Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Science Education, Mallinson Institute

First Advisor

Dr. William Cobern

Second Advisor

Dr. Herbert Fynewever

Third Advisor

Dr. Sherine Obare


High attrition rates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) continue to be documented in the undergraduate education in the United States (U.S.). There is a growing concern that the U.S. will fall short of 3 million graduates by 2018. Furthermore, the literature indicates that about 36% of 4-year college graduates lack adequate critical thinking skills, complex reasoning, and communication skills relevant to the current job market. Reasons for these observations relate to the overemphasis on content knowledge; lack of content relevance; lack of interest in STEM courses; and dominance of expository teaching methods in classrooms. Given its relevance in society, nanotechnology can be incorporated into STEM curricula to increase content relevance, and students’ attitudes towards the courses. This, in turn, can promote increased retention rates, as well as progression into STEM careers. However, little is known about the impact of integrated nanotechnology-science curricula on students’ affective domain.

This project seeks to investigate the impact of two inquiry-based integrated nanotechnology-chemistry modules on students’ perceptions and attitudes towards chemistry, and quantitative analysis chemistry laboratory course. In particular, the study investigates: (1) how undergraduate science majors perceive chemistry and the quantitative analysis chemistry laboratory course; (2) how their perceptions and attitudes toward chemistry and quantitative analysis chemistry laboratory course change following exposure to the two nanotechnology-chemistry experiments; (3) the underlying factors for the observed perception and attitudinal changes; and (4) students’ perceptions and attitude towards inquiry-based learning approach.

A mixed methods explanations-model design is employed. Data are collected through questionnaires, classroom observations, and interviews. Results indicate improvement of students’ perceptions and attitude towards chemistry, and quantitative chemistry laboratory course. Major factors for the observed improvement include: relevance of nanotechnology concepts to students’ daily-lives/society; novelty of the nanotechnology concepts; inquiry-based approach; integration of a wide array of chemical instrumentation in one lesson, and prolonged laboratory experience. Overall, nanotechnology is a conduit for increasing students’ perceptions and attitudes towards chemistry, as well as promoting interest in the learning and progression into science-related careers. Furthermore, inquiry-based learning approach is well received by science major students, particularly those in advanced class levels.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access