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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Intro to Chem Lab

Last semester I was forced to endure the most painful chemistry lab. As is typical for labs, the amount of work required is disproportional to the one hour credit earned, but that was not the source of my frustration. A scientific laboratory is by its nature about discovery, but this lab was really just about pedagogy. We were really only there to learn how to run columns or pipet solutions, yet we were to write our lab reports as though we were conducting real science.

Evidentally, some of the faculty members shared my concern. This summer, the entire general chemistry curriculum is being retooled. A new textbook has been selected, one written by the American Chemistry Society and centered around the most abundant and familiar molecule on the planet- water. Subsequently, the labs must be rewritten as well.

I have been working for the chemistry department this summer, researching procedures regarding using titanium dioxide to remediate environmental contaminants. The work was done toward designing some new modules for the analytical chemistry lab. The idea was to give the students all the requisite data to design their own lab procedures instead of following a cookbook recipe. That way, they get to appreciate what science really is. Yesterday, I finished that project. The professor I was working with is also involved in retooling the aforementioned gen chem labs. When I was given the option to turn my attention toward those, I jumped at it.

Next semester, when students download their chemistry labs, they will be reading my words. Pre-lab questions, procedures, post lab review- all written by me. Hopefully, I can spare them from the boredom I experienced.

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