I dearly hope that educational opportunities of this sort can continue to be made available for myself and others in the future. The workshop was rigorous but helpful and information dense," Pierce shared.  She also expressed appreciation for course instructors Pat Hill of Millersville University, and Deb Simon of Whitman College as well as lecturer Erich Uffelman of Washington and Lee for much behind the scenes planning, study and preparation.

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Dr. Miderski shared Pierce's sentiments adding, "It was wonderful to have an opportunity to network with artists and scientists to share teaching methods and see how modern technologies can help us to learn about making, examining, and preserving works of art."

Catawba students who complete the Aesthetic Alchemy honors course will also present finished projects for public viewing in an Aesthetic Alchemy art exhibition toward the close of the 2016 spring semester.

Future courses through CCWCS and the National Science foundation available to those teaching at the undergraduate level include: Genetics and Molecular Biology, Active Learning in Organic Chemistry, Materials Science and Nanotechnology and more.