Each course is primarily taught by HCAS faculty, who are all members of McCrone Associates’ technical staff. McCrone Associates is a microscopy laboratory, pioneering innovative particle identification and materials analysis methods. All instructors currently work in laboratories where they use the techniques they teach to the students.
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Techniques learned during training can be basic, such as the use of the stereomicroscope or polarized light microscope to get a better view of contaminants for basic characterization purposes. Is the contaminant glass, metal, or plastic? Does the material look corroded or thermally degraded? This will narrow down the detective work needed and allow the investigator to collect the appropriate reference materials from the manufacturing process to compare against the unknown sample. A contamination source can possibly be identified without definitively naming the components of the offending material. The techniques can be complex, such as the use of Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) to identify thermally degraded sugar or starch compounds, or the use of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to determine the type of metal.
After the classroom portion of the course, students login to access a live, online, instructor-led session, where they discuss unknown samples that were sent to their labs by the instructor. Post-course sessions offer students an opportunity to put into practice the skills learned during the course, while using the equipment available to them at their facilities. Sessions allow participants with little experience to build confidence, while those with more experience can share insight with their less experienced colleagues. During this final web-based portion of the course, students begin the process of self-directed learning and inquiry, reinforcing the acquired concepts and skills learned earlier in the pre-course modules and in the classroom. The post-course environment encourages the exchange of ideas, such as alternative techniques and approaches used for identifying the unknowns. In addition, students are encouraged to analyze samples brought from their workplace during the hands-on portion of the class.
It’s important to receive training from an International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) Authorized Provider. Organizations like HCAS offer CEUs for its programs that qualify under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/IACET Standard, which is widely recognized as the standard of good practice internationally. The requirements set forth by IACET create transparency in course structure, enabling learners to know who is teaching their course, the instructor’s experience level, the type of equipment to be used in class, and the expected student learning outcomes upon completion of each course.
When choosing a training provider, choose a materials analysis course that trains quality professionals not only within a specialized academic environment, but also with an online component to be carried out in the student’s own laboratory with materials specific to their industry. Ask questions to determine the instructor’s experience level, the age and type of equipment being used in the classroom, the types of learning resources available, and the material expected to be learned upon completion of the course. Ensure your training choices have sufficient credibility to withstand regulatory scrutiny.
Zona is the dean of Hooke College of Applied Sciences, Westmont, Ill. Murley is the quality manager at McCrone Associates, Westmont, Ill.