September 18, 2019, 04:39:35 PM
Forum Rules: Read This Before Posting


Topic: Key practical competencies  (Read 22020 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline mike

  • Retired Staff
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1246
  • Mole Snacks: +121/-35
  • Gender: Male
Key practical competencies
« on: October 10, 2005, 11:07:11 PM »
Hi guys I was wondering what your opinions are on this topic. What do think the key practical competencies a student should have are when they finish their degree?

In other words, what practical skills should we expect new graduates to have on finishing their chemistry studies? Are some areas more important than others?

Are generic skills such as writing reports, plotting graphs (by hand or computer), handling and disposing of chemicals etc expected of students, and should they be taught explicitly or are these skills that should be picked up along the way?

Some important ones I think are:
*using an electronic balance for weighing
*making solutions of known concentrations
*distillation and reflux
*hot filtration and recrystallisation
*instrumentation (nmr/ir/ms/gc etc)

What do you think? Are different skills acquired at different levels of study or are the same skills required but better technique expected?
There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts.

Online Borek

  • Mr. pH
  • Administrator
  • Deity Member
  • *
  • Posts: 25189
  • Mole Snacks: +1656/-397
  • Gender: Male
  • I am known to be occasionally wrong.
    • Chembuddy
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2005, 05:28:06 AM »
I wonder what is more important - to put pressure on the practical competencies per se (like in "preparing pupils to become chemists"), or to look for such practical competencies that show that:

- chemistry is all around
- chemistry is not a rocket science
- chemical doesn't mean artficial/bad/dangerous

I am not addressing your question here, just adding some fat to the fire ;)
ChemBuddy chemical calculators - stoichiometry, pH, concentration, buffer preparation, titrations.info, pH-meter.info

Offline mike

  • Retired Staff
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1246
  • Mole Snacks: +121/-35
  • Gender: Male
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2005, 06:17:48 AM »
Yes I like these ideas and I have similar views. I like to show students that chemistry is not separate from everyday life. I like to show them experiments that can be done with things they are familiar with from home or the market.

Most people here in Australia have the notion that chemicals are bad. So they buy things that are "chemical-free" or all natural, not synthetic etc without realising that everything is chemicals.

I think some of the problem over here comes from the idea of getting students to "pass the exam". All of there education is geared towards gaining grades and not towards exploration of the world around them. The old catch phrase "will this be in the exam" is one of the most common here.

Thanks for the reply Borek, would love to hear more of your thoughts when you have a chance.
There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts.

Offline Dude

  • Chemist
  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 237
  • Mole Snacks: +42/-9
  • I'm a mole!
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2005, 11:49:14 AM »
Here are my pet peeves and thoughts about important competencies:

1.  Algebra skills and the use of a spreadsheet should almost be second nature at the time of graduation.  You would be surprised by how many new engineers and chemists still struggle with the algebra of dilution and balance.  I would even go so far as to recommend dropping courses like Statistical/Quantum Mechanics and Advanced Organic Chemistry courses and substitute them with more fundamental courses.  Leave the high level courses for the grad students.

2.  Technical writing must be practiced and understood.  The use of third person description and developmental thought flow comes only with practice and experience.  

3.  Chemical logic needs to be understood.  I think all chemists should take 2-4 engineering courses to obtain a degree.  The most important class being Material and Energy Balances.  Understanding, for example, that you aren't going to get a chlorinated chemical from a hydrocarbon won't happen unless a chlorine source is available.

4.  Understand that there is no more cornucopian "They".  They won't cure cancer, they won't develop cars that run on air and they won't enhance space exploration.  It is now your job.  

Online Borek

  • Mr. pH
  • Administrator
  • Deity Member
  • *
  • Posts: 25189
  • Mole Snacks: +1656/-397
  • Gender: Male
  • I am known to be occasionally wrong.
    • Chembuddy
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2005, 01:11:31 PM »
You would be surprised by how many new engineers and chemists still struggle with the algebra of dilution and balance.

Point them to my site :)
ChemBuddy chemical calculators - stoichiometry, pH, concentration, buffer preparation, titrations.info, pH-meter.info

Offline mike

  • Retired Staff
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1246
  • Mole Snacks: +121/-35
  • Gender: Male
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2005, 07:05:31 PM »
4.  Understand that there is no more cornucopian "They".  They won't cure cancer, they won't develop cars that run on air and they won't enhance space exploration.  It is now your job.  

I like this! Ok if I use it? :)
There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts.

Offline mike

  • Retired Staff
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1246
  • Mole Snacks: +121/-35
  • Gender: Male
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2005, 07:11:30 PM »
Do you think that skills such as algebra calculations (for dilutions etc), spreadsheet skills, graphing, report writing, keeping a lab journal and "concenptual" scientific thinking should be taught as specific topics, or do you think it is more efficient to pick these things up as you go?

Many of the short comings of our graduates appear to be in areas where the knowledge is expected to by learnt via "osmosis" ie they will just absorb the knowledge by being in the lab/room.

Another problem (I don't know if it the same where you guys are from) is that students are treated more as clients/customers and the university is providing them with a service (much more of a business). Students are busy and competitive (not a bad thing) but all they want is their certificate, most of them aren't interested in thinking they just want things served to them on a plate.
There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts.

Offline billnotgatez

  • Global Moderator
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3800
  • Mole Snacks: +209/-55
  • Gender: Male
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2005, 02:17:51 AM »
Who is paying the tuition, the school or the student?

Online Borek

  • Mr. pH
  • Administrator
  • Deity Member
  • *
  • Posts: 25189
  • Mole Snacks: +1656/-397
  • Gender: Male
  • I am known to be occasionally wrong.
    • Chembuddy
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2005, 04:06:11 AM »
Students [...] most of them aren't interested in thinking they just want things served to them on a plate.

Thinking hurts.
ChemBuddy chemical calculators - stoichiometry, pH, concentration, buffer preparation, titrations.info, pH-meter.info

Offline mike

  • Retired Staff
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1246
  • Mole Snacks: +121/-35
  • Gender: Male
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2005, 04:11:22 AM »
Who is paying the tuition, the school or the student?

Students here pay on a deferred plan. Students can attend university and complete their degree without paying. Once they are earning money they must repay the government (it is a subsidised rate though so the government foots a lot of the cost). The rate that the money is paid back is assessed on income, the more you earn the quicker you have to pay it back.
There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts.

Offline Donaldson Tan

  • Editor, New Asia Republic
  • Retired Staff
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 3178
  • Mole Snacks: +261/-12
  • Gender: Male
    • New Asia Republic
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2005, 02:02:58 AM »
Do you think that skills such as algebra calculations (for dilutions etc), spreadsheet skills, graphing, report writing, keeping a lab journal and "concenptual" scientific thinking should be taught as specific topics, or do you think it is more efficient to pick these things up as you go?

I think all these stuff should be taught specifically, and then to be enforced in other courses. eg. you are taught to keep a lab journal, then you are expected to practise keeping a lab journal throughout the 3-4yr of the degree program. Or learning MS Excel or Matlab, then you are expected to use Matlab to solve partial derrivative problem and submit the computer solution for grading for almost all your math courses in your degree program. This enforces the student to really appreciate all this 'little' things and actually gain mastery over these skills.
"Say you're in a [chemical] plant and there's a snake on the floor. What are you going to do? Call a consultant? Get a meeting together to talk about which color is the snake? Employees should do one thing: walk over there and you step on the friggin� snake." - Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO of Glaxosmithkline, June 2006

Offline mike

  • Retired Staff
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1246
  • Mole Snacks: +121/-35
  • Gender: Male
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2005, 06:15:18 AM »
Yes , I agree with you geodome, I think that these skills should be specifically taught and then practiced throughout a degree.

Do you think that skills such as keeping a lab book/journal, writing a report, analysing data etc are science specific? In other words does a student studying chemistry, physics, geology, biology etc have to learn these specifics for each topic or should some of these skills be "universal"?

I think that the foundations, or basics, of each science are probably the same and that specialisation would occur later.
There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts.

Offline Donaldson Tan

  • Editor, New Asia Republic
  • Retired Staff
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 3178
  • Mole Snacks: +261/-12
  • Gender: Male
    • New Asia Republic
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2005, 06:55:49 PM »
these are universal analytical skills. keeping the lab journal enforces the discipline to properly record data. To master excel/matlab will be useful for any analyst job, eg. generating 3D excel graph for presentation and write a function to predict trends. Engineers, Scientists, Bankers, etc, need them.
"Say you're in a [chemical] plant and there's a snake on the floor. What are you going to do? Call a consultant? Get a meeting together to talk about which color is the snake? Employees should do one thing: walk over there and you step on the friggin� snake." - Jean-Pierre Garnier, CEO of Glaxosmithkline, June 2006

Offline mike

  • Retired Staff
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1246
  • Mole Snacks: +121/-35
  • Gender: Male
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2005, 08:19:48 PM »
I would expect that if I were to ask most chemistry students they would be able to set up a simple distillation apparatus, perform a reflux, use an electronic balance, fliter a solution, perform a titration etc.

Should I expect that a university level student could use a calorimeter, pH meter, make solutions of known concentrations etc.

A problem with this is that the chemistry theory is taught in lectures but there is not much practical mentioned in lectures (well here there isn't anyway). At what point does someone actually impart the practical skills on the students? In the universities I have seen it is passed on from honours (postgrad) students to undergrad students, but are these the best people to do this? Laboratory technicians often have better "hands-on" skills in the labs than postgrad students, maybe they should be teaching these basic skills. How were you guys taught?

I had to make a real effort to discover the "right" way to perform a lot of basic lab techniques after being taught the "wrong" way by other unskilled people. Unfortunatly academic staff don't have much time here to spend in the lab teaching practical skills.
There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts.

Online Borek

  • Mr. pH
  • Administrator
  • Deity Member
  • *
  • Posts: 25189
  • Mole Snacks: +1656/-397
  • Gender: Male
  • I am known to be occasionally wrong.
    • Chembuddy
Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2005, 04:44:14 AM »
How were you guys taught?

It was something like 2 semesters of analytical chemistry lab, supervised all the time by the very same academic people that taught us theory - how to do the questions and so on (lecturer usually excluded).
ChemBuddy chemical calculators - stoichiometry, pH, concentration, buffer preparation, titrations.info, pH-meter.info

Sponsored Links