Craft-based IGERT experiment in graduate macromolecular studies

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The Teaching Craft for Macromolecular Creativity project at Louisiana State University is an experiment in graduate polymer education. With support from the National Science Foundation's Division of Graduate Education, in the form of an IGERT grant, it has affected 36 Ph.D.-intending graduate students from 6 departments using an Apprentice-Artisan-Craftsperson training ladder adapted from the trade arts. After research-driven lecture and lab-based coursework in the synthesis, characterization, processing, and theory of macromolecules, recruits joined an interdisciplinary team including other students, faculty, and off-campus participants. Based on merit, students were elected as Apprentices, who worked side by side at the bench with professors and other on- or off-campus research craftspersons for 2-6 weeks. Upon completion of a written report and advancement to Ph.D. candidacy, Apprentices became Artisans. Among other privileges and responsibilities, Artisans were permitted to write minigrants to explore original ideas. Successful Artisans were declared Craftspersons and became eligible for up to six months of predoc at another site, often international. The core curriculum continued to evolve for an interdisciplinary clientele to emphasize team study and cohort teaching opportunities. Other features included training in ethics and group dynamics, community service, student self-government, leadership and formative/summative evaluation. Successes and shortcomings of this approach will be discussed in the dual contexts of creating a student-driven, self-sustaining program and exploring new models of graduate training.

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Polymer Reviews

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