Data-Based Decisions

Faculty members carry out a continuous process of assessing learning in courses based upon input from student evaluations, peer suggestions, and the pedagogical literature.  Course-by-course descriptions of assessments and continuous improvements based on such inputs can be found here.

Examples of broader or program-wide changes that have been undertaken as a result of departmental and professional inputs are given below

MAJORS SECTIONS OF THE PRINCIPLES OF CHEMISTRY SERIES

In order to provide a focused experience for chemistry and biochemistry majors in their first chemistry course, majors-only sections of Principles of Chemistry I and II (Chem 1210 and 1220) were established.      

LAB SURVEYS

The department’s laboratory course instructors devised an end of semester survey given to students to give feedback on particular experiments.  Information has been used to revise or replace experiments that significant numbers of students found confusing or troublesome.  In some laboratories students reported bottlenecks in accessing particular equipment, such as balances or spectrometers.   These were addressed by purchasing additional units.

REVISION TO THE BIOCHEMISTRY UPPER DIVISION CURRICULUM

The core courses for the graduate biochemistry program are being transitioned during 2014 – 2015 into a series of 1 to 2-credit modules.  Chem 6710 will be replaced by a set of three, 1-credit modules:  Chem 6720 (Enzymology); Chem 6760 (Bioenergetics); and Chem 6740 (Cell processes).  Chem 6700 will be replaced by a team-taught, 2-credit module on Biochemical Methods and a 1-credit module on Structure of Biomolecules.  In addition to allowing graduate students greater flexibility in creating their programs of study, this will also offer senior undergraduates more options for completing elective requirements.

REVISION TO RULES FOR GRADUATE SUPERVISORY COMMITTEES

In response to recommendations from the American Chemical Society for increased multidisciplinary training of doctoral students, the divisional rules for major professors was relaxed in 2013.  It is now required to only have two faculty from the Division in which the student is seeking the degree.  Whether a student follows the curriculum for a particular chemistry division (analytical, inorganic, organic, or physical) is determined by the nature of the project, rather than the formal teaching division of the major professor.  A biochemistry or chemistry faculty member may serve as major professor to a student working toward either graduate degree, if the research project is appropriate to the degree.

CAREER PREPARATION INFORMATION

The department’s Advisory Board recommended in 2010 that the department enhance the preparation of students for seeking positions in the workforce.  In 2013 the department hosted a 2-day workshop designed to help graduate students prepare job application materials, and to familiarize them with the expectations of chemists in both academic and industrial positions.  This workshop, “Preparing for Life After Graduate School,” is organized and staffed by the American Chemical Society.  It includes a series of presentations by people with industrial and academic experience, and a workshop to give students feedback on draft application materials (resumes, cover letters) and mock interviews.  The attendance was excellent (nearly the entire graduate student body, including first-year students, and postdocs).  Given this level of attendance, the department will host this workshop again, tentatively in 2016 or 2017.

In senior exit surveys, some chemistry students expressed a desire for more career advice and assistance in preparing resumes and job/graduate school applications.  The chemistry capstone course, Chem 4990 provides some attention to this need, but this course is offered in spring semesters.  Students asked for access to advice earlier in the academic year.  In response, the department has arranged for Ned Weinshenker, an adjunct faculty member who is a retired chemist with a long career in industry to provide such advice and assistance to students.  An informational E-mail was sent out to all seniors at the beginning of fall semester to this effect.  Too few indicated a desire to schedule regular meetings.  Dr. Weinshenker has been working with students, both undergraduate and graduate, on an individual basis. 

In order to provide such information to students early in their academic program, in 2014 the department offered Chem 1990.  This 1-credit pass-fail course exposes students to currently important, topical areas of chemistry and biochemistry, highlights the role of professionalism in success, and outlines opportunities at USU that can help students reach their career goals. It includes seminars on topical issues presented by faculty and invited guests, discussions of career options, and activities to learn the best practices for resume writing and professionalism.

NEW COMPUTATIONAL CHEMISTRY COURSE

Computational chemistry is tool used across the full spectrum of chemistry, making it increasingly important that chemistry professionals be able to critically read and evaluate computational results in the literature, and have a working knowledge of how basic computational methods can contribute to their own work.  A trial run of a Special Topics course on computational methods in Fall 2013 demonstrated considerable interest.  In 2014 the department applied for the establishment of a permanent course in this subject, Chem 5100, Computational Chemistry.  This course will be offered every other year, as an elective course with a target audience of both upper division undergraduate and graduate students.