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.