Science and Mathematics Self-Study Overview

The Science and Mathematics Department at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy plays an essential role in meeting the Academy’s mission and core competency requirements by developing students’ analytical skills, critical thinking skills, and scientific and technological literacy through a variety of courses in mathematics and the natural sciences. Faculty members participate in the governance of the Academy by serving on the various governance committees. Faculty members also serve in roles that contribute to student retention, such as tutoring in the Learning Resource Center and serving as Athletic Liaisons to sports teams. All faculty members serve as academic advisors. While most faculty members advise freshmen, some faculty members have taken on the responsibility of advising students in Engineering, Marine Safety and Environmental Protection and Emergency Management.

Science and Mathematics General Education Requirements

All Massachusetts Maritime Academy students are required to take Algebra and Trigonometry, Chemistry I, and either Calculus I or Applied Calculus, depending upon their major. Students must then select one additional mathematics course with a Calculus I or Applied Calculus prerequisite from the Science and Mathematics Group I. These mathematics courses include applications related to the students’ major field: Marine Transportation majors take Applied Mathematics for Deck Officers, Engineering majors take Calculus II, students in Marine Safety and Environmental Protection or Emergency Management take Applied Environmental Mathematics, and students in International Maritime Business take Quantitative Methods for Management.

One laboratory physics course must be selected from the Science and Mathematics Group II. These courses include College Physics I, Engineering Physics I, and Survey of Physics. To add necessary depth to their study of the natural sciences, students also select a sequential laboratory science course in either chemistry or physics from the Science and Mathematics Group III. The choices from this group are Chemistry II, Organic/Hazardous Materials Chemistry, College Physics II, and Engineering Physics II. The Marine Safety and Environmental Protection majors must take Organic/Hazardous Materials Chemistry and College Physics II, while the Emergency Management students must take Organic/ Hazardous Materials Chemistry and Survey of Physics. The Marine Transportation Department has recently decided to require their students to take College Physics II.

Additional Science and Mathematics Offerings

Students in the Engineering programs will go on to take advanced mathematics and science courses such as Differential Equations and Engineering Physics III. Students in the Energy Systems Engineering major will also take Probability and Statistics. Those engineering students who choose to minor in Mechanical Engineering will also take Calculus III and Applied Engineering Mathematics electives. Currently these mathematics courses are offered every other year.

Students in Marine Safety and Environmental Protection take an advanced chemistry course, Environmental Chemistry. The Emergency Management majors take Introduction to Radiological Materials.

Laboratory Technician

The Science and Mathematics Department currently shares a full-time laboratory technician with the Environmental Protection, Safety, and Emergency Management (EPSEM) Department, Ms. Carla Troupe. Ms. Troupe currently does a variety of tasks for the Science and Mathematics Department including setting up and breaking down labs, ordering materials for the labs, and maintaining equipment in the labs. Ms. Troupe has proven to be invaluable but there is concern that too much is demanded of her since she is shared with another department. As the number of labs taught increases with the Academy’s increased enrollment, the demands on Ms. Troupe’s time will only increase. The committee strongly suggests one of two possible changes to her job description. The first choice would be for Ms. Troupe to work exclusively for the Science and Mathematics Department. Ms. Troupe already spends approximately 80% of her time with job responsibilities related to the science laboratories and those duties will only increase as enrollment increases. This option may require that the Academy hire a new technician to serve the EPSEM Department. Alternatively, a technician could be hired to work under Ms. Troupe’s supervision. She would then be able to delegate some of the less technical tasks asked of her by the EPSEM Department to this technician under her supervision.

Recent Changes to Department Courses

The department has made several changes to the courses offered during the last five years. Each of these course changes has been made in collaboration with the departments that the Science and Mathematics Department supports, such as the Engineering Department and the EPSEM Department. In particular, Computer Applications was eliminated from our curriculum. The credits from this course were then distributed between Chemistry I and Chemistry II. This allowed the department to incorporate more labs into the chemistry curriculum. The department also changed the title of the Chemistry of Hazardous Materials course to Organic/Hazardous Materials Chemistry. The title change of this course more accurately reflects the material covered and illustrates that students taking this course are being exposed to organic chemistry. Another change was the increase in credit hours of Engineering Physics III to three credit hours. This increase was made to make Engineering Physics III more consistent with the other Engineering Physics courses in the department in terms of the number of credit hours offered for the course. The change also allowed the department to cover more material in the course in order to better prepare the students for their subsequent engineering courses. A minor change involved moving the Earth Science course to the EPSEM Department since the course was consistently being taught by EPSEM faculty. At the same time, the Radiological Materials course was moved into the Science and Mathematics course offerings since it was consistently being taught by Science and Mathematics Faculty and fit more closely with the course offerings of the Science and Mathematics Department. In the fall of 2014, the department will be introducing a new Probability and Statistics course that is being offered as part of the new Energy Systems Engineering major. In the spring of 2015, the department will be introducing a Materials Science course in collaboration with the Engineering Department that will be team taught with professors from both departments.

The most significant change to the course offerings of the Science and Mathematics Department has been the elimination of the remedial Intermediate Algebra course from the department’s regular course offerings in the fall of 2013. This change increases the expectations of the students by both the department and the Academy. Previously, Intermediate Algebra was required for students who scored below a particular score on the Math Accuplacer Exam. Now all students who do not score high enough on the Math Accuplacer Exam to be placed in Calculus I or Applied Calculus are required to take Algebra and Trigonometry. Students who score poorly are given the option of taking Intermediate Algebra before their freshman year begins to prepare them for college mathematics. Students may instead participate in a rigorous online remedial mathematics course through ALEKS. If students do not successfully complete either of these options before the beginning of their freshman year, they are required to take a reduced course load for their first semester and to work with a tutor in the Academic Resource Center at least six hours per week. These precautions are in place to ensure the students are prepared for their future mathematics and science courses.

Program Area Chairs

Beginning in the fall of 2012, the Science and Mathematics Department introduced two Program Area Chairs for the department: one for mathematics and one for the sciences. Dr. Dimitre Tzigantchev serves as the Mathematics Program Area Chair and Dr. Brian Dixon serves as the Science Program Area Chair. These positions were created to help reduce the workload of the Department Chairperson. The Program Area Chairs report directly to the Department Chairperson. The Program Area Chairs have many duties including working with the Director of Institutional Effectiveness on assessment matters and assisting with long-range planning for the department. The Program Area Chairs receive a stipend, but do not receive any release time.

Science and Mathematics Department Faculty

As of December 2013, the department consisted of 17 full-time members and four part-time members. The full-time members are made up of eight mathematics professors, five chemistry professors, and four physics professors. Two of the chemistry members teach physics, as needed. Ten of the seventeen fulltime members are tenured. The full-time members are Dr. Raul Aguilar, Dr. Brian Dixon, Dr. Eleanor Farrington, Dr. Kenneth Gucwa, Dr. Jason Hyatt, Dr. Laura Kelleher, Dr. Raymond Lam, Dr. Matthew Loomis, Dr. Lori Noble, Dr. Laurie Norman, Dr. Christopher O’Donnell, Professor Jessica Rego, Dr. David Schmitter, Dr. Frances Tishkevich, Dr. Dimitre Tzigantchev, Dr. Shirley Wilson, and Dr. Amanda Woods, Department Chair.

Mr. Philip Farrington, Mr. Warren Mekjian, and Mr. Edward Thompson currently serve as part-time mathematics instructors. The current spring schedule does not require any part-time mathematics instructors, however. Ms. Haley McMurray currently serves as a part-time chemistry instructor.

This fall the department welcomed a new chemistry professor, Dr. Raymond Lam. The department is also searching for a physics faculty member with an expected start date of spring 2014. These additions will help to alleviate the excess work-load on the chemistry and physics faculty. It has become commonplace for chemistry and physics faculty to teach more than 12 credit hours each semester to cover the courses offered. Chemistry and mathematics professors have had to teach physics classes for several years due to the shortage of physics professors. While these additions will reduce the workload of the current faculty, as the Academy continues to increase enrollment to 1600 undergraduates, the department expects that it will need to increase the size of the faculty in each of the three disciplines (mathematics, physics, and chemistry) to continue offering small, effective classes.

Resources

Presently, office and lab space are barely sufficient for the needs of the department. Full-time faculty members currently share offices. There is not expected to be sufficient space for future faculty members. Also, all part-time faculty members share a single office space. It is unclear exactly how the renovation of office space in the former Hurley Building will affect these space issues.

Most classrooms on campus are equipped with LCD projectors and cables to connect a laptop to the projectors. All faculty have access to appropriate computers to utilize these projectors. One limitation of most classrooms is that projectors display directly onto the front board. This severely limits board space for any instructor trying to also use the projector in conjunction with board work in their classes. Several classrooms on campus are equipped with more advanced technology such as document cameras, Smart Boards, and other technologies.

With the Academy’s push to increase enrollment to 1600 students, current classroom and laboratory space is being stretched to its limitations. While advanced classes in other departments are able to maintain small class sizes, classes in the Science and Mathematics Department are increasing. Increased class sizes limit the effectiveness of teaching. Most classrooms seat a maximum of about 35 students but classes of this size are not as effective as smaller classes. Increased enrollment is a larger concern for lab space. Current lab space can only accommodate approximately 16 students per lab section. Since chemistry and physics labs typically run every other week, this limits each lab section to about 32 students per section. Increased enrollment has resulted in the necessity of careful planning to make sure the lab space is utilized efficiently to accommodate all students. The conversion of a former GIS lab on the third floor of Harrington into a combined physics and chemistry lab (with an expected completion date of March 2014) will help to alleviate the scheduling problems in the current physics and chemistry labs. Beyond the actual space, the current chemistry and physics labs are not aesthetically pleasing but currently serve their purpose.

The equipment that the science faculty have at their disposal to develop and instruct experiments has been sufficient, and resources are given when requested to replace equipment and order new materials as needed. To ensure their safety, chemistry students are provided with laboratory safety goggles for use during a semester. This is a recent addition to the standard equipment provided to students for their personal use during a semester. In addition, necessary equipment has been ordered, when requested, to update experiments. Physics faculty have begun to incorporate Vernier electronic data collection equipment into the labs to update the experiments. The Engineering Physics II labs have incorporated bread boards and oscilloscopes to expose students to more advanced technology.

In conclusion the Science and Mathematics Department works in collaboration with the departments it supports to ensure satisfactory instruction in mathematics and the sciences so that students are prepared for the work that will be required of them in their majors. Faculty in our department serve important roles related to governance and student retention. Finally, faculty strive to provide optimal instruction with the resources provided.