Physical Chemistry with a Purpose

Physical Chemistry with a Purpose

The goal of this NSF funded project is to produce a trial set of materials that can be used in physical chemistry courses to more tightly connect the topics introduced in available texts to the realm of modern chemical research. These curricular materials are intended to facilitate the integration of context-rich teaching strategies into the physical chemistry curriculum. Materials are based on the primary literature and include biographical, historical and scientific background with the goal of embedding physical chemistry concepts and skills in the broader context of the discipline.

This project will foster the development of a robust set of context-rich materials for physical chemistry lecture that are more focused than case study approaches, yet bring a richer and more up-to-date perspective than either the text or the problems in most texts can provide. An initial set of 10 modules will be developed and field tested during 2004-2006.

Six modules are available now. Each module opens up for students a recent paper in the primary chemical literature. An initial set of questions leads the students through a critical reading of the paper. Subsequent questions and problems draw connections between material covered in a typical junior level physical chemistry course and the research presented in the paper. Each module includes a short background piece, questions and problems, and follow-up reading for interested students. The modules also feature "Culture of Chemistry" pieces which range from short biographical sketches of important historical figures or current researchers in the field to derivations of common terms in chemistry (how was entropy coined?).

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Currently available modules include: Hardcopy or PDF versions of the materials (including solutions and teaching notes) are available upon request from the author or can be downloaded here.

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Partial support for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation's Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program under grant 0340873. This page is maintained by Michelle M. Francl, Last updated 22 February 2005.