Our Science Philosophy: Learn Science by Doing Science
Our chemistry curriculum integrates general and organic chemistry from the very first course. This enables students to learn chemical concepts using systems that most clearly demonstrate an idea. This approach also permits students to investigate topics of interest to them whether they are in organic systems, materials science, or biochemical applications. We work with students to read research papers, interpret data, and ask relevant questions. Our labs expose students to techniques, including a wide range of spectroscopic applications, and provide opportunities for them to develop their own experiments.
Chemistry 1: Chemical Principles
This class is the first of a four course sequence covering General and Organic Chemistry. Students do not need to take the entire sequence. This course will focus on introductory chemical principles, including atomic theory, classical and quantum bonding concepts, molecular structure, stereochemistry, organic functional groups, and the relationship between structure and properties. The class will have lecture/discussion meetings at which we will critically examine the major concepts of reading assignments, discuss articles, and review some of the current developments of the field. The aim of the laboratory will be to develop your experimental skills, especially your ability to design meaningful experiments, analyze data, and interpret observations. A solid background with math is important.
Chemistry 2: Organic Structure and Bonding
Students will explore stoichiometric relationships in solution and gas systems which are the basis of quantifying results of chemical reactions. Understanding chemical reactivity leads directly into discussion of equilibrium and thermodynamics, two of the most important ideas in chemistry. Equilibrium, especially acid/base applications, explores the extent of reactions while thermodynamics helps us understand if a reaction will happen. Students will be introduced to new lab techniques and ways to measure progress of reactions. They will also devise their own questions and experiments. Kinetics (rates of reaction) provides information about how reactions work and, along with thermodynamics, provides the basis for evaluating the viability of a reaction. This concept will be explored particularly with respect to substitution reactions. Research articles will relate these ideas to current topics in the literature such as solar-enhanced fuels, rates of atmospheric reactions, and using chemistry for remediation. Taking CHE2211 Chemistry 1 and CHE4212 Chemistry 2 provides a good background for students interested in environmental applications.
Chemistry 3: Organic Reactions and Mechanisms
Chemistry 3 focuses on how reactions happen: what the steps are, how we discover them, and how we use this to look at some practical systems: the synthesis of a drug, the kinetics of substitution. Emphasis will be using the general principles such as nucleophiles and electrophiles, to guide an understanding of specific reactions. Lab will focus on several clusters of experiments designed for students to extend what they know to answer questions of their own. A major project will be the development of a research proposal based on the studentʹs own question. Background from the literature will motivate the proposal and initial experiments will be proposed.
Chemistry 4: The Chemistry of Materials
This course represents the culmination of the two-year integrated general/organic chemistry sequence. Students will apply the principles of Chemistry 1 – 3 to substantive research projects that they will design, execute, and present. Lecture material will focus on the principles behind modern materials such as polymers, semiconductors, and novel nanostructures. Additional topics will also be covered, and could include electrochemistry and electron-transfer reactions, applications of molecular orbital theory, and the chemistry of biological systems.
Chemistry 4 Lab: Independent Project
Students will apply the principles of Chemistry 1, 2, and 3 to the execution of substantive research projects of their own design. They will also be responsible for independently analyzing their data and publicly presenting their findings. Enrollment is limited to those students who have had a project proposal approved as part of Chemistry 3.
Biochemistry is an intermediate chemistry course in which students apply principles from general and organic chemistry, as well as general biology, to understand the molecular processes that characterize life. Biochemistry is a broad discipline that is growing rapidly in its scope – new developments and discoveries are being made daily. The goal of this class will be to give students a solid background with which they can appreciate the latest developments and research reports. We will begin with fundamental principles, but quickly move into a detailed look at metabolism – the specific means by which organisms use chemical energy to drive cell functions and how they convert simple molecules to complex biological molecules. This approach will provide a context to illustrate many of the core ideas we will cover. Students will also have the opportunity for independent work which will allow them to apply these ideas to topics of their own specific interests. Students will have weekly review assignments and at least two independent projects, including an oral presentation of a final project.
Have you ever listened to the news and wondered why there is a hole in the ozone layer, why there are high cancer rates in some places, why the earth is warming up, or why pesticides kill bugs… Many of the problems we face are the result of chemical interactions. The purpose of the course is to help you develop the tools that you need to be a knowledgeable citizen about a broad range of environmental issues. The class is designed to teach chemistry on a “need to know” basis; that is you learn the concepts needed to understand air pollution, acid rain, the greenhouse effect, nuclear energy, alternative energy sources, making polymers, drug design, and nutrition. Emphasis will be on discussion of the social and political implications of the issues as well as a chemical understanding. Students will have the opportunity to do a project on a topic of their interest.
The Chemistry of Drugs
Why do drugs work? Does Echinacea cure colds? How are drugs designed? This course is open to all students with any interest in this broad topic. We will learn the chemistry and biochemistry necessary to understand the relationship between drug shape and mechanism of efficacy (if it is known). Students will investigate what is known about natural remedies and if and why they work. Students will be expected to do research, write papers, present discussion in class as well as show competence in the chemical background. No lab is offered!
Other courses offer as needed:
Chemistry and Biology of Coral Reefs, Grand Cayman BWI
This is a one week course that is designed for students to get some appreciation of the
forces hat are affecting the health and diversity on coral reefs all over the world. Students get certified to dive on Grand Cayman and participate in surveys of fish populations and investigate pH, conductivity, calcium concentrations, and temperature of the ocean as well as in tide pools. Students write a paper and present a study based on their data.
Introduction to Physical Science:
A one semester course with a variable syllabus that presents fundamental ideas needed to understand physical systems such as thermodynamics, equilibrium. Topics recently presented: the Artificial Leaf, Ocean Acidification, Cancer and High Voltage Electric line, building and understanding Stirling engines. Students present projects of their choice.
A course for students with some chemistry and/or biology background that looks in depth at the structure and mechanisms of how drugs work. Research papers and student projects are the main vehicle for discussion in this class.