Sarah Lawrence Science Faculty Merideth Frey and Colin Abernethy Awarded National Science Foundation Grant

Sarah Lawrence College science faculty members Merideth Frey (physics) and Colin Abernethy (chemistry) have been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Program to support their work in the field of science education focusing on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Partnering with Frey and Abernethy on the project is David Gosser, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The City College of New York (CCNY).

Physics faculty member Merideth Frey with students“Making Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Resonate with Students: Integrating Nuclear Magnetic Resonance into the Undergraduate Science Curriculum” is the title of the project supported by the NSF grant, which seeks to help improve undergraduate STEM education and carries with it an amount of $213,295 for the work conducted at Sarah Lawrence.

“Sarah Lawrence is the perfect environment to conduct educational research with undergraduate students,” said Frey, the principal investigator on the project. “It’s the kind of place where you can experiment and test out new pedagogical materials, where faculty have the freedom to shape their curriculum, and where students are really willing and eager to explore new ways of learning.”

Students will play a key role in the work done during the grant period. While Frey, Abernethy, and Gosser will spend this first year developing a curriculum of interdisciplinary course materials—25 modules on various topics, to be specific—in the summer of 2022 students from Sarah Lawrence and CCNY will participate in a summer research project testing out the modules and offering feedback. From there, the curriculum will be put into practice at both Sarah Lawrence and CCNY during the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years, with ongoing refinement based on continued student input.

The curriculum’s 25 modules will cover a wide range of topics, and will feature experiments and questions that students can discuss and work through. The materials are focused largely on fostering laboratory and experimental skills for undergraduate students. “We want to give our students the opportunity to experiment like scientists do,” said Frey. “These modules will guide them through the process of experimentation, leading students through the thought processes needed to understand various concepts.”

One of Sarah Lawrence's two benchtop MNR spectrometersTheory will meet practice in the Sarah Lawrence science labs, as students will also get to work hands on with the College’s two benchtop nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers. A key component of this grant-funded project is introducing the field of nuclear magnetic resonance—which is often relegated to more advanced level coursework in many science programs—to more students, from those just entering college to those fully entrenched in a scientific course of study.

The final months of the grant period will see Frey, Abernethy, and Gosser disseminating their materials and research findings to colleagues, making the curriculum freely available for use by faculty at colleges around the world.

“This project will not only enhance the science curriculum at Sarah Lawrence and the experience of our students, it will be something that faculty at all types of colleges and universities can integrate into their programs,” said Frey. “It’s all about enhancing STEM education at the undergraduate level. That’s a goal we share with the NSF, and we’re grateful for their support.”

About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.