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Offline mike

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2005, 08:26:55 PM »
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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).

Ok that sounds like a good way to do it. Then at the end of your degree if you were to work in an analytical lab would you already be trained to the national standard (or whatever it is called where you are from)? Or would you be expected to do further "practical" training.

I have this problem at work that half of the staff think that simple titrations (ie acid and base and indicator) with a visual endpoint are very important for chemists while the other half say that everything is automated these days and there are better ways to teach acids and bases anyway.

Personally I find simple acid base titrations a little dull (I would prefer students to use pH meters or spectrometers etc for titrations). So in the end I have included a prac which incorporates titration of vinegar to determine the acetic acid concentration (Borek-you may have some advice on the best way to analyse this one w/w% is better than v/v% I think you said if I remember correctly?).

So do people still do titrations out there in the "real-world"?

And if students only get to do one or two titrations during one practical session is this enough?
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Offline Borek

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2005, 04:15:19 AM »
Then at the end of your degree if you were to work in an analytical lab would you already be trained to the national standard

I don't recall the level of training to be defined this way, but that's how I did understood the situation.

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Or would you be expected to do further "practical" training.

Further training is inevitable, as every lab has its own charecteristics and instruments.

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I have this problem at work that half of the staff think that simple titrations (ie acid and base and indicator) with a visual endpoint are very important for chemists while the other half say that everything is automated these days and there are better ways to teach acids and bases anyway.

I would insist on one (at least) titration with visual endpoint detection. First - to show that it really works and that detemination is not incredibly difficult. Second - to show that it can be done even if "they" (tribute to Dude here) didn't made the necessary instrument. And third - to show that it can be done even if "they" made the instrument, but it is broken.

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Personally I find simple acid base titrations a little dull (I would prefer students to use pH meters or spectrometers etc for titrations). So in the end I have included a prac which incorporates titration of vinegar to determine the acetic acid concentration

Sounds OK with me. Acetic acid in vinegar, tartaric acid in wine, and so on. Perhaps two or three experiments to choose from, so that whole class knows that you can use same method for different things.

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Borek-you may have some advice on the best way to analyse this one w/w% is better than v/v% I think you said if I remember correctly?

Just ask for final result in w/w%. I am against using w/v and v/v as long as they don't understand what kind of mistakes can be done. If you have read my discussion with jdurg about AgSO4/Ag2SO4 you should know what I mean.

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So do people still do titrations out there in the "real-world"?

AFAIK - yes. But then in Poland automatic titrators cost more then workforce.

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And if students only get to do one or two titrations during one practical session is this enough?

One is definitely wrong. Two at least, to force them to make errors and calculate average.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2005, 04:17:01 AM by Borek »
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Offline mike

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2005, 06:37:03 AM »
Ok, so you are from Poland Borek? The internet sure makes the world a small place :)

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Sounds OK with me. Acetic acid in vinegar, tartaric acid in wine, and so on. Perhaps two or three experiments to choose from, so that whole class knows that you can use same method for different things.

Yes this is a good idea, thank you!

The students are first year chemistry so I am going to get them to make cabbage indicator, standardise the cabbage indicator against known pH, measure the acidity/basicity of everyday solutions (cleaning, food, etc), then visual titration of acetic acid in vinegar (and tartaric acid in wine (thanks borek) etc) Hopefully they find it fun and informative.
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Offline Borek

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2005, 07:36:28 AM »
Ok, so you are from Poland Borek? The internet sure makes the world a small place :)

Funny thing is how many people are absolutly sure that if they meet you at some forum/news group you must live next door. Well, next city. OK, you live a little bit futher than that, but at least you live - as everyone else - in America :)

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tartaric acid in wine

Please research details. I have seen questions from the students doing this titration (you know, standard stuff - "I have used x mL of NaOH, what do I do next?") so it can be done, but I have no idea how easy/difficult it is, what levels of acid are present, which wine will be the best for experiment (red is coloured, so endpoint will be masked, perhaps white contains more acid - and so on).
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Offline mike

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2005, 06:09:38 PM »
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Funny thing is how many people are absolutly sure that if they meet you at some forum/news group you must live next door. Well, next city. OK, you live a little bit futher than that, but at least you live - as everyone else - in America

I live in Australia, it is a long way from Poland :)
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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #20 on: October 27, 2005, 09:31:58 PM »
The Australian flag does look like a cross between the Union Jack and the American Flag. LOL.

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Offline mike

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #21 on: October 27, 2005, 09:37:15 PM »
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The Australian flag does look like a cross between the Union Jack and the American Flag. LOL.

Yes, I never though of it that way before.

It is strange how the american flag is red, white and blue, and these are their national colors aren't they? Our flag is also red, white and blue yet our national colors are green and gold!
« Last Edit: October 27, 2005, 09:37:57 PM by mike »
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Offline mike

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #22 on: November 01, 2005, 05:14:00 PM »
I now have a list of "generic" skills required/expected of chemistry graduates (not necessarily practical skills), let me know what you guys think as chemists/enthusiasts yourselves:

*Advanced research planning skills
*Occupational health and safety
*Intellectual property
*Scientific writing skills
*Communication
*Ethics
*Professionalism
*Scientific integrity

Are these things that are "taught" or learnt along the way? Are we even able to teach these things to students? I think we can teach things like OH&S scientific writing and probably communication.

Are these all attributes that you think you have? and did you learn them yourselves or from a structured class?

Maybe you have some other generic skills that are important?

Mike
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AgG

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2005, 02:18:33 AM »
First off, I think the term "chemist" as it was initially stated is a bit too broad for this conversation. Chemistry is such a large field that what may be a practical skill for one chemist may be absolutely useless for another chemist.  The original thoughts that sprang to my head were the differences between the ab initio quantum chemist and the synthetic organic chemist.  A purely theoretical chemist has little need for schlenk techniques, crystallization ability, or steady hands (easy on the coffee!). Likewise a synthetic organic chemist has little use for programming skills, or abilities in advanced mathematics.  Granted, the chemist who is able to combine both of these attributes efficiently may be better off than the chemist who speciallizes only in one, however, the question arises, is the chemist specialized in everything better off than the chemist specialized in one thing?  My answer and the answer of most people I know would most certainly be 'absolutely not'.  The people I know have enough trouble becoming experts in one tiny portion of their field that I think be an expert in all things (or even more than a few things) is utterly impossible no matter what your age or intelligence.  The progression of the science is just too quick to stay on top of all subjects at any one time.  My opinion is, then, is that there are no "most important skills" that can be obtained at the end of a degree as the choice of one or more skills would decidedly be favored by my own chosen path as a chemist. No, I think the best thing a chemist can take from there degree, the most important thing a chemist can take from there degree is good, moral, scientific character. andale.

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Offline Mitch

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2005, 05:46:49 AM »
AgG: The first day in graduate school in my physical organic chemistry class was a very involved elaboration of quantum mechanics. The ability to program is still useful even for synthetic students. Whenever I had to model the transition state of a reaction or calculate the thermodynamic properties of a useful molecule to a degree higher that that of using Spartan, Titan or any other package, a basic level of programming is a must. All p-chemist should know how to program, period, synthetics might be allowed to get off the hook.

mike: Your list of required/expected generic skills for graduate students is great. The only problem with them is that they are just not taught well in a classroom setting. I learned most of all those things by interacting with professors in a laboratory setting. If you mandated undergraduates to do some research, if only for a term for some professor. I think they'll be better off than all the classes on OH&S combined.
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Offline mike

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #25 on: November 03, 2005, 05:50:41 PM »
I can see where AgG is coming from in that "chemist" do tend to specialise, but I think this comes after the basic degree. Also degrees may be different in other countries so I will give you my study path that led to me being a chemist (this is fairly representative of study in Australia):

High school (years 11 and 12) chemistry, physics, maths, english

University (first year) chemistry, physics, geology, biology
(second year) organic chem, phys&inorg chem, biochem
(third year) organic, physical, inorganic chemistry

(honours, fourth year counted as post-grad) research project

(MSc/PhD) by research 2-4 years (on average)

So by the end of third year (or on graduation) you are ageneral chemist who has studied all of the major "general" field of chemistry and done many hours of lab work. At this stage you are a "chemist" and can get a job in the field. My problem with this is that there seems to be no one regulating the level to which this occurs. However there should be a general expectation that graduates after three years know a certain amount of chemistry.

I totally agree with Mitch that it would be great if undergrads could do research work (a very small number of them get the chance) but on the whole it is too expensive and impractical). I have been trying to come up with a way by which we could work out what skills/knowledge is required of chemists. Perhaps by a top down approach, ie here is a proffessional chemistry job and the skills required to perform it and then work backwards to first year to determine what students should know by the completion of each academic year.
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AgG

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Re:Key practical competencies
« Reply #26 on: November 04, 2005, 02:23:27 AM »
This is again a question of specialization.  The production chemist working in an analytical chemistry lab may need to have a great deal of knowledge about columns, solvent polarities and GC/MS procedure in order to effectively complete certain extractions and characterizations while the industrial chemist may only be concerned with polymer viscosity, flow rates and rates of reaction.  The two jobs require totally different skills - almost to the point of exclusivity. Skills are easy to learn, however, and therefore I beleive  that the stress or the focus should be placed more upon a fundamental theoretical understanding of chemistry.  Emphasis should be placed upon problem solving based on these fundamental ideas. For example, the ability to use a balance, while helpful, is not particularly useful when one does not understand the concept of stoichiometry and molecular weights unless, of course, the person is following a procedure that has been performed before and has been written down step-by-step.  It does not take a very intelligent or knowledgable person to follow a procedure.  Following a procedure does not require any knowledge about the chemistry that is occurring or chemistry that will occur if something goes wrong.  It is my feeling that skills can be taught in a matter of hours or days and that a company or university should not be concerned about the sort of skills that a particular person has.  Rather they should realize the benefits of a hard honest worker who is able to understand why certain procedures are employed and who has the ability to make their own decisions.

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