A new model for chemistry labs
Part of our new curriculum is a new approach to laboratory. Instead of having students perform an illustrative experiment in the lab each week in an effort to reinforce ideas from the lecture, we have identified a set of basic practical skills every chemistry student should have in order to prepare for the modern workplace.
In the foundation laboratories, students perform their own lab experiments so that they can develop a sense of independence and competency. Lab is independently paced; individual students choose which experiment they will do during a given lab period. They can and do ask questions of their instructor, their TA and each other.
Lab hours and skills are rolled into early courses. These courses are focused on training students for research projects and ultimately for handling the sort of open-ended questions they may face in the workplace or graduate and professional schools. An integrated lab, taken during junior year, serves as a capstone for the laboratory experience. There are no labs in the other in-depth courses, so that junior and senior students can undertake academic-year research.
The labs, in contrast to our old curriculum, are taken as separate courses for credit. Here is summary of why we choose this new approach.
Expanded use of advanced instrumentation:
Students, starting in their first year, use the same sophisticated instruments (NMR, IR, UV/Is , MS spectrometers) and chemical separation methods (low pressure chromatography, GC) starting in their first year as employees in industry and in graduate schools. These experiences will prepare them for research in their junior and senior years.