MODERN CHEMISTRY INSTRUCTION RELIES on active learning methods, including the use of instrumentation to better understand molecular structure and the properties of matter. A generous gift from the Fletcher Jones Foundation enables Harvey Mudd College to continue offering high-quality experiential learning that transforms students into professionals. With the $470,000 grant, the Department of Chemistry is addressing instrumentation needs in its chemistry laboratory courses for first years and sophomores. Part of the College’s Core Curriculum, introductory chemistry is a requirement for all students. The physical chemistry class plays an integral role in many students’ decisions to major in the chemistry degree program, which is American Chemical Society-approved.
“Harvey Mudd College has achieved a reputation of outstanding quality in its chemistry program based in part on the access it gives students to sophisticated research-grade instrumentation in both instructional and research laboratories,” says Kerry Karukstis, Ray and Mary Ingwersen Professor of Chemistry and chair of the department. “This funding enables the department to upgrade and Equipped for Discovery Grant supports chemistry program augment its instrumentation holdings primarily for use in our instructional laboratories.”
The department will upgrade its UV-visible spectrometers with a suite of 12 modern, computercontrolled instruments that will be used throughout the curriculum (especially in the general chemistry laboratory). It will also introduce two bench-top nuclear magnetic resonance instruments for molecular structure determination in the first-year course and will add a modern laser light-scattering instrument for the physical chemistry laboratory (a technique used to determine molecular size and the strength of intermolecular forces).
In addition to acquisition of the instrumentation itself, the department will assess the impact of modern instrumentation on such factors as student interest in chemistry, intellectual curiosity and ownership over the process of discovery. Department leaders will work with the director of institutional research and effectiveness to design appropriate assessment tools for evaluating these factors.
“We want students to have hands-on experience with modern scientific instrumentation and understand the kinds of information different instruments yield,” says Karukstis. “Students will see that chemistry is an important contemporary science that contributes to the discovery of new knowledge and the solution of human and environmental problems.”