Research Competencies in Chemistry

Expected by the University of Nevada-Reno Department of Chemistry

Excerpts from:

Department of Chemistry, University of Nevada-Reno. Draft UNR Undergraduate Chemistry Standards. A Quality in Undergraduate Education (QUE) project.

1 Program mission

1.1 Overview of the chemistry curriculum

1.2 Ultimate objectives of the UNR undergraduate chemistry degree

2 Expected education outcomes for graduating chemistry majors

2.1 General education outcomes

2.3 Quantitative reasoning skills outcomes

2.5 Information skills training outcomes

3 Standards

3.1 Process standards

3.1.1 Sophomore year process standards

1 Program mission

1.1 Overview of the chemistry curriculum

The periphery of chemical knowledge is frequently a province of extreme specialization, high technological sophistication, and of healthy scientific contention regarding new interpretations and observations. However, chemists doing both routine work and those involved in research and development in all areas share an extensive core set of skills, standardized terminology, and a body of experimentally measured factual knowledge. The baccalaureate degree aims to impart these core skills through formal course work and laboratory exercises, and, through involvement in undergraduate research, give the upper division student the opportunity to savor the frontiers of chemical knowledge in some area of mutual interest to the student and a faculty member.

1.2 Ultimate objectives of the UNR undergraduate chemistry degree

1. Graduates will be successful in their professional careers as demonstrated by their abilities to solve important chemistry problems, to solve problems in areas different from their training, and to develop new and valuable ideas.

2. Graduates will be able to work in a variety of professional environments as demonstrated by their abilities to work in teams and alone, to provide project leadership, to mentor junior co-workers, and to communicate scientific results effectively to the chemistry community and the public.

3. Graduates will possess professional character as demonstrated by their ethical behavior, their pursuit of professional recognition, and their commitment to safety.


2 Expected education outcomes for graduating chemistry majors

The UNR Chemistry Department has the following expectations and goals for the graduates from its undergraduate programs:

2.1 General education outcomes

1. Graduates will be proficient in the oral and written communication of their work and ideas.

3. Graduates will be proficient in the scientific method (formulating hypotheses, designing experiments, and arriving at logically supported answers and conclusions).

5. Graduates will understand their professional and ethical responsibilities.

7. Graduates will be proficient in the use of computers, recent computer software, and computer-based information systems.


2.3 Quantitative reasoning skills outcomes

2. Graduates will possess the ability to solve problems competently involving extrapolation, approximation, precision, accuracy, rational estimation, and statistical validity.

3. Graduates will possess the ability to read, evaluate and interpret numerical, chemical and general scientific information.


2.5 Information skills training outcomes

1. Graduates will possess the ability to make effective use of information resources, including

(a) finding chemical information utilizing the primary literature, whether in a traditional library or electronic indexes and journals.

(b) critically evaluating chemical information.

(c) finding and evaluating chemical information utilizing secondary sources such as electronic databases.

2. Students will possess the ability to make effective use of computers in chemistry applications, including

(a) using a computer as a tool in technical writing, drawing chemical structures, and presenting data in order to communicate scientific information.

(b) having a familiarity with the applications of computers in the modeling and simulation of chemical phenomena.

(c) having an appreciation of the applications of computers in data acquisition and processing.


3 Standards

3.1 Process standards

3.1.1 Sophomore year process standards

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

    • Skill inventory
    • (a) organize and categorize information and data

      (b) recognize trends and patterns in data

      (c) deduce hypotheses from patterns and groupings

      (d) deduce hypotheses using analogical reasoning

      (e) formulate questions to test a hypothesis

      (f) order of magnitude estimation

      (g) use extrapolation and interpolation to infer unobserved properties

    • Performance expectations
    • (a) Group a diverse collection of phenomena or substances according to specific chemical or physical properties, or reaction mechanisms.

      (b) Given information about trends in chemical or physical properties of related substances, identify the underlying features responsible for those properties and predict those properties for substances for which data is unavailable.

      (c) Evaluate whether a calculated result or reported measurement is physically plausible by crude estimation of the quantity.

      (d) Given multiple hypotheses consistent with a set of observations, propose a question of utility in discriminating among the hypotheses.


3. Data Analysis

    • Skills inventory
    • (a) evaluate reliability of data

      (b) statistical analysis of data

      (c) analyze impact of results on society (economic, moral, political).

    • Performance expectations
    • (a) Propagate the uncertainty on a datum through a series of calculations in order to assess the uncertainty of a derived result.

      (b) Graphically represent data and indicate error bars appropriate to the uncertainty in the data.

      (c) Distinguish between and estimate random and statistical sources of error in a measurement.

      (d) Quantitatively calculate random error in a collection of replicate measurements by calculation of the standard deviation.

      (e) Given a set of objective observations and a proposed hypothesis, critically evaluate the hypothesis with an awareness of the possible bias of the source of the hypothesis.


4. Experimental Design

    • Skills inventory
    • (a) sampling

    • Performance expectations
    • (a) When provided a question concerning a well-defined system, determine what measurable properties are relevant to the answer.

      (b) Given a well-defined system, identify which variables are likely to influence a specific property of the system.

      (c) Using standardized reagents, calibrate an analytical instrument or technique.

      (d) Anticipate, recognize, and respond properly to hazards of chemical manipulations.


5. Systems Modeling

    • Skills inventory
    • (a) molecular and mathematical modeling

      (b) data analysis

      (c) graphing

      (d) word processing

      (e) spreadsheets

    • Performance expectations
    • (a) Use computer modeling to visualize three-dimensional molecular structures as a tool in understanding chemical properties.

      (b) Generate graphical representations of data designed to illustrate trends and support a scientific hypothesis.

      (c) Use computer spreadsheets to organize and quantitatively present data, perform linear regression, and evaluate the uncertainty of derived quantities.

      (d) Use computer software to prepare visually appealing reports and documents.


6. Accessing Information

    • Skills inventory
    • (a) computer/library searching

      (b) use of standard references

      (c) access scientific data over the Internet

      (d) evaluation of reliability of information

    • Performance expectations
    • (a) Use search engines, databases, and computer networks to access chemical information.

      (b) Use scientific journal citations to locate articles in the chemistry library.

      (c) Understand the organization of scientific journals and journal articles and be able to efficiently extract information from individual articles.

      (d) Aware of the utility of standard references in chemistry (e.g. CRC Handbook, Merck Manual, Spectral Atlases) and efficiently use them to extract specific information.


7. Communicating results

    • Skills inventory
    • (a) written

      (b) visual

      (c) teamwork

      (d) lab notebook

    • Performance expectations
    • (a) Write complete, logical prose that effectively conveys understanding of concepts, new results, and conclusions drawn from data to a general technical audience.

      (b) Draw diagrams and figures which graphically summarize data or complex three-dimensional structures (e.g. molecular geometries, configurations of experimental apparatus).

      (c) Organize a large task among the members of a team, communicate results among team members, and arrive a consensus conclusion or result.

      (d) Keep legible, organized, and complete experimental records in a laboratory journal.


3.1.2 Baccalaureate/Senior year process standards

1. Critical Thinking/Problem Solving

    • Skills inventory
    • (a) categorizing

      (b) recognizing trends

      (c) deduction

      (d) inference

      (e) interpreting and using algorithms

      (f) dealing with ambiguity

      (g) analogical reasoning

      (h) formulating questions

      (i) order of magnitude estimation

    • Performance expectations
    • (a) Explain new concepts by analogy with the properties or behavior of well-understood systems.

      (b) Distinguish data extraneous to the solution of a problem and avoid confusion due to ambiguity.


3. Experimental Design

    • Skills inventory
    • (a) formulating problems

      (b) use of the literature for planning

      (c) sampling

      (d) decision-making

    • Performance expectations
    • (a) Independently formulate an experimental approach to test a fundamental hypothesis or address an important societal issue.

      (b) Make critical use of the scientific literature to evaluate the utility of experimental strategies and obtain information relevant to an experimental problem.


Last modified February 26, 2007
by Boris Teske, Prescott Memorial Library,
Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, LA 71272