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February 03, 2014

Framingham State Physics Professor Vandana Singh is one of 13 professors from around the country to be recognized as a STIRS (Scientific Thinking and Integrative Reasoning Skills) Scholar for her case study proposal to explore the impact of drilling for oil and natural gas in the Arctic.

The STIRS Initiative is a program of the Association of American Colleges and Universities designed to improve the capacity of undergraduate students to use evidence to solve problems and make decisions. Dr. Singh will join the other 12 STIRS Scholars at a conference in Portland, OR, in February where they will receive expert guidance on strategies for evidenced-based learning.

Dr. Singh will use the guidance she receives at the conference to develop a teaching model for her case study proposal, titled “To Drill or Not to Drill? A Dilemma Concerning Drilling for Oil and Natural Gas in the Arctic.”

“The idea is to explore a topic that allows students to see how complex real-world issues are,” Dr. Singh says. “Making informed decisions in the real world requires a multidisciplinary perspective and an acknowledgment of multiple world-views.”

Dr. Singh says oil and natural gas drilling is a good topic to explore because it will enable students to consider economic, environmental and cultural impacts in the context of climate change.

“In order to think through all aspects of this case, students will have to look at what science tells us about climate change,” Dr. Singh says. “What do we know about the effects of oil drilling and oil spills? To what extent are there risks to present to the community? On the other hand, what are the economic impacts? What kind of jobs would be created and what effect would it have on the local cultural of the region. How do you balance all these factors while making a decision? What kinds of alternative sources of energy might work for the Arctic?”

Dr. Singh’s background is in theoretical particle physics, but she has been interested in climate change for many years.

“I teach about climate change in all my physics classes, but we only cover the science aspects of it,” she says. “I’d like to develop some new courses that could examine climate change in a broader way. The basic science is well established. But what makes it difficult to act on that knowledge is the economics, the politics, and all these other factors.”

Dr. Singh says her ultimate goal is to have Framingham State start a Center for Climate Change Education, where programs could be developed for grade school teachers and guest lecturers could come in to speak about the topic.

“This case study could be one small step toward that effort,” she says.

About Framingham State University

Framingham State University was founded in 1839 as the nation’s first public university for the education of teachers. Since that time, it has evolved into a vibrant, comprehensive liberal arts institution offering small, personalized classes on a beautiful New England campus. Today, the University enrolls more than 6,400 students with 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences and professional fields. As a public university, Framingham State prides itself on quality academic programs, affordability, and commitment to access for all qualified students.

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