Challenges in preparing professional chemists

Challenges in Preparing
Professional Chemists: Imparting
and Assessing Student Skills
Joel Shulman
University of Cincinnati
ACS Committee on Professional Training
BCCE Symposium on The Evolution of the ACS Approval Process:
Moving beyond the 2008 Guidelines
July 31, 2012
What Do We Mean By
“Student Skills?”
Can be termed:
Process skills
Soft skills
Employability skills
Nontechnical professional competencies
 Generic and transferable
 Marketable and lifelong
 Wide applications that go beyond course
content alone
Examples of Student Skills
and Abilities
 Problem solving/Critical thinking
 Laboratory safety
 Chemical-literature skills
 Communication, both oral and written
 Team skills
 Professional ethics and social responsibility
What Do The ACS Guidelines Say?
 “Students should go beyond course content alone to be
effective and productive scientists. They need to master a
variety of skills that will allow them to become successful
 “Both dedicated courses and integration of learning
opportunities throughout the curriculum can be used to
develop student skills and provide a means for assessing
Problem Solving/Critical Thinking
 “The ultimate goal of chemistry education is to
provide students with the tools to solve problems.”
– Problem solving skill is what students will need to develop
further in graduate school and the reason they are hired by
– But even if they have the tools, students don’t necessarily
know how and when to use them.
– Need to integrate knowledge across chemistry and apply
this knowledge appropriately to solve a problem.
What Do Students Need To Demonstrate?
 Define and analyze problems clearly
 Develop a testable hypothesis
 Design and execute experiments
 Sort through data and draw appropriate conclusions
 Demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate literature
 Understand the fundamental uncertainties in
experimental measurements
Laboratory Safety Skills: A Lifelong Impact
HAZARDS occur daily!
Laboratory Safety Teaches Students about:
- Minimizing hazard risks and what to do
when they occur
- How to Use prudent practices and
protective equipment
Ultimately, Lab Safety Skills teach students to:
 Create a safer/healthier environment for all
 Live safer, healthier, longer lives
What Do Students Need To Demonstrate?
 “Students [should] understand the concepts of
safe laboratory practices and how to apply them.”
 Begin safety awareness in the first lab course
 Understand responsible disposal techniques
 Comply with safety regulations
 Understand and use MSDS
 Recognize and minimize potential chemical
and physical hazards in the laboratory
Laboratory Safety
Demonstrate Understanding of:
Safety rules (food/drink)
Dress regulations (shoes/clothing/goggles)
Physical safety
Safety/Emergency equipment and their use
What to do in case of accident/Injury/Illness
Handling, storage, and disposal of chemical waste
When to work in fume hoods
Awareness of Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) requirements
 Access and ability to use Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
 Proper techniques for each experiment
Library & Information
“Set of abilities requiring individuals to
recognize when information is needed,
and have the ability to locate,
evaluate, and use effectively the
needed information.”
American Library Association (ALA)
What do students need to demonstrate?
 “Students should learn how to retrieve specific
chemical information from the chemical literature.”
 Determine and access needed information
 Retrieve specific information
 Journal articles, reviews, handbooks, etc.
 Variety of online data bases, such as Chemical Abstracts
 Use both library and electronic sources
 Evaluate technical articles critically
Written and Oral Communication
 “Effective communication is vital to a scientist.”
 Industry has identified “outages” in new-hire
bachelor-degree chemists, especially
 Communication skills
 Team skills
What Do Students Need To Demonstrate?
 Present information in a clear and organized manner
 Use appropriate technology (e.g., poster preparation,
PowerPoint, word processing, chemical drawing programs)
 Write well-organized and concise reports in a scientifically
appropriate style
 Respond effectively to questions in an oral
Team Building
 “The ability to work in multidisciplinary teams is
essential for a well-educated scientist.”
 Enhances student learning
 Is social, less competitive—not a solo race
 Allows for sharing of ideas; increases listening, learning,
and communication skills
 Develops cooperation and reciprocity
 Uses active/interactive learning techniques
 Stimulates interpersonal collaboration
 Develops people skills
 Industry uses the team approach to solve problems.
What Do Students Need To Demonstrate?
 Work effectively in a group to solve scientific
 Able to lead portions of an activity and be effective
 Interact productively with a diverse group of peers
ETHICS: Professional Conduct of Research
 Chemistry, like any discipline, has a social
structure with a code of practices that govern
acceptable/unacceptable behaviors.
 Progress in chemistry, as in all sciences, relies on
complete honesty, openness, trustworthiness, and
reproducibility of experimental results.
 ACS has recognized the importance of ethics in
chemistry by
 Adopting an ACS Code of Conduct.
 Constituting a Council Committee on Ethics.
What Do Students Need To Demonstrate?
• “Ethics should be an intentional part of the instruction
in a chemistry program.”
 Display high personal standards and integrity
 Demonstrate an awareness of contemporary issues related
to chemistry
 Recognize applications of chemistry in
industrial, governmental, and/or
societal settings
How Can Chemistry Programs Impart and
Assess These Skills and Abilities?
 Incorporate into existing courses throughout the
 Design a culture of safety into all lab courses
 Consciously design team projects into courses
 Require some use of the literature in early chemistry
 Design exams that go beyond knowledge to demonstrate
integration and utilization of information
 Emphasize the absolute importance of ethics
 All instructional staff must be role models and exemplify
responsible conduct in their teaching, research, and all
other professional activities.
How Can Chemistry Programs Impart and
Assess These Skills and Abilities?
 Develop separate “mini” courses
Writing and/or use of the literature
Capstone seminars
 Use advanced courses to assess skills
 A senior lab course
 Poster session based on project, with literature
How Can Chemistry Programs Impart and
Assess These Skills and Abilities?
 Undergraduate research: a unique
opportunity to develop and assess student
 Written and oral reports
 Poster presentation
 Critical use of the literature
 Team skills
Possible Content of a One-Credit
Capstone Seminar Course*
 Advanced literature searching
 Scientific ethics, with case studies
 Writing a scientific paper
 Effective oral scientific presentations
 Effective poster presentations
 Societal impacts of chemistry
 Graduate school considerations
 Job searching
 Resume preparation
 Interviewing skills
*Such Courses Are Not Usually Considered as In-Depth by CPT
CPT Expectations
 Departments are expected to
 Define important student process skills.
 Describe activities that will develop these skills.
 Evaluate whether (and how well) these skills are
being developed.
 CPT does not look at individual student
outcomes, but rather at how a department
imparts and accesses process skills.
 See Student Skills Supplements at
[Education  CPT  ACS Guidelines/Supplements]
A Word About Mentoring
 “Effective advising and mentoring of undergraduates are central to student achievement.”
 Successful mentors provide guidance for a student’s
 Ethical behavior
 Development of independence
 Networking
 Ability to apply what she has learned
 Career planning
 Career preparation

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