Creating better chemistry

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Could an organic chem lab use a little tweaking? Why not make it better for students? (Here, the word “lab” doesn’t mean the room with beakers and Bunsen burners; it means the act of carrying out a specific experiment in that room.)

Spend your summer doing some intense research, add a measure of professorial collaboration along the way, and presto, you’ve created a fresh, accessible way for students to learn some really important scientific techniques.

Okay, so it may be a little more complicated, but essentially, that’s how Matt McErlean ’12 of Hudson, Ohio, tackled his latest research effort. With the input and direction of Associate Professor of Chemistry Sonya McKay, McErlean crafted new lab procedures that guide students of organic chemistry toward a deeper understanding of their subject matter.

The idea was to put into written form a set of procedures that included key chemistry-related lab techniques. By gently guiding students through these essential laboratory practices, they learn skills they’ll use throughout their chemistry careers.

During the process, McErlean worked independently on most of the day-to-day efforts, but he relied on McKay’s guidance to stay on course.

“It was really more of a partnership. I would pose ideas to her, and her experience would tell me this will work, this won’t. She’d recommend certain articles to read to improve my research.”

Students are already benefiting from McErlean’s project, as his lab has been incorporated into the college’s organic chemistry coursework.

McErlean plans to continue his research this summer, this time working with Associate Professor of Chemistry Jordan Fantini. They will be studying a special molecule called calixarene.

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1:24 PM March 4, 2011

Jeremy King wrote:

Awesome project – I’d love to know more about it and whether it incorporates any green chemistry principles.

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