Undergraduate Program Overview
Director of Undergraduate Studies: Richard A. MacPhail, Ph.D.
Phone: (919) 660-1536
Office: 1216 French Family Science Center
Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies: Christopher P. Roy, Ph.D.
Phone: (919) 660-1518
Office: 1222 French Family Science Center
The Discipline of Chemistry:
Chemistry is typically described in introductory texts as the study of the properties and behavior of matter. A more modern definition might take the microscopic view and describe chemistry as the science of atoms, molecules, and their interactions. As such, chemistry crosses scales from isolated, individual atoms and molecules to complex interacting collections of molecules such as those found in the cell, and disciplines from biology and medicine to materials science and engineering. This broad range of applicability is why chemistry is often referred to as the central science.
The Department of Chemistry aims to help students gain the knowledge and skills they need to excel in their future careers and in service to society. To do so, the department offers lecture and laboratory courses that span the traditional sub-disciplines of chemistry, including analytical, biological, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry. In addition, the department emphasizes independent and collaborative research where students can participate in the creation and dissemination of new knowledge, and where they can integrate and apply the chemical knowledge and skills they have learned in their courses in the context of original work.
Goals for Undergraduate Chemical Education:
In order to fulfill the mission stated above, the chemistry department seeks to develop independent learners, critical thinkers, and problem solvers who can work effectively and constructively in collaborative environments, who can communicate clearly and construct logical scientific arguments, and who can appreciate the ethical and societal dimensions of chemical science and technology.
Learning Objectives for Major:
The learning objectives for the major are consonant with the general philosophy of Trinity College, with the departmental mission and goals outlined above, and with the more specific guidelines on chemical education set forth by the American Chemical Society (ACS) Committee on Professional Training.
1. Majors should develop a comprehensive knowledge base in chemistry and molecular science.More/LessThe chemistry curriculum should include foundational and in-depth courses that span the traditional sub-disciplines of chemistry, that integrate concepts across these sub-disciplines, and that illustrate how molecular thinking can be applied to other basic and applied science disciplines such as biology and engineering. Course assignments should help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, and should demonstrate the similarities and differences in how these skills apply in different areas of chemistry. Independent research projects should deepen this knowledge and illustrate its application to solving complex problems. The detailed selection of courses, topics, and requirements should conform to the guidelines of the ACS.
2. Majors should develop skills in laboratory and computational chemistry, including proper laboratory safety procedures.More/LessStudents should be able to interpret and evaluate their results critically and to identify and quantify uncertainties in their measurements and limitations in the methodologies they employ. According the ACS guidelines, “the laboratory experience must include synthesis of molecules, measurement of chemical properties and phenomenon, hands-on experience with modern instrumentation, and computational data analysis and modeling.” Students should also learn laboratory safety skills, including the proper handling and disposal of chemicals, the use of material safety data sheets and compliance with safety regulations, and an understanding and awareness of potential chemical and physical hazards in the laboratory.
3. Majors should develop effective oral and written communication skills.More/LessOpportunities for developing communication skills should be available both in lecture and laboratory courses, as well as in independent study research, and should incorporate critical evaluation and review by both experts and peers. Service as a peer tutor or laboratory assistant provides another opportunity for growth in these areas, as do meetings with research groups or visiting scientists. Development of communication skills should be a guided and staged process as students progress through the major, with later experiences reinforcing and expanding on earlier ones. Per the ACS guidelines: “Students should be able to present information in a clear and organized manner, write well-organized and concise reports in a scientifically appropriate style, and use appropriate technology such as poster preparations software, word-processing chemical structure drawing programs, and computerized presentations in their communication.”
4. Majors should become adept at searching, accessing, retrieving, and critically evaluating information from the scientific literature.More/LessStudents should learn to discern among competing claims, and be able to propose new studies that can discriminate between them. More generally, as students progress and mature they should become increasingly independent learners, moving beyond textbooks and courses and into learning directly from the primary literature, especially within the context of independent research. Students should also learn the proper methods for citing the work of others in written reports and oral communications.
5. Majors should be able to use the scientific method and critical thinking to solve chemical problems.More/LessMajors should develop the ability to design and carry out experimental, computational, and/or theoretical studies aimed at solving problems in molecular science. In doing so, students should learn how to formulate testable hypotheses, how to analyze and interpret their results objectively, and how to make scientifically defensible choices among alternative explanations. Such skills should be developed in a progressive process that builds through lecture and laboratory courses and into independent research.
6. Majors should develop the ability to collaborate effectively as part of a team working together to solve problems, to engage in scientific debates, to value different points of view, and to interact productively with a diverse group of team members.More/LessSuch skills are essential for working in the multidisciplinary teams that are increasingly required for tackling complex, interdisciplinary problems. The chemistry curriculum should promote teamwork skills through group problem solving exercises in lecture classes, through group projects in laboratories, through peer review exercises, through independent study projects, and through other forums such as service learning and outreach efforts.
7. Majors should develop an understanding of the ethical and societal dimensions of science and chemistry, and should learn and put into practice the expectations for responsible conduct.More/LessThis understanding should extend from more narrowly focused issues in chemistry, such as those associated with safety, properly crediting the work of others, or the falsification of data, to more general ones involving the place of chemistry in contemporary society and global issues. Students should develop an appreciation of the expectations for professional behavior in science, especially the idea that solving complex problems is a participatory process that usually requires collegiality and sharing of ideas among many different people. These issues should be incorporated throughout the curriculum, but can be especially meaningful within the context of independent research. Chemistry outreach and service learning provide another opportunity for developing a sense of teamwork and civic responsibility.