2007 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., April 24, 2007
HUB West Ballroom

Session Description


Adaptation to Altitude as a Vehicle for Experiential Learning of Cardiopulmonary Physiology by University Undergraduates

D. Scott Weigle and student participants from our High Altitude Physiology Exploration Seminar - UW School of Medicine and College of Arts and Sciences


This was an Exploration Seminar held from August 21 to September 15 both in Seattle and at the White Mountain Research Station in Bishop, California. The goal was to help students better understand cardiopulmonary physiology by monitoring their own acclimatization to altitudes between 12,500 and 14,200 feet on White Mountain. To accomplish this goal, students measured a number of physiological variables on each other at sea level and developed hypotheses as to how these measurements would change at altitude. They then repeated the measurements over the course of 10 days at White Mountain to assess their hypotheses. Thus, each student was both an experimental subject and investigator during the seminar.

The setting for the course was the UW Clinical Research Center and Pulmonary Function Laboratory in Seattle and the Barcroft Laboratory on White Mountain. The latter is an historical field station at which the physiological response to hypoxia (low blood oxygen level) has been examined over the course of many years. The students were UW undergraduates from any major who expressed an interest in the course material.

The outcome of this experience was measured by student papers written in the format of a scientific manuscript with properly presented data and full statistical analysis. Each student helped to develop and edit the paper of his/her research group. In addition, a formal manuscript describing the seminar is currently under review by Advances in Physiology Education, and the students will present a poster describing their work at the biennial International Hypoxia Symposium in Lake Louise, Canada in February of 2007.

We all learned that undergraduates from diverse educational backgrounds are capable of high-level scientific thinking and fieldwork requiring innovation, cooperation, and persistence. In addition we all had a lot of fun!



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