CHED - 863

A Material Evolution Narrative for General Chemistry in a Liberal Arts Environment.

Judith Herzfeld, Dept. of Chemistry, Brandeis Univ., Waltham, MA.

General chemistry has a tightly packed curriculum, highly constrained by the expectations of succeeding science courses and medical schools. The result is often a fragmented presentation, with the relevance of the material illustrated by isolated and eclectic vignettes describing clever applications and, sometimes, unfortunate environmental consequences. In losing the forest among the trees, general chemistry is also seen as speaking less to liberal arts interests in the human condition than courses in particle physics, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience. To better hold student interest, and highlight the internal and external connections that underlie the scope and significance of the material, we have chosen to organize the topics of general chemistry according to a narrative describing the material evolution of the universe, from the big bang to human activity, in five stages: condensation, aqueous, prebiotic, biotic, and anthropic. Telling the story according to its own logic also promotes a natural balance in the exposure to the different subdisciplines of chemistry, from inorganic (the traditional focus of general chemistry) to organic, biomolecular, industrial, and environmental. In the pilot course, the new sequence was well received, although many students found it challenging to study nuclear chemistry first.