Learning Goals

1. Develop the ability to read and understand the primary chemical literature.

This learning goal is most likely to occur after students have studied the basic tenets of chemistry and biochemistry, which are communicated primarily in textbooks.  Students learn how to read the primary chemical literature in our advanced level courses (300 and 400 level).  For example, students learn how to read the primary chemical literature in Chem-311 and Chem-312; these courses specifically teach students how to access the literature.  Students must incorporate information gleaned from the primary chemical literature in the writing they are asked to produce in the courses.  For another example, students in Chem-314 choose articles from the chemical literature, which focus on contemporary topics in inorganic research for presentation during the lecture.  For another example, in Chem-404 students are assigned a drug and must read the primary chemical literature in order to discover and understand the chemistry responsible for its biological activity.

2. Develop research and analytical skills.

This takes place in all of our courses.  Introductory level courses (100 and 200 level) are taught in a guided-inquiry format, where students are presented with a question when they come to lab, and must formulate an answer (hypothesis) before they begin the experiment.  After completion of their work, students interpret and discuss their data in class.  In this way, students are taught to approach their learning of chemistry in the way that chemists practice it:  question, hypothesis, experiment and data interpretation.

In our intermediate level courses (300 level), students develop their abilities to conduct more advanced experiments using more sophisticated instrumentation.  In this way students become more adept and versatile in being able to probe questions about the behavior of matter.  Even so, the pattern of question to data interpretation initiated in the early courses remains the same.  For example, both Chem-311 and Chem-312 require a short research project lab extending for 3 or more weeks based on students’ own experimental design.

The culmination of this preparation is the independent research experience that is offered to all of our majors.  Students can become junior partners with one of the faculty in order to probe an unknown area of chemistry or biochemistry.  Students can do this in our research course (Chem-425), and may culminate their work with a senior thesis (Chem-498 and Chem-499).  If successful, students will have completed enough independent research that their data and findings will be published in the primary chemical literature.

3. Learn how to work both independently and cooperatively.

Students learn how to work cooperatively in many of our laboratory courses.  In the introductory and intermediate level courses (100, 200 and 300 level) students will often be assigned to work in groups, both in performing the experiment and in writing up the results.  Also, the guided-inquiry format used in these courses requires that students pool their data in order to answer the question posed in the experiment.  In this way, students see that science is a cooperative undertaking.  Students are also encouraged to work together on problem sets related to lecture material in courses such as Chem-309, Chem-310 and Chem-316.

From time to time, students will also work independently in these same courses. Independent work is primarily done in the research courses (Chem-425 and Chem-498/Chem-499).  Here students work on their own independent project.  Even so, a student’s independent project is likely to be part of a larger investigation being pursued by several other students.

4. Learn how to communicate chemistry and biochemistry clearly, coherently and effectively using both written and oral expression.

Students learn how to communicate chemistry and biochemistry using the written word in all of their courses.  All of our laboratory courses require written laboratory reports, andfaculty grade these reports for both their writing and their content.  Chem-309, which is required for all majors, is specifically designated as a writing intensive course and requires a partial or full laboratory write-up every week.  Often students are given the opportunity to rewrite a laboratory report after receiving critical feedback from their instructor.  The highest level of writing for chemistry and biochemistry majors would occur if they write a senior thesis.

Students also learn how to effectively communicate chemistry and biochemistry using oral expression in all of our courses.  In the lecture part of courses, instructors ask questions and require students to answer.  In lab courses, instructors ask students to propose ideas.  Starting with 200 level courses, students are sometimes asked to make and present either posters or short PowerPoint lectures on their results from a laboratory experiment.

The department offers numerous opportunities for students (both majors and non-majors) to assist in teaching.  Students can work as teaching assistants for either the laboratory or the lecture component of many courses in the department.  Additionally, students can assist the introductory chemistry courses (Chem-111 and Chem-112) through the Supplemental Instruction program.  These opportunities give students extensive practice in conveying chemical concepts to their peers.

For students doing research, an oral presentation of their research is required.  In a given semester, all students enrolled in Chem-425 or Chem-498/Chem-499 must make an oral presentation to their fellow students at the Friday afternoon seminar.  Since many of our students do research for multiple semesters, they are given multiple opportunities to refine their ability to present chemistry or biochemistry using oral expression. These poster presentations are made to departmental faculty.  Students who are engaged in research during the summer and/or academic year must present a poster at the all college science poster sessions held in the early fall and late spring.  Here the audience can be faculty and students from outside the chemistry/biochemistry discipline as well as the department.  Our exceptional research students often give posters at national chemistry meetings.  In these venues our students must be adept and confident to explain their research to graduate students, post-docs, faculty and research chemists from across the globe.

5. Develop the ability to analyze data using mathematics.

The ability to develop mathematical models to explain chemical behavior (for example the Ideal Gas Law) is central to the study of chemistry and biochemistry.  Accordingly, students must develop their ability to use and apply advanced mathematics in their chemistry and biochemistry studies.  Students acquire these abilities through their study of calculus (Math-131, Math-132, and other higher level courses), physics with calculus (Phys-131 and Phys-231), and in their chemistry and biochemistry courses.  Courses that particularly emphasize the mathematical nature of chemistry include Chem-112, Chem-309, Chem-310, Chem-311, and Chem-316.

6. Develop a knowledge and understanding of how chemicals and chemical processes can be handled safely.

The study of chemistry takes place both in the classroom and the laboratory.  In terms of the laboratory, students need to learn how to safely handle and manipulate chemicals.  In all laboratory courses students are given instruction on how to safely handle the chemicals being used.  Students also are given instruction on the proper ways to collect and dispose of chemical waste.

7. Develop scientific literacy.

Some students may only take one chemistry course during their undergraduate studies at Trinity College.  Courses designed and taught specifically for students to fulfill the science distribution requirement should introduce students to the scientific method so they can understand and appreciate how advances in science are made.  When possible, courses designed and taught specifically for students to fulfill the science distribution requirement should have a laboratory component.  For example, laboratory workshops are currently integrated into Chem-155, Chem-170 and Fysm-161.