October 2003

What's New in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department

 Grant for a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer of $250,000 from the National Science Foundation

The Chemistry Department was recently awarded a grant of $117,515 from the National Science Foundation's Division of Undergraduate Education. The grant will go toward the purchase of a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. The instrument, which is used to determine molecular structures, will be part of the curriculum in courses in chemistry, environmental science, and biochemistry. It will also be used in research in physical, biological, and environmental chemistry. Faculty members involved were Bruce Knauer, Jeremy Miller, John Schaumloffel. Larry Armstrong is the Principal Investigator.


 $800,000 grant in science education!

Five faculty members in chemistry (John Schaumloffel, Jeremy Miller), in physics (Hugh Gallagher, Sunil Labroo), and science education (Paul Bischoff) were awarded a grant of $807,000 from the National Science Foundation to attract Central New York high school students to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The program is titled "PR2EPS" (Preparation, Recruitment, Retention, and Excellence in the Physical Sciences). It is aimed at high school students in Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie, Chenango, and Herkimer counties.

American Chemical Society meeting, New York, September 2003

Student Research Posters

John Schaumloffel (Chemistry and Biochemistry) and five student members of the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates (an SA funded club) recently traveled to New York City to present the results of their research projects at the 226th American Chemical Society National Meeting. Research posters were presented by the students in the undergraduate poster sessions for Analytical Chemistry and Environmental Chemistry. James Wells (Departments of Biology and Chemistry & Biochemistry) presented a poster on "Determining the efficacy of selected conks of the aphyllophorales for use as heavy metal biomonitors". Ralph Narain (Program in Environmental Science) presented the results of his capstone research project titled "Monitoring concentrations of selected elements in City of Oneonta reservoirs". Elizabeth Sutton (Departments of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Human Ecology), Hillary Cimino (SUNY Buffalo) and John Schaumloffel (Chemistry and Biochemistry) presented a poster on "Trace element composition of nutritional supplements and animal feeds", while Katie O'Brien (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Theresa Smigelski (Education), Jennifer Fusco (Program in Environmental Science), John Schaumloffel and Joseph Tausta (both from Chemistry & Biochemistry) presented their results on the "Measurement of mercury in surface waters". In addition to presenting the results of their research, the group attended symposia on the cycling and biogeochemistry of arsenic in the environment and other topics. Travel support was provided by the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and the SA. The group would like to thank Diana Moseman and Jim Greenberg (TLTC) and Dr. Tracy Allen (Geography) for their assistance in preparing the posters for the meeting.

Communicating Chemistry, a symposium at the American Chemical Society meeting

John Kotz recently co-chaired a symposium at the national American Chemical Society meeting in New York. (The other chair was Professor L. Fine of Columbia University.) The symposium was the second organized by Kotz and Fine on the subject Communicating Chemistry. As the meeting was held in New York City, the invited speakers were drawn from newspaper, magazine, and book publishing. Among the speakers was D. Overbye, a writer for the New York Times science section. The editor-in-chief of Chemical and Engineering News, Madeleine Jacobs, and the Feature Editor for The New Scientist, Eugenie Reich, were also speakers. Book authors included Mark Kurlansky the author of Salt, a book describing the importance of salt in history, economics, and society. Best known was Oliver Sacks, a physician and author of several books, mostly recently of Uncle Tungsten, a memoir. A total of 14 papers were given in the symposium.


Article on "What Works and What Doesn't Work in General Chemistry."

John Kotz recently published an article titled What Works and What Doesn't in General Chemistry in the book Survival Handbook for the New Chemistry Instructor. The book is published by Pearson/Prentice-Hall and was edited by D. Bunce and C. Muzzi. The 19 papers in the volume were originally presented as invited talks at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education held at Western Washington State University in 2002. Kotz's article describes the organization of the General Chemistry course he teaches here at Oneonta and a rationale for the various practices. The paper also reports the results of a number of surveys of student outcomes. Among the conclusions of general interest are: (a) The course enrollment consists of less than 50% freshmen, as opposed to enrollments approaching 100% in the vast majority of U. S. universities. (b) Students do not regard textbooks as the primary vehicle for learning. (c) Students are still attuned to lectures as a primary learning method, but they expect them to be accompanied by Powerpoint notes and other multimedia. (d) The online homework system we use is valuable in spite of the frustration students feel at times. (e) Open-book exams (used to encourage textbook use for learning) show a high degree of acceptance in spite of the knowledge that the exams are more challenging than closed-book exams.