In recent years, extensive efforts have been expended to develop open-ended, inquiry-based, laboratory exercises for introductory, college-level chemistry courses. A major goal of these efforts is to develop the student's conceptual, molecular-level picture of chemical interactions. Ironically, it is recent advances in physical chemistry that have made a major contribution to this molecular level picture, yet typical physical chemistry laboratory exercises remain much as they were several decades ago. The cost of the equipment is only one reason for this dating. Two other significant reasons are a scarcity of experiments based on cutting edge problems, and a lack of experience with running an inquiry-based laboratory. The proposed work addresses both of these national problems. The objective is to restructure physical chemistry laboratory courses by creating a set of real-world, inquiry-based experiments that reflect current practice on a less-than-million-dollar budget. Costs are kept modest by focusing on several areas: materials surface chemistry, biochemistry, environmental chemistry, and electrochemistry. Materials chemistry might initially appear to be an unusual choice for this mission since modern surface experiments are often extreme in utilization of expensive techniques. The proposed project circumvents the expense issue by featuring quantum dots: Cutting-edge materials which are examined with spectroscopic techniques such as adsorption, luminescence, FTIR, photocorrosion, and chemical derivatization. The courses are completed with groups of experiments highlighting biochemical experiments to appeal to those with medical interests, environmental experiments for the environmental studies constituent, and electrochemistry to appeal to engineers. Since none of the currently available laboratory texts support open-ended experiments, one deliverable is a text. In order to propagate the results of this work to other institutions, we propose offering workshops to give potential faculty concrete experience. These workshops feature follow-up visits to the home institution by Tufts University faculty. This ongoing contact with participants is expected to substantially increase the success of dissemination of this work.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
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Myles G. Boylan
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Tufts University
United States
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