Discipline: Chemistry & Chemical Sciences
Subcategory: STEM Science and Mathematics Education
Tracy Brown-Fox - Johnson C. Smith University
Polymer chemistry is a subject that draws upon all of the traditional subdivisions of chemistry: organic, inorganic, physical, analytical, and biochemistry. Furthermore, this subject opens up the doors to exciting research and creative innovation. It is in this area of chemistry that most students are most likely to find employment; thus, making it appealing for most chemistry undergraduate programs to include it their curriculum. Therefore, in the fall of 2019, the ‘Introduction to Polymer Chemistry and Research Techniques’ were introduced as an upper level special topics elective within the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM). A total of seven students enlisted in the course, which was good for a newly developed course. Students enlisted in the course had already taken and successfully passed both semesters of organic chemistry. In this introductory polymer chemistry course, students learned about the chemical, physical, and mechanical properties associated with natural, biological, and synthetic polymers. To complement their course studies, students also learned how to conduct and designed experiments to characterize and analyze commercial polymers in a new established Thermal Analysis Instrumentation (TAI) suite – primarily supported by a prior National Science Foundation (NSF) HBCU-UP TIP grant. The TAI suite was equipped with a rheometer, a differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and thermal gravimetric analyzer (TGA), instrumentation often used in infrastructure, aviation, space technologies, medical applications, and a host of consumer and commercial goods. The course also included research projects centered on students using JCSU’s MAKERSPACE to learn how to design and 3-D print objects or prototypes for sparking the interest of students exploring entrepreneurial opportunities. It was through this introductory polymer chemistry course, students learned how to think like scientists and improve in their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, while obtaining marketable technical skills most STEM employers and graduate/professional schools are looking for in candidates.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): National Science Foundation: HBCU-UP
Faculty Advisor: None Listed,
NSF Affiliation: HBCU-UP