Modernization of the Undergraduate Chemistry lab

  • Professor Cecilia Kutas Chisu, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts & Science
  • Professor Andrew Dicks , Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts & Science
  • Professor Douglas McIntosh, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts & Science
  • Professor Barbora Morra, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts & Science
  • Dr. Jared Mudrik, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts & Science
  • Dr. Violeta Gotcheva, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts & Science
  • Dr. Rebecca Jockusch, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Arts & Science

Abstract

This project aims to promote students’ communication, collaborative, and analytical thinking skills, while better aligning their laboratory experience with current practices in research laboratories and industrial settings. This project will benefit students across the full range of Chemistry undergraduate courses, totaling 850-1000 students per academic session. In particular, we will connect FTIR spectrometers (laboratory analytical instruments) to the network in order to make better use of student-generated spectral data by its integration with online tools such as Quercus and Office. Associated with this will be curricular improvements including new laboratories and course assignments.

Important aspects of data analysis in our larger undergraduate laboratories have not kept up with the times. Students are currently required to print their FTIR spectra on paper, analyze the spectra using (limited) paper-based methods, and submit these papers with their lab reports. As proposed here, access to digital data will allow for more varied, more authentic and more in-depth analysis of laboratory results. It will also open the door to interesting, and realistic, collaborative approaches to problem solving. This kind of technology-enabled curriculum redesign will be the first in our Department for our larger laboratory courses. We anticipate that in the future, more of our undergraduate laboratory instruments will be connected to the network, as will instruments in other physical and life science departments. Many of the outcomes of this project will be transferable to these future projects.