Building analytical competence for geoscience students through use of Raman spectroscopy

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Courtesy of Courtesy of B&W Tek


Traditionally, a geologist's analytical toolkit consisted of a hand lens, rock hammer, acid bottle, magnet, and perhaps a polarizing light microscope back in the laboratory. In geoscience professions, these tools are increasingly being supplemented by field and laboratory instrumentation that utilizes spectroscopy. The availability of newly-developed, lower-priced spectroscopic instrumentation and the attention of geoscientists to problems (e.g. nanogeosci-ence, biomineralogy, mineral physics) that cannot be addressed by classical mineralogical techniques are requiring a shift in the skill sets needed by our students. Effective use of spectroscopic tools can pose problems for geoscicnces students in an era when chemistry courses are disappearing from geology/earth science/environmental science major requirements at institutions already stretched thin to cover the breadth of the geoscicnces alone. To analyze critically the data collected, students must become conversant in the language of chemistry and the fundamental characteristics of atoms that inform various spectroscopic methods. Learning outcomes for geoscience departments aie increasingly articulating this need for analytical competence. We report here results of a project promoting analytical competence in introductory and mineralogy classes in geology curricula through use of spectroscopic tools including Raman spectroscopy.

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