UM symposium explores ways to add research to introductory laboratory courses

“Step away, Betty Crocker,” say participants at a recent Chemistry symposium exploring ways to get away from cookbook style lab exercises. The symposium brought chemistry educators from around the region to Ann Arbor to share experiences with lab classes that delve more authentically into the process of research in the chemical sciences. It was organized by CSIE|UM -- a Chemistry Department program that prepares chemistry students for teaching along with their science training.

The symposium began with a panel discussion on challenges in designing laboratory courses.

Breakout sessions in the afternoon highlighted efforts underway in the UM Chemistry Department to improve the laboratory curriculum.

  • General chemistry laboratory : Tailoring “upstairs” research [where the UM research labs are located] for “downstairs” [where the teaching labs are located] learning
  • Organic chemistry I laboratory : Introducing group meeting style discussion
  • Organic chemistry II laboratory: Planning an optimization experiment
  • Chemical analysis laboratory: Design and analysis of a microfluidics system using Agar

A poster session featured projects from UM as well as programs underway at Eastern Michigan University, Hope College, and Kettering University among others. All together, eight institutions were represented at the symposium.

Posters on some UM Chemistry efforts included:

  • Compute-to-Learn: Designing Interactive, Computer Based Demonstrations of Physical Chemistry Concepts
  • An Interactive Quantum Chemistry tutorial
  • Mass spectrometry in Biochemical Analysis Lab
  • Student-generated content for Sapling Learning, an organic chemistry learning resource
  • Understanding how graduate students develop pedagogical knowledge
  • Interviewing past Graduate Student Instructors to inform future GSI preparation
  • Authentic Research in STEM Introductory labs

Closing out the symposium was a keynote presentation by Elizabeth Vogel Taylor, a lecturer at MIT, on research-inspired biochemistry in MIT undergraduate courses with opportunities to connect the chemistry curriculum to cutting-edge applications offered by laboratories on and around the MIT campus.

CSIE|UM stands for Chemical Sciences at the Interface of Education -- University of Michigan. 

The CSIE|UM program offers chemistry students who are interested in academic careers--undergraduate through post-doctoral associates --an opportunity to work on projects involving instructional development, implementation, and assessment. These projects are led by the faculty and embedded in the instructional program in the department, which creates a mechanism and a culture for sustained and iterative improvement within the teaching program.

The symposium is an annual opportunity to highlight chemistry education projects. Symposium organizers aimed to showcase ongoing chemistry education projects  and to provide feedback for project designers from the broader community of chemistry educators and students.

More information on the symposium is available on the CSIE|UM website.