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Chemistry Receives Funding to Improve Services to Undergraduate Students

Dreyfus Funds Reform of Chemistry Undergrad Curriculum

Student in chemistry lab
Student working in chemistry lab.

Get students interested in chemistry—while the goal of the Chemistry Department at Illinois may be simply stated, to achieve it, the Department's task is not so simple: to design and implement a new undergraduate chemistry curriculum. Besides fostering student interest in chemistry, the Department hopes to give students a solid foundation of chemical competencies, attract under-represented students to STEM majors, and provide students in introductory chemistry with a knowledge of chemical research problems. Using funding from Dreyfus, Chemistry will implement "Chemistry Curriculum Reform—Integrating Across Disciplines in the First Two Years" to make these changes to their curriculum:

  • Seamlessly connect subdisciplines in both introductory and advanced courses;
  • Repeat a set of core concepts or scientific competencies in different contexts in different courses;
  • Link inquiry-based laboratory components to lecture courses; and
  • Beginning on their first day in a university chemistry course, expose students to modern research and how use chemistry to solve problems in contemporary society.

Chemistry lab courses in the first two years will no longer be divided into “general” and “organic” courses, but will integrate all chemistry subdisciplines so majors and non-majors both have a strong foundation in the breadth of the chemical sciences. Material in the new curriculum will be presented in modular themes based on modern chemical research and chemical applications important in contemporary society. Courses will feature active and inquiry-based teaching methods, particularly in lab courses.

Additional goals of this project are to integrate and sustain these curricular changes, which will impact around 4000 Illinois students per semester, as well as serve as a model for and disseminate information to similar institutions considering the future direction of their undergraduate programs. To assist other instructors and institutions to adapt these materials and methods, Chemistry will develop and maintain a number of technological tools, including electronic storage of pedagogical materials.

To support the development of inquiry-based laboratories, Chemistry will purchase diode array spectrophotometers for laboratories used by students in General Chemistry and non-majors Organic courses. Robust, easy to use, and with broad capabilities, these instruments will shorten the time required to acquire data, allowing many students to use them during labs.

3M Funds Research Experiences for Undergraduates at Illinois

Funds will support summer research participation for five undergraduate students, with recruiting emphasis on schools with substantial populations of groups under-represented in science and technology. Students will participate in group mentoring activities in addition to research in collaboration with Illinois undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students, under the supervision of tenured and tenure-track faculty. The program will coordinate with the Summer Research Opportunity Program and pilot the Illinois Chemistry Research Experiences for Undergraduates site.
More: Chemistry, Funded, Undergrad Education Reform, Summer Research