Project-Based Learning in Education Through an Undergraduate Lab Exercise


  • Donald D. Joye Villanova University
  • Adam Hoffman Villanova University
  • Jacqueline Christie Villanova University
  • Mayo Brown Villanova University
  • Jennifer Niemczyk Villanova University


Three undergraduate students functioned as teaching assistants in unit ops lab for their senior project, which included developing a purchased size exclusion chromatography experiment, supervising the running of this experiment, and assisting the junior students with their calculations. They also read the reports, graded them, and commented on them. As part of their final report, the student “teachers” reflected on their impressions of being “educators.” The lab exercise consisted of two parts: one where the students calibrated the peristaltic pump supplied with the unit, and one where the students injected a mixed sample into the chromatography column. The sample consisted of three compounds in solution—blue dextran, phenol red, and cytochrome c (colorless). From the results, peak heights, and elution times, a calibration curve for molecular weight was developed. The red and blue-colored species added a strong visual impact to the process.

Author Biographies

Donald D. Joye, Villanova University

Donald D. Joye is a professor of chemical engineering at Villanova University, where he has spent 29 years, after three years experience at Lafayette College and two years at Lehigh University. His B.S.E. is from Princeton University, 1967; his M.S. and P.hD. are from Lehigh, 1969/’72. He has five years full-time industrial experience with several different companies, including Sherwin-Williams, Engelhard, and Hercules, Inc. His major interests are in fluid mechanics, heat transfer, mass transfer, polymer science, rheology, process engineering, and education.

Adam Hoffman, Villanova University

Adam Hoffman earned his B.S. ChE at Villanova University in 2009. Adam is from Lebanon, N.J. His major interests are in biofuels and alternative energy. He is presently in the M.S. graduate program at Villanova with a research project in biodiesel processing. He plans to go on for the Ph.D. and seek, ultimately, an academic position.

Jacqueline Christie, Villanova University

Jacqueline Christie earned her B.S. ChE at Villanova University in 2009. Jackie is from Matawan, N.J. Her major interests are in biotechnology, and she is presently employed at Centocor, Inc. R&D, Malvern, PA.

Mayo Brown, Villanova University

Mayo Brown earned his B.S. ChE at Villanova University in 2009. Mayo is from Milton, Mass. His major interests are material science, biotechnology, fuel cells, and engineering education. He is presently seeking employment and considering graduate school.

Jennifer Niemczyk, Villanova University

Jennifer Niemczyk earned her B.S. ChE at Villanova University in 2009. Jen is from Seaford, N.Y. Her major interests are biotechnology and sustainability. She is presently doing environmental work with a company on Long Island and about to re-enter college for a degree in teaching.