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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 22 (2017) pp 177-184

Incorporating Authentic Research in an Optional Component of the Second Semester Organic Laboratory Course

Traci L. Smith*,, Jason G. Gillmore*,, Stephen C. Scogin

†Department of Chemistry, Hope College, Holland, MI 49423, USA,,; ‡Departments of Biology and Education, Hope College, Holland, MI 49423, USA,
Received June 2, 2017. Accepted September 20, 2017.

Published: 23 October 2017

Abstract. Our six hour/week two semester organic laboratory sequence has long included a half-semester three-step independent synthesis project in the second semester. Over the past two decades this has evolved from a mandatory, closely controlled suite of projects tied to a central 'theme' that varied annually, to an elective and increasingly independent set of projects tied to a wide variety of ongoing faculty research programs across chemistry and beyond. This has allowed faculty to leverage this course to advance their research as well as students' learning, and has drawn a diversity of targets from most of the faculty in the chemistry department and some from other STEM disciplines. Students gain exposure to and connection with authentic faculty research, providing some a springboard to future research engagement. All have the satisfaction of contributing to ongoing work rather than to a waste container. Projects begin with a literature search workshop on how to use SciFinder and other library resources. Students identify a target and develop a synthetic plan. They craft a research proposal including lists of chemicals, hazards, and required equipment. Students execute the multistep synthesis with complete purification and characterization of intermediates over five weeks, and prepare a comprehensive written report. Two years of CURE survey data indicate students are successfully achieving desired learning gains from this course-based research experience at a level that is comparable with summer undergraduate research experiences. Moreover, targets prepared in these projects have contributed to the work of 21 faculty including 20 papers and four funded research proposals.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; organic chemistry; synthesis; independent projects; course-based research; CURE survey; experiential learning; literature searching; proposal

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (395 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

An enlarged version of Figure 3; plots of Scientific Attitude and Course Element CURE thread data, analogous to those in Figure 3 for the Learning Gains thread; the t-test analyses of the ACT score, 256A grades, and GPA data provided in Table 1; comparison enrollment data for the College, Natural & Applied Science Division, and majors (and minors) requiring Organic Chemistry for the same time period as the CHEM 256 enrollment data presented in Figure 1; additional information regarding the syntheses of representative examples from Figure 2; and a list of papers and grants which leveraged the output of CHEM 256B projects are all reported in the Supporting Material. Additionally, a ZIP file of the representative course materials is also provided. (1860 KB)

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