Midway through the fall semester, both faculty and students are singing the praises of the newest addition to the chemistry curriculum—Chemistry 15, “Inorganic Chemistry.”
The Department of Chemistry decided last year to eliminate two long-standing courses: Chemistry 10, “Accelerated Course in Foundations of Chemistry,” and Chemistry 40, “Inorganic Chemistry”—merging the two to form the new course.
In doing so, faculty members were hoping to remedy what many believed to be long-standing problems associated with the courses, including redundancy of high school chemistry curricula and an unreasonably rapid pace.
Eric N. Jacobsen, the department’s director of undergraduate studies, says he believes the change was necessary.
“It was the worst of both worlds,” he says, “material not suitable and too difficult to digest.”
Many Chemistry 15 students, including Luke A. Wilson ’06, who took AP Chemistry in high school, say the new course does not overlap with the Advanced Placement curriculum.
“Everything we are covering is new to me...it’s a lot more complex,” Wilson says.
Unlike the previous chemistry courses, Chemistry 15 allows students to complete their lab reports during lab time, has less mathematical content than Chemistry 10 and has incorporated computer software into the curriculum to help students visualize chemical processes.
“The visualization and graphics are great,” says Cabot Professor of Chemistry Roy G. Gordon ’61, who teaches Chemistry 15. “Many of the computations are taken over by computer, which, in turn, makes Chem 15 less ‘plug and chug’ and more conceptual and qualitative.”
A number of students say they are finding this additional technology to be particularly helpful in mastering new concepts.
“Working on the computers is very helpful,” says Jeongho Mark Kim ’06. “There are certain things, like molecular geometry, that are very easy to see on the computer.”
Gordon says he hopes the modifications will create a more challenging atmosphere to increase student interest and enthusiasm.
Head Teaching Fellow Logan A. McCarty, who previously served as head teaching fellow for Chemistry 10 and was also a teaching fellow for Chemistry 40, says he believes the new course has achieved Gordon’s goal.
“I think Chem 15 students are finding the course material engaging and challenging and, in particular, are excited to be learning new material,” he writes in an e-mail. “In the old Chem 10, much of the material was somewhat familiar to many of the students, whereas now they are building on their prior knowledge instead of reviewing their AP Chem course in whirlwind fashion.”
Both Gordon and the teaching fellows say the curriculum of Chemistry 15 allows for a more relaxed pace and permits more in-depth analysis.
“Due to the course structure, the students are gaining a deeper understanding of the material presented, which wasn’t always the case in Chem 10, given the extremely rapid pace,” says Andy W. Ho, the other head teaching fellow for Chemistry 15.
According to the registrar’s office, Chemistry 15 enrolls 221 students. Gordon says this is larger than the traditional enrollment of Chemistry 10, but says he is not sure whether this variation can be attributed to the curricular modifications or whether it is merely a statistical fluctuation.
Despite the strengths of the new course, both faculty and students agree that the course will require tweaking when it is offered in future years.
“It’s obvious it’s a new class and has some adjustments to be made, but it has the right idea and I’m glad I took it,” says Rebecca H. Dezube ’03.