The use of field, research, and practicum experiences in the atmospheric and related sciences within higher education's under-graduate curriculum is not new. However, how such experiences are employed and integrated according to pedagogical principles and methods while providing authentic research experiences to the students beyond the capstone are more critical questions. The framework of the “Meteorological Instrumentation” course offered at Kean University in the context of the environmental sciences demonstrates the integration of the theoretical principles of atmospheric and environmental sciences with application in the classroom through field, research, and practicum settings. The course is topically focused on an overarching research project posed as a current issue or problem to be resolved, and choreographed through creation and management of a “consulting classroom” that provides a professional setting for cross-training. This simulation of a consulting environment during the semester requires significant logistical planning as well as flexibility for adjustment of the course to be responsive to the students and their learning. The combined experiences provide authentic research and professional opportunities for students who may use content area from all of their science subject matter in an integrated and transdisciplinary manner. No formal assessment has been made as the methods and structures of the course have undergone iterative changes over time to develop and improve student learning outcomes. However, artifacts and anecdotal evidence over several course cycles suggest that students are achieving course learning objectives and effectively acquiring and improving their professional skill sets. The discussion presented herein offers a synthesis different from a capstone experience that is relevant to scientific communities, educators, and employers.
Using a consulting company framework in a meteorological instrumentation course, students actively engage in project management to determine and resolve client needs and problems comprehensively.
The inclusion of field projects, hands-on activities, and practicum experiences in science courses is neither new in the undergraduate curriculum nor unusual for students in the atmospheric sciences (Hindman 1993; Borys and Wetzel 1997; Changnon et al. 1999). There is ample evidence in the meteorological literature on the success of these approaches as applied to atmospheric and related sciences over the last few decades. The support for such preparation has deep historical roots in the discipline as Abbe (1909) stated that “students are ‘apt to give summaries of our present knowledge from some new points of view and to suggest or even demonstrate some advance in knowledge’ when accomplishing research work.” These are comparable to and compatible with modern day clarion calls regarding participation in the modalities of the “weather enterprise” (Pielke et al. 2003).
In such learning situations, an underlying theme of class projects is formulated with regard to research, operations, applications, or some combination and permutation of these, in order to enhance student understanding and applications of the content by providing specific contexts (Gallus et al. 2000; Allen et al. 1997). With the increased inclusion and expansion of the use of field projects and practicum experiences within courses, recommendation of additional disciplinary content and technology along with the incorporation of cross-disciplinary approaches becomes an essential component of the course design (Koval and Young 2001; Brown et al. 1999; Changnon 1998). This inherently demands that university faculty take advantage of integrated pedagogical approaches that are readily adapted to course and content, and eventually transform students into active producers of knowledge rather than passive consumers.
When applied in the classroom, these pedagogical methods can be realized in the context of a course (Yarger et al. 2000; Morss 2000), interpretation of subject matter (Randall and Wielicki 1997), modalities of content delivery (Knox and Croft 1997), or according to key skills sets such as communications (Schultz 2010). When properly linked and integrated, the combined goals of a course can provide students with a problem-based learning environment (Navarra et al. 1993; Bardwell 1991) commensurate with that found among employment opportunities in the sciences (Michaels et al. 2001). When aggregated synchronously and continuously in a course, these techniques comprise more than a capstone experience and provide an immersive environment beyond the traditional structure and delivery of the course. This provides a setting in which students must “take on” the role of a professional scientist as an apprentice and begin to think and act as a scientist while “doing” science in an operational manner.
PARADIGM SHIFTING IN EDUCATION.
Increasing complexity in the atmospheric sciences and related fields has created an escalating educational dilemma for several decades (Croft and Binkley 1997). Combined with continued employer calls for specific skills sets (Koch 1999), curricular upheaval has been observed. Several sessions of the “Meeting of the Heads and Chairs” at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) over time (Spangler 1996; Smith and Snow 1997) have historically been dedicated to these issues. The National Weather Service also recognized the increased difficulties in effectively integrating and expanding offerings for positions to satisfy job tasks at field offices given the changing nature of the discipline and career needs with regard to their preparation for employment (Dutton et al. 1998). The evolution of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) statement of recommendations with regard to bachelor's degree programs in the atmospheric sciences has slowly responded to these same issues, as articles repeatedly appear (AMS 1999,AMS 2010) and will continue to do so, particularly with regard to substantive changes in the discipline as well as in higher education.
The “Meteorological Instrumentation” course offered through the Kean University Earth Science B.S. degree program has evolved during the past decade toward improving student preparation according to content, skills sets, and career development in response to reducing the gap between the curriculums offered at academic institutions and the employer demands. The opportunities are intended to achieve realistic scientific goals and/or to meet specific societal needs and applications (Pielke 1997; Munn et al. 2000) to increase the awareness and appreciation of the atmospheric and environmental sciences (Changnon 1976). In tandem, they offer the student an apprenticeship unlike any internship or capstone experience while providing a broader skills set.
This paper presents the results of an interactive process that conceptualizes and merges traditional classroom approaches with field, research, and practicum experiences by focusing on course design and architecture (content, pedagogy, and logistics) with subsequent delivery and response (choreography, methods, and artifacts). Classes are designed to simulate realistic settings and to include authentic investigations and research projects that are purposely open ended. Example applications are provided in this paper with regard to the unique approach and design for the course for potential implementation in other courses through similar constructs. Furthermore, the information provided herein can be used for developing a foundation for direct and indirect assessment for similar course designs.
THE CONSULTING CLASSROOM.
The Meteorological Instrumentation course description is based on a traditional program listing that is consistent with the GS-1340 standards and is part of the Earth Science B.S. degree program curricular requirements under the meteorology option. While content is offered through lecture, approximately half is provided through assigned readings and other resources provided to students. It should be noted that the traditional lectures are as critical as the class projects for understanding contents and principles to complete assigned tasks. The course is topically focused on a field project each semester with practicum experiences and run as a “consulting classroom” that provides professional cross-training throughout the semester.
The students are given a brief “orientation” as recently hired employees of an environmental consulting firm. The purpose of the business is explained as inclusive of work focusing on client's interests and needs in various levels of environmental assessment and environmental impact statements. As “new hires” students are advised that their first few weeks will include various training sessions and workshops designed to prepare them for their first project work with the company. The simulation requires consideration of specific skills sets needed (or desired) by commercial, industrial, and private sectors of the community (seventh and eighth AMS Symposium on Education in 1998 and 2000, respectively; Wetzel et al. 1998) as distinguished from broadcast careers (Newman 1997; Houghton et al. 1996) or other media sectors. These are embedded within the course according to student learning outcomes that are linked with course activities.
The research and investigatory project for the newly hired pseudoconsultant is selected based on current and realistic environmental issues and is intended to provide both authentic research experiences (Quardokus et al. 2012) and professional development opportunities. The consulting-classroom environment provides significant opportunity for student development of communications and business skills as they receive traditional instruction in meteorological and environmental instrumentation during their training sessions. Thus, content and context are provided to establish a clear link between theoretical and practical aspects of the course with regard to the overall atmospheric and environmental sciences curriculum. The final field project requires completion of integrated assignments that culminate in the delivery of a technical report and presentation.
COURSE DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE.
The settings and logistics of the course may be likened to a disciplinary “floor plan” into which students enter “upon hire” by the pseudoconsulting company for completion of tasks and mastery of content and function relative to that issue (Fig. 1). Content, methods, and tools are selected to integrate across the curriculum completed by students, not simply according to knowledge content and coursework that represent completion of prerequisites and curricular requirements. The prerequisites for the course include an introductory course in meteorology and in precalculus so that students possess basic content and skills sets necessary for scientific investigation, exploration of the literature, and synthesis of concepts through problem-solving approaches. This creates an “inner” room context within which students will operate as integrated scientists when making environmental measurements. They must apply and demonstrate competency in their use of basic principles with the core theory and design of instrumentation to provide clear, unobstructed pathways and open connections among all disciplines.
In course preparation, these are considered in the context of the research project, which varies from year to year (e.g., in one case the design and implementation of an observational site under various scenarios; in another the assessment of remediated and nonremediated sites). The central consulting project discussed herein was to identify the environmental and/or anthropogenic factors causing the discoloration of Manasquan River waters in New Jersey and to recommend possible remediation and monitoring plans to assist the water treatment plant. In such curricular design, students are given the opportunities to explore the underlying relationships and interactions among different approaches and tools when presented with various scenarios such as how environmental change and responses are related to variations in temperature, pH, and moisture levels and their interdependence. Students are trained and provided opportunities to learn how to design and synthesize different types of instruments and laboratory testing (or other field and practicum tasks). They discover and develop cognizance of metadata in relation to observational science and datasets while learning the importance of sampling and replication.
From a pedagogical point of view, the above manifestations of the course are related to course planning based upon specific goals and learning objectives. Simulation of a consulting environment requires significant and consistent choreography, logistical planning, and flexibility for adjustment to the particular project in order to be responsive to students and their learning. Subsequently, the course concepts and themes should be linked to the structure of the class (Fig. 2) for translation into course elements for guided learning and investigation as well as for grading purposes. Course elements are thus designed and based upon class objectives and outcomes that can be used for direct mapping in assessment. The size of the class varies from year to year depending on registration but the instructors limit the enrollment under 16 to keep an efficient team-based project-oriented classroom environment. The class sizes ranged from 6 to 17 in the past.
Because of limitations imposed by a 15-week semester, the course must be immersive with scaffolding (Quardokus et al. 2012) and other pedagogical techniques to assist students in negotiating the necessarily steep learning curve of the course. It was a challenge in which they must repeatedly confront their own paradigm shifts with regard to learning and scientific study. For example, during the three lectures simulating the training sessions in a pseudoconsulting company, students were provided with 4 weeks' worth of lectures and laboratory exercises that would have been offered in an advanced aquatic chemistry course at a graduate level. The students were graded based on their performance on quantitative written exams, reports, and presentation. Even though the final report and presentation were submitted as a group project, individual sections were graded separately to assign the grades to students
Because of this rapid pace and professional level requirements, a variety of “safety nets” were provided in the course structure and within the activities and tasks. These included traditional approaches such as “write–submit–revise” and “experiment– repeat–change.” Other safety nets included extracurricular research activities focusing on the application of the fundamental sciences to environmental engineering and consulting practices, understanding the importance and the contribution of the basic science to society, and performing extensive data analysis from the simulated and hands-on laboratory experiments. These extracurricular activities were intended to assist students not only from a grading perspective but also from appreciating and connecting the scientific concepts to societal and entrepreneurial missions and visions.
Challenges to these approaches during the course include provision of adequate background material (e.g., redox chemistry), relation of content to students' curriculum already completed (e.g., hydrology), association to real-world factors (e.g., business and communications), provision of guidance to ensure cognitive development (e.g., field work) and critical thinking (e.g., laboratory work), and finally mentoring of students to “think outside the box” of the traditional lectures and laboratory sessions (e.g., to design experiments and create a statement of work). This “guide on the side” rather than “sage on a stage” approach in the classroom facilitates student learning and professional development. This approach of course design and architecture is often counter to their own expectations that the answer will be readily found “in the back of the book” or through an online search engine or be intuitively obvious. The consulting classroom requires attention to monitor individual students on an ad hoc basis to ensure they remain motivated throughout the semester and to encourage them when frustrated by failures they encounter during the learning process.
DELIVERY AND RESPONSE.
Instructional methods are presented in the context of the pseudoconsultant's daily operations in order to create and sustain the consulting framework within the classroom environment. Students are expected to perform a variety of tasks related to client requests for research studies and observations relevant to an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. A sequence of interrelated and overlapping professional development is comprised of three portions of the course (Fig. 3) that represent key paradigm shifts for the students. The three integral sections (or “shifts”) of the course include “training” (first 4 weeks), “application” (following 4 weeks), and “demonstration” (the remainder of the term or approximately 7 weeks).
During the training portion, students are initiated as a team of new hires for the company and given hands-on tasks to accomplish assignments during laboratory sessions. The very first day of class was designed to simulate the environment equivalent to “day 1” on the job. Students were requested to provide guidance and response to their client about a site assessment for an on-campus area before “close of business” (COB) through use of their existing content area and background skills as scientists with minimal instructions from their “manager” (the course instructor). The task anticipated that they would need to characterize the area physically and according to its attributes, characteristics, and “motions” (or internal dynamics) based on a site survey with observational equipment. In one case the students decided to utilize sling psychrometers to measure relative humidity and obtain dewpoint temperatures.
Although they took the reading from the instrument, they did not know how to interpret or make conclusions from the data that appeared to be inconsistent and inaccurate. Thus, they concluded that the instrument was not working properly and their measurements were useless. In other words, they approached the laboratory task as an assignment rather than a real investigation. Yet, in reality, their use of the equipment was in an environmental setting that requires alternate methods for use of the instrument. This quickly demonstrated to the students that they could no longer blindly take provided tools and textbook methods without questioning the validity, reliability, or circumstances of the use. This lesson taught the students about instrumentation and how to take the right approach in analytical methods instead of making a “black box” approach.
During a follow-up exercise, students were provided with one-page off icial memo from their manager requesting an environmental impact statement on local environmental and meteorological conditions. Unlike the usual class assignments or laboratory exercise, this particular assignment did not specify any expected outcomes or formats of the report or provide any deadlines. It was designed in such way so that the students would have to 1) define their own objectives (relative to the client's request), 2) formulate educated hypotheses, 3) plan systematic analytical and statistical methods and approaches, and 4) make conclusions to satisfy and respond to their initial goals before reporting back to the client. The purpose of such exercises was to immediately immerse students into the new learning environment where they need to take leadership and ownership of tasks as a scientist. Changing the perception of the class and attitudes and approaches of students was the first step toward the paradigm shifts needed for the course to be successful.
Multiple communications and exchanges between the manager and the team were necessary to clarify the project and identify variables and hypotheses during the laboratory period and the following weeks. Students learn from these how to follow up on the progress of projects and reporting to the manager in a timely manner. The instructor of the course also took a different role other than the manager of the consulting company at this stage and became a “coworker” to have a group discussion with the students on expectations in a professional work place as a newly hired consultant. Students realized that one of the essential tasks that employees were expected to perform was maintaining multiple projects and keeping up with internal deadlines. They quickly learned that it is their responsibility to identify what was expected and when it was expected in order to produce and present the outcomes to their supervisor and how these would be relevant to the client.
In addition to the first laboratory experience during this first shift of the semester, students receive training (i.e., lecture material) that requires outside of class follow up in peer-reviewed literature and problem solving (i.e., assignments). There were three major sections covered during the spring 2013 semester, relevant to instrumentation at the atmospheric interface with water and soil: aquatic geochemistry, soil mineralogy and geology, and environmental meteorology. This portion of the course is critical in disturbing students' comfort zone, which typically includes learning material for testing purposes only without regard to practical applications or recognizing relationships to other coursework and sciences.
Thus, the training period is a paradigm shift for students as they must encounter, experience, and accept that the “course is not a course”: a rather counterintuitive construct in traditional higher education practices that remain widespread. It becomes evident to students that this course is unparalleled to any other academic curriculums that they encountered or will encounter because the class was no longer under the traditional “instruction paradigm”: that is, complex and rigid structure of conventional 50-min lectures to deliver instruction; rather, this course was founded upon the concept of producing learning with every student by emphasizing their individual commitment, involvement, and responsibility. This would be expected in the workplace of an environmental consultant.
During this application portion of the course (i.e., the second 4 weeks of the term), field work (research design and investigation), laboratory experiences (hypothesis development and synthesis), and research practicum (statement of work, statistics, and conceptual models) are assigned. Within the context of teamwork (project leader), supervision (memo, time line, and follow ups), and communications (meetings and emails/other), students were provided an end-to-end process of working for a professional consultant. For example, prior to meeting their client (i.e., Manasquan Water Treatment Research Team), students were given a short brief on the history, background, and current issues of the project by the “division head” (i.e., course instructor) of the company. Students had to prepare a formal meeting with their clients and create an agenda of the day, which included a planned in situ demonstration of field work, sampling methods, and use of instrumentation.
This development process inherently requires significant choreography and preparation. To reinforce and realize the difference in the field environment to classroom setup, one of the laboratory exercises was designed to collect water samples from a local site near Kean University and conduct necessary analyses to prepare an environmental impact statement with regard to the local water quality. This exercise was intended to simulate the upcoming field campaign for the actual research project with their client. With little prior experience of conducting a field survey and/or sampling, students proved to be inefficient in utilizing their resources, manpower, and time, resulting in an incompletion of tasks during the given time period. In fact, the occurrence of rain the day of the site invest showed a lack of planning for varying or unexpected environmental conditions in terms of sampling and use of equipment.
This exercise awakened and alarmed the students that the scope of field work required much more carefully detailed planning so they could be efficient in executing the tasks in the field within the given time frame. It was also an awakening for students to realize the complexities involved and the depth and level of planning required. Students thus voluntarily initiated and prepared a field operational manual prior to their site visits. Without the laboratory practice simulating the field work (and their subsequent failure) prior to the actual site visit in the course, such voluntary initiation and preparation by students would not have happened. This was truly one of the examples of which students took the leadership in designing and developing the course and became professionally competent through immersion. It also marked their increasing comprehension of what it means to be a scientist rather than simply doing science. This unique hands-on educational experience prepared and motivated students to be leaders of the project and their learning because they were now committed to strive toward deeper understanding and completion of the project. This was essential to later data collection and analysis.
It was also clear that the customized laboratory exercises and experiences were central and distinctive components in making the course successful and allowing students to work in a consulting environment. During this application section, students matured in their behavior by devoting hours outside the classroom, setting up internal meetings among team members, contacting and reaching out for resources, and communicating with the manager at a professional level and in a timely manner. Students voluntarily selected a team leader for organizing and arranging meetings, deadlines, and supplies as well as establishing protocols. It was clear that rich benefits in learning, assimilating, integrating, and adopting to the professionalism and scientific contents accrue from using a number of different customized laboratory activities.
Implementing technology competencies also accelerated the paradigm shift during this second shift of the course. Students immediately saw the benefit of using online and mobile tools and applications for keeping and updating the project among the team members as well as with their manager and hence quickly adopted and integrated the available Internet resources. With the adequate technical support, training, and motivation, effective use of technology supported the paradigm shift from teaching to learning and acting as scientists. Having made the project and their learning experiences their own, the students were now prepared to move forward in their professional development and to demonstrate their competencies, skills, and readiness as decision makers to be a scientist.
The final portion of the class (demonstration) comprises roughly the latter half of the semester and is focused on the end-to-end research project. Emphasis is on implementing a research plan (e.g., logistics, coordination), deployment of the team (e.g., data sampling, observations), analysis and interpretation (e.g., datasets, laboratory tests, calibration), and formulation and reporting of results and conclusions (e.g., technical report, technical presentation). At this point, their manager did not request any formal documents on how these processes were integrated and/or executed in details but he/she expected weekly updates or memos to keep the project moving forward until the final deliverable would be sent out to external subject-matter experts and evaluators. However, the manager specified several internal deadlines before the final project release to cross-check the status of the project with the team (and monitor progress with regard to grading). Final deliverables consisted of the written technical report and a technical presentation to an invited mixed audience of peers, other professionals, and guests.
At the beginning of this demonstration portion of the course, the manager provided an introductory lecture and references to emphasize the importance of good communication skills both in speaking and writing with their clients in order to make the project successful. Students were initially overwhelmed with the richness of the technical words and terms that were used in the references, even after having completed the first half of the course. This was not unexpected as university curricula do not typically include technical writing as a required course and very often a degree program does not offer room for its inclusion as an elective. Thus, from a pedagogical perspective, instructors had to transform their roles from managers to that of a language teacher.
One of the key concepts and skills that the students need to acquire was to know how to deal with familiar, yet unfamiliar, words (e.g., energy, power, and thermodynamics) and give the words appropriate meanings in new contexts. In the 1980s and 1990s, the scientific community urged teachers and instructors to use common words whenever possible (Bialystosk 1994). The idea was that the concept of science is very difficult for the majority of students so language must be kept as simple as possible. However, as Vygotsky (1986) pointed out, using the words indeed supports development of concepts in which the language development and conceptual development are inextricably linked and not simply a matter of semantics. In this course, scientific and technical terminology was encouraged and this taught students how to communicate as a scientist to both technical and nontechnical audiences without eliminating important scientific content.
It should be noted that words are important but, in science more than any other subject, a combination and interaction of words, pictures, diagrams, images, animations, graphs, equations, tables, and charts is much more important and effective in convincing the readers (Wu and Puntambekar 2012). They all convey meaning in different ways since they all have their own importance and their own limitations. Based on the assessment of the first draft of the technical reports, it was clear that students had difficulty in effectively utilizing the figures and tables in their writing. Furthermore, although students had traditional experiences in expository writing as one of the typical undergraduate requirements for core curriculum, they did not have prior technical writing experiences or opportunities.
Although time intensive for the instructors, one of the essential structures that helped students significantly improve both in writing and presentation was one-on-one advisement. Teaching how to choose the right kind of language and methods (e.g., bar graph versus pie chart) to scaffold deductive and inductive reasoning, formulate hypotheses, make generalizations, identify exceptions, connect evidence to theses, classify, relate, organize, plan, and persuade was difficult to achieve in a group setting or through a team activity; rather, it required much more individualized attention that needed to be tailored because each student had a wide range of background and substantially different learning curves. During the successive individual meetings, students learned that reading, writing, hearing, and especially talking science are a large and very important part of what professional scientists and consultants do in academic and/or industrial environments. They also found the relation of these to their review of the body of literature to be more meaningful at this stage of the course. Thus, during this demonstration portion of the course, individual workshops and meetings were the integral part of the program, and we recommend a similar approach for other problem-solving research-based classes with the incorporation of research projects and activities.
The following anonymous quotes are directly taken from students who took the course in the past to illustrate the positive impacts and effectiveness of the course on student learnings and their career preparations:
I personally gained the ability to see the “bigger picture” from doing this project. It gave me the stepping stones to build off of: to visualize what it is that I am trying to accomplish and the paths to take. It also strengthened my micro-management skill set and the idea reduce tasks into realistic, manageable goals to stride towards achieving. The fulfillment of finally sending in the final draft of the report and finishing the presentation gave me the ambition to do more by taking an advantage of the research opportunities.
The class/project offered some of the best learning experiences I got at Kean . . . working as a team, public speaking, real life attributes etc. I also learned some very crucial instruments for the field which makes you understand similar instruments in similar fields. Taking the project seriously directly relates to real life. Definitely one of the top classes where I learned the most at Kean.
I learned how involved a long-term project can be. Up until that point, I had only ever worked in small groups. In this case, our small group had to coordinate with the entire student team, and seamlessly integrate our part of the project as a whole. The project took many, many hours, meetings and emails to coordinate over several weeks. On presentation day, I was proud to look back and see how far the entire team had come, after what seemed impossible to accomplish. I use the project-organizing skills in my career for team-building, and inter-department collaboration within my current organization. This is an invaluable skill that I have used many times in my career.
DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS.
This paper presented a work in progress with examples to prepare and deliver an authentic integrated research-based course with professional development opportunities to undergraduate students. This was accomplished through the simulation and emulation of a consulting classroom to mimic and make use of the needs of employers who hire newly graduated atmospheric and environmental scientists. The benefits of the approach are strongly tied to course design and architecture, as well as delivery, and as contained by the curriculum (i.e., boundary conditions). Results from the course, based on artifacts and anecdotal evidence, suggest that students are achieving course learning objectives and effectively acquiring and improving their professional skill sets. Together these allow students a more historically accurate view of science as an integrated endeavor while providing them opportunities for active participation in a unified approach to “doing” science.
The changing employment scene and alternate career tracks require undergraduate students, including those entering graduate studies, to possess additional skill sets. These have included biology, physiology, sociology, chemistry, and others which may not be readily added to an undergraduate's already full program of study. For example, an atmospheric scientist employed in the environmental or private sector may be expected to have some abilities in the use of a wet laboratory and microscopy to fully investigate an air pollution issue as related to the synoptic and microscale meteorology involved. One of the unique aspects and intents of the course was to prepare the students for such demanding future employment environments through a consulting classroom to experience professional settings. Students were challenged to utilize content area from all of their science subject matter in an integrated and transdisciplinary manner as well as to acquire professional behaviors.
Much gratitude is given to those students who over the last 10 years have participated in the class projects of “Meteorological Instrumentation” at Kean University. Without their tireless efforts, setbacks, and frustrations, the course setting could not have been realized nor effective, nor would their final project presentation have been so successful and well received by their external audiences. Assistance provided over the years by Mr. William Heyniger and faculty within the College of Natural, Applied, and Health Sciences, as well as the dean, was critical each project year. We also extend gratitude to our clients, Manasquan Water Treatment Research Team, as well as our external collaborators, Rutgers University and National Science Laboratory, Inc.