A resource for convergent chemistry curricula

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Introductory chemistry should not be a journey through a dark tunnel, and students should not be told that they can only satisfy their real-world curiosity once they emerge from the other end. Instead, the journey’s purpose should be readily apparent from every point along the way.

 

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In the long-term, introductory chemistry curricula should be reorganized into broader, three-semester molecular science sequences.

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Chemistry departments face a dual mission: educate and train future chemists, and provide other students with a firm foundation for professions such as medicine and engineering. In recent years, the expectations for students heading down all of these paths have shifted. In 2008, the American Chemical Society made a major revision to its Guidelines and Evaluation Procedures for Bachelor’s Degree Programs, explicitly pushing for curricular flexibility that reflects the breadth of modern science.1–3 Pre-medical guidelines have also changed: the American Academy of Medical Colleges has replaced its curriculum with core competencies, and the new MCAT focuses on cross-disciplinary knowledge and applications.4,5 Expectations for future scientists and engineers are also shifting. Research is steadily becoming convergent, because solving the big problems of our age requires cross-disciplinary expertise.6 Most modern science must be understood on the molecular level, making chemistry more central than ever.7,8 For all these reasons, scientific convergence must be reflected in science education, not just in upper-level and enrichment courses, but in introductory chemistry as well.

This site is a companion to an article describing the experiences of three departments who are beginning a transition to a more convergent curriculum.  We each made this decision independently and without an external funding source or mandate, in order to better prepare students for the convergent nature of modern medicine, engineering, and scientific research.  By sharing these experiences, we aim to demonstrate that it is possible to begin this transition now, despite the barriers, and that curricular change can be implemented at a scale and pace appropriate for different institutions.

Our reforms and experiences are representative but not unique. Other departments are likewise in transition, taking their own paths towards more convergent curricula. Herein, you will find a web-based resource that compiles details of curricular changes in the college “general chemistry” and “organic chemistry” sequences.  You can view our list of curricular innovations from a large variety of colleges and universities, and authorized persons can submit innovations on behalf of any 4-year, ACS-accredited undergraduate program in chemistry.  We will continuously curate this list with additions and updates.

 

Designing convergent chemistry curricula

Louise K. Charkoudian, Nicole S. Sampson, Krishna Kumar, and Joshua A. Kritzer

Department of Chemistry, Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania 19041
Department of Chemistry, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794
Department of Chemistry, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts 02155

Nature Chemical Biology 12, 382–386 (2016).  doi:10.1038/nchembio.2090

References:

  1. Office of Professional Training, A. C. S. Undergraduate Professional Education in Chemistry. (American Chemical Society, 2015). at <http://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/about/governance/committees/training/2015-acs-guidelines-for-bachelors-degree-programs.pdf>
  2. McCoy, A. B. & Darbeau, R. W. Revision of the ACS Guidelines for Bachelor’s Degree Programs. J. Chem. Educ. 90, 398–400 (2013).
  3. Wenzel, T. J., McCoy, A. B. & Landis, C. R. An Overview of the Changes in the 2015 ACS Guidelines for Bachelor’s Degree Programs. J. Chem. Educ. (2015). doi:10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00265
  4. Kirch DG, Mitchell K & Ast C. The new 2015 mcat: Testing competencies. JAMA 310, 2243–2244 (2013).
  5. Mahon, K. E., Henderson, M. K. & Kirch, D. G. Selecting Tomorrow’s Physicians: The Key to the Future Health Care Workforce. Acad. Med. 88, 1806–1811 (2013).
  6. National Research Council. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. (The National Academis Press, 2014). at <http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18722/convergence-facilitating-transdisciplinary-integration-of-life-sciences-physical-sciences-engineering>
  7. Whitesides, G. M. Reinventing Chemistry. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 54, 3196–3209 (2015).
  8. Khosla, C. The Convergence of Chemistry & Human Biology. Daedalus 143, 43–48 (2014).

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