Next Generation Lab Course Developed for Online Chemistry Students
Contemporary trends in commercial chemistry laboratory techniques are moving towards the incorporation of greater automation and remote access to scientific instrumentation and analysis.
Modern analytical science techniques increase efficiency and accuracy, and reduce costs by using cameras, autosamplers, and other aspects of automation in concert with cloud connectivity to perform measurements on samples and process data. data.
NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy, for example, has already adopted this approach, and routine NMR analysis at Arizona State University is now fully automated.
Jeff Yarger, a professor in ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences who oversees the NMR Research Center, believes that teaching methods should prepare students for skills that will serve them well in the job market after graduation. graduation.
SStudents need to be prepared for the new automated world of chemistry and biochemistry instrumentation, but there are virtually no courses in the current chemistry or biochemistry curriculum at any academic institution that teaches these skills. This is the goal of a major update to the CHM 343 Physical Chemistry Lab Course taught to ASU Online students.
“There is a rapid increase in the automation of scientific and medical instruments in industry and the private sector,” Yarger said. “It is also becoming more common in academia, and not seeing that the future of laboratory science would be short-sighted. Preparing our students for this future is essential.
Yarger is developing an updated version of the CHM 343 lab course taken by ASU Online students, built around remote access and instrumentation control.
The online class size is smaller than the on-campus course, which is helpful at this stage of development, as there is no such lab course that can provide guidance on how to do this. all of this work. The benefit of this approach for online students is obvious, however, the longer term goal is to bring this new laboratory course to all chemistry and biochemistry students, online and on campus.
Yarger’s online course students learn to run a variety of analytical instruments remotely, and then view and interpret the results through web-based interfaces. In one experiment, students use a remote-controlled acoustic interferometer equipped with a camera and microphone system to see and hear the instrument as if they were in the same room as it. Data analysis is performed in real time using readily available sound wave analysis software.
Students gain experience working with state-of-the-art instruments and contemporary data analysis. In some experiments, Yarger also had students submit their own samples for analysis, giving them additional ownership of the experiment. Yarger faced some challenges along the way, including the fact that different instruments have different interfaces, which places additional cognitive load on students who must learn each interface.
“I would like to see the computer interface become more widespread for instruments, making it easier for students and researchers,” Yarger said. “A real benefit of this approach is that it allows students to focus more on the scientific analysis and less on the instrument, which positions them to make new discoveries that benefit humanity.”
Yarger’s experience in developing this course lays the foundation for building a suite of remote-controlled instruments for teaching and research. The future of molecular research will increasingly rely on robotics and remote analysis of samples and data. Yarger graduate students currently conduct a significant portion of their research remotely through the use of live video feeds and robotics.
“Chemistry is an inherently experimental subject that has required (the school) to find new ways to provide authentic lab experiences to students online, and Jeff’s new course represents the next step in innovation in the hands-on chemistry teaching and learning,” said Ian Gould, associate dean for e-learning and innovation at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“Jeff is positioning (the school) and ASU as a leader in providing students online and on campus with the experiential training they need to compete in the job market.”