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Key practical competencies

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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?

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 ;)

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.

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.  


--- Quote from: Dude on October 11, 2005, 11:49:14 AM --- You would be surprised by how many new engineers and chemists still struggle with the algebra of dilution and balance.
--- End quote ---

Point them to my site :)


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