General Oral Papers

Organizers: Richard C. Bauer, School of Letters and Sciences, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ 85004-0696, tel: (602) 496-0620, Email:, and Chris Masi, Department of Physical Science, Westfield State University, Westfield, MA 01086, tel: (413) 572-5371, Email:

Global Issues

Gregory P. Foy, Presider 

The session started with a historical perspective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change presented by Keith Peterman (“UN provides a context for teaching global topics of climate change and sustainability”) that then led into a description of how this platform provides an excellent opportunity to teach undergraduates the significance of sustainability and other global environmental issues. Dr. Peterman’s main question posed to the audience was What is the role of higher ed in educating students, the public, and policy makers about issues related to climate change? In his presentation, “Sustainability, climate change, and the international year of chemistry (IYC-2011): A celebration or just the beginning!?” Gregory Foy provided a description of the ACS involvement in the process from the Sustainability Engagement Event in San Francisco to the proposal in Boston. The presentation then outlined the steps taken to involve students and professors in COP16 (the UNFCCC’s 16th Conference of Parties). This was followed by a description of a number of the outcomes and then a suggestion for the future. The next speaker was Anthony Tomaine, an undergraduate from York College of Pennsylvania. As one of two ACS representatives to COP16 in Cancun, Mexico, Anthony provided the perspective of an undergraduate ACS non-governmental official (NGO) through his talk titled “Climate change, sustainability, and COP16: An undergraduate tale”. This talk provided details of the engagement of students around the world through the C&EN Editors blog as well as a Facebook page and subsequent discussions after returning from the conference. Steven Tobin described the production of two York College Chemistry society videos in his talk titled “Sustainability and IYC-2011: A York College Chemistry Society production.” The first video shown focused on the COP16 engagement by Anthony Tomaine and Leah Block through a documentary. The second video was a short production that aimed at educating the audience about water usage and treatment. Leah Block was the last speaker in the York College group and described her experiences at COP16 “Reporting behind the scenes through the eyes of an undergraduate”. Leah gave a wonderful description of the process leading up to the conference, and then described the many interactions with NGOs, press, and several high ranking government officials. Her story describing her interaction with Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC was excellent. The final speaker in the panel was Alexander Greer from Brooklyn College, and his talk on “Encouraging undergraduate student involvement in defending the human rights of scientists” was a fantastic way to wrap up the session. He described the ways in which he is engaging students and others in these human rights issues and highlighted a number of organizations that are working on behalf of scientists around the world. He is extremely concerned that these issues are not getting the attention that they deserve and is promoting student involvement as a mechanism for promoting human rights issues. Alexander was quite complimentary towards the student speakers that had presented before him. 

Chemistry for Majors and Nonmajors

Presider: Provi Mayo

Provi Mayo presented “Students’ views on the nature of science after taking a general education science course.” She discussed the differences on the nature of science knowledge between general education students that take Physical Science and students that take a science application course such as Chemistry of Art. The author presented data which illustrated the students’ ideas on the nature of science and how these changed during the aforementioned courses. Martin Mulvihill from UC Berkley talked about green chemistry and how to achieve this concept properly in having a building constructed as well as devising new “green” chemistry themed laboratories. In his presentation entitled “Using green chemistry and multi-week laboratory exercises to influence student perceptions of the natural science,” the author stressed that the support of the dean was instrumental on their advances. Mulvihill mentioned some quotes from students’ surveys to support the decision to build laboratories with less of a carbon footprint. He discussed some experiments such as fuel calorimetry, ecotoxicity assay, and biodiesel synthesis. Dr. Mulvihill’s main talking point was that in addition to implement of “greener” experiments and buildings being “greener,” the students made connections outside of the chemistry classroom to the material taught in class.

Benjamin Huddle talked about his Forensic Chemistry course in his presentation, “Assessment of pedagogy in chemistry courses for non-science majors at Roanoke College.” He described how he embedded inquiry-based experiments in a non-science majors course. The author explained how he and the co-authors modified POGIL-based experiments and assessment tools. He used an instrument Dr. Craig Bowen (University of Southern Mississippi) to assess chemistry laboratory instrument anxiety designed by.

Jessica Davis introduced her paper (“Chemistry of nutrition: Overcoming challenges in developing a non-majors course”) with the idea that she wanted her students to “think globally but to act locally.” Dr. Davis described her syllabus and several experiments in which they use basic concepts of nutrition to “debunk mistrust against scientists” and “get them to collect and graph data.” One of her most popular experiments has students extract and calculate how much fat is in a French fry from the student’s favorite pub.

Daming Gu presented a “Novel method of promoting student writing of short science and technology papers for General Chemistry.” He explained that in his country science teaching is based on memorization and “force-feeding” students with facts. He criticized that the students have no capacity for innovation because they get no opportunity to learn to think for themselves. His department decided to solve this problem by having the students write a freshman paper based on an assigned topic. The students had to write a 15 page paper that was later graded by graduate assistants. They hoped this improved the students’ capacity for innovation.

In their presentation “Halloween Science Night 2010 at Southeast Missouri State University: Introducing General Chemistry students to professional service,” Rachel Morgan and Marcus Bond described general chemistry student participation in their Halloween Science Night event. The students were able to design and execute experiments with the kids that visited on Science Night. General Chemistry students had to participate to receive credit but they could choose their level of professional service.

Nathan Brandstarter talked about the benefits and perils of building a massive room that uses interactive technology (“Synchronous interactive digital learning”). The facility was constructed to help students use digital learning as a tool in the classroom. Students had to bring their own computers so they could participate in the interactive problem session which would present the data in real time to the students.

Paul Hooker described how to build a well designed space to teach organic chemistry with an integrated physics laboratory (“Integration of general chemistry laboratory and classroom activities in a well-designed learning space”). He was excited that the facility had the capability to block cell phone signals so the students would concentrate on their work. Dr. Hooker also presented a strong argument for integrating laboratory with lecture to maximize learning and teaching space.

Teacher Professional Development

Presider: Suzanne Blum

Danielle Solano described the design and evaluation of a chemistry careers class in her presentation entitled “Evaluation of the effectiveness of a focused interest career course for chemistry students.” Masters and bachelors students enrolled in a multi-week course exploring the careers available to people holding chemistry degrees. Guest lecturers from nontraditional disciplines (i.e., not "academics" or "industry") visited weekly. Example guests included a forensic scientist and an intellectual property professional.

Hal Harris presented “Teachable moments gained and lost when your mercury-filled barometer is gone.” He described how up-to-the-minute weather websites provide information about atmospheric pressure that students can analyze as a "green" alternative to mercury barometers.

Craig Rusbult presented an approach to undergraduate laboratory education that involved group work (“Lab education to teach scientific thinking skills”). During his presentation he described groups of large numbers of students called "supergroups". Suzanne Blum (Get FIT! Faculty in Training Program”) described a mentored faculty training program that provides graduate students with skills for careers in classroom education.

Khuloud Sweimeh described the many community college teaching options available to Ph.D. chemists (“Becoming a chemistry professor at a community college: How to get there and what’s in it for you”). She described her typical teaching experiences, including the satisfaction of helping a diverse student pool, and tips for entering the field. David Finster closed the session by describing a safety training program for undergraduate students that is articulated in his new coauthored book, "Laboratory Safety for Chemistry Students."

Teacher Professional Development

Presider: Mary Virginia Orna

The lead-off speaker for this session, Edward P. Zovinka of Saint Francis University, Loretto, PA (co-authors Rose A Clark, Allison L Felix) spoke of “STEMing the flow: Connecting undergraduates with applied science” through a summer residential program for rising high school. Once students were on campus, Peer-Led Team Learning experiences in many introductory STEM classes and undergraduate research opportunities were made available. All activities allowed students to work closely with faculty and upper-level science majors as mentors. He showed statistics that indicated an appreciable retention rate of these STEP student in their original STEM majors. Mark B. Cannon of Brigham Young University-Hawaii followed with his paper, “Reinforcing 1st-year foundational principles in chemistry majors during the 2nd year.” One of the objectives of his project was to measure the benefits that peer-tutoring have on tutors themselves. They turned out to be review and reinforcement, and a need-to-know connection to the tutored material. Additional benefits were an increase in self-concept, better retention than for non-tutors, and a significant increase in their ACS General Chemistry Examination scores. In his paper, “Early, practical assessment of teaching tools for general chemistry,” David S. Heroux, University of Maine at Farmington, spoke of the importance and benefits of early assessment of general chemistry students, even prior to the first examination. Emphasis was placed on how students saw various teaching tools and strategies as helpful to their learning so that they would be able to see their usefulness for the remainder of the course. Following the intermission, Michael P. Castellani of Marshall University, Huntington, WV (co-author James Sottile), in his talk, “Relationship between college chemistry pass rates/grades and high school grades,” presented evidence that there is a correlation between students’ “risk factors” and their pass rates in general chemistry after reviewing data that showed that 58% of students passed on their first try, but that again 58% of students passed on their second try. The question was: how can we raise the pass rate? They found that students with “0” risk factors had an 84% pass rate, whereas those with one or two risk factors had almost equal pass rates of on average 45%, the watershed being a single risk factor!

Mary Virginia Orna of The College of New Rochelle (co-author Jeffrey I Seeman, University of Richmond, Richmond) in the paper “Women chemists in the National Inventors Hall of Fame: A website with pedagogical potential” called attention to the various ways that a website ( developed following a symposium of the same name at the spring 2008 National ACS Meeting in New Orleans, could enable teachers to insert meaningful human achievements by women chemist inventors into their curriculum.

Finally, David B. Pushkin of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia made an impassioned plea in his paper, “Please stop calling them misconceptions!” to recognize the fact that such a term is inappropriate for students’ evolving scientific ideas that are more amorphous and heterogeneous early on, and become more sophisticated later. He suggested as a more appropriate term, “pseudoconceptions,” to reflect the reality of this evolution.

Enhanced Experiences for Chemistry Majors

Presider: Christopher Masi

Student Henry Wedler of Albright College presented "Moving forward: Making a computational/theoretical chemistry laboratory accessible to the blind". During the presentation Mr. Wedler described his experiences and the tools that he used while overcoming the obstacles that a blind chemist faces. For example, how does a blind person create an understanding of three-dimensional structure when the model cannot be seen? The answer is that a blind person can create a mental map of the molecule by creating three-dimensional models using rapid prototyping equipment or by creating tactile line drawings on papers. Mr. Wedler observed that in the end, he used the same skills in chemistry that he uses every day. He could neither see the molecules nor the object in the room around him, and in both instances he had to create a mental map of where all the objects and atoms were.

"Eight week integrated laboratory experiment for upper division chemistry," presented by Leroy Laverman of UC Santa Barbara, described research-like experiments that lasted for several weeks. The students synthesized ruthenium polypyridine complexes, and collected a wide variety of analytical data on the molecules.

In 'Serious horsepower, super excitement, and "hot" thermodynamics in physical chemistry laboratory: Hands one analysis of a V-8 automobile engine' John Kenney, from Concordia University, described how students, among other things, disassembled a V-8 engine to measure the bore and stroke of a cylinder to gain a concrete understanding of thermodynamic cycles and heat engines.

Following intermission, Emily Jarvis of Loyola Marymount University provided the attendees with a physical chemist's view of wine while describing the class she developed to explore the chemistry of wine.

Thomas DeVore of James Madison University then gave back to back presentations about research style activities that employed techniques like ATR-FTIR spectroscopy and powder X-ray diffraction in exploring the decomposition of Na2SiF6 in "Thermal decomposition of Na2SiF6 revisited: A laboratory project for the physical chemistry of senior capstone laboratory" and FTIR in the determination of the rotational states of CO2 in "Spectroscopic analysis of CO and CO2: An alternative to the ro-vibrational analysis of HCl/DCl".
In "Green chemistry: Student designed laboratory projects," Kate Graham of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University described how students designed their own "green" syntheses of organic molecules and adjusted their strategies as roadblocks are inevitably discovered. Prof. Graham's colleague, Prof. Edward McIntee, described how students attacked the problem of unknown identification of organic molecules in a semester-long organic chemistry laboratory sequence during his presentation entitled "Project-based lab approach for organic chemistry.”

Lihua Wang from Kettering University finished the day with "Teaching innovation in an inorganic chemistry class: A term project." Students in Prof. Wang's class prepared proposals to investigate inorganic chemistry, often building on projects that began during their co-op experiences outside the classroom.

Enhanced Experiences for Chemistry Majors

Presider: Richard Bauer

The first speaker in this session, Clare Muhoro, described environmental research projects for undergraduates (“Laboratory and field studies of the fate of N-methylcarbamate pesticides in tropical environments”). She discussed sample collection at tropical field sites in Ecuador and subsequent analysis of the fate of pesticides used in those locales. During the next presentation Sean Mo described undergraduate students’ engagement in renewable energy research at Alma College. Of particular interest is the synthesis and study of compound use in dye-sensitized solar cells (“Theoretical study and synthesis of novel organic compound for dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs): Implementation in undergraduate renewable energy research”).

In her presentation entitled “Development of project based laboratory experience culminating in an independent project in undergraduate biochemistry,” Jessica Davis described laboratory projects used throughout the semester to replace one-week stand alone experiments. Emphasis is placed on hypothesis-based project design and development their own procedural plans. The biochemical kits used by students can be a problem when student designed experiments fail. Many solutions have to be prepared on the fly to accommodate student mistakes.

Katherine Kantardjieff was the next speaker, presenting “The Center for Molecular Structure: A remotely enabled diffraction collaborator in the California State University.” Housed at the California State Polytechnic University Pomona, The Keck Center for Molecular Structure provides for crystallographic analysis for students and researchers from remote locations. The author described some of the software, networking, and social media tools used to enable remote analysis of samples sent in from a variety of disciplines.

In her presentation on “Motivating students in the instrumental analysis course with mini-research projects,” Ramee Indralingam described student projects that replace traditional unknown analysis experiments. The mini-projects involve analysis of food products and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Students develop their own experimental design and instrumental parameters after some general guidelines communicated by the instructor.

The final talk of the session was presented by Jose Cabrera, Iyan Lazik, Madeline Adamczeski, and John Song from San Jose City College. In their presentation entitled “Learning chemistry through undergraduate research and presentations at symposia both on-campus and professional conferences,” they described their ambitious efforts to engage community college students in undergraduate research. The on-campus event includes a biannual chemistry poster presentation attended by students, faculty, administrators, and staff from across the institution. The authors also described the student experience presenting at the 239th ACS meeting in San Francisco. Using the Student Assessment of Learning Gains and other assessment tools, they found that students benefited from the experiences in many ways.