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Topic: Flaw in Chem at UWaterloo  (Read 10284 times)

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Offline lemonoman

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Flaw in Chem at UWaterloo
« on: May 28, 2006, 04:34:10 PM »
I have a situation on my hands.  Not necessarily a bad one, but read this in full to be shocked.

I got into chemistry at University of Waterloo in Canada.  Absolutely one of the best Universities in Canada.  Challenging chemistry program as I entered in 2003...

They switched things around for 2004 entrants, to make it "less stressful" in certain terms.  Basically, here's what they did:

  • Moved Quantum to 3rd year from 2nd
  • Moved intro. spectroscopy from 1st to 2nd year
  • Changed the chemistry requirements to graduate.  Instead of 9 "technical electives" (from a list of upper-year chem courses)...you only have to take 5...as long as you take 2 Arts or Environmental Sciences + 1 math course + a Biochemistry course

Here's the deal.  I needed to get 9 tech. electives, and so I took care of 5 of them in 3rd year...and I've also taken 2 arts, a math, and biochemistry (by choice).  But now I can switch into the new program.  As I enter my final year, this is what I HAVE to take:

Chem 494 (Research Project, ~10 hrs of research work/week)
8 free electives (anything I want).

Does it seem strange that I can graduate and only have taken ONE chemistry course in my final year?  I'm serious.  And more importantly, I could take the 8 easiest courses ever and have an average of like 95.  Will it harm my chances of getting into grad school if those courses weren't in chemistry? (I have will have legiimately earned a B.Sc. (Chem) and have at least one publication (J. Liq. Chromatog. and Rel. Tech.) )

Thanks for everyone's thoughts :)

Offline Mitch

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Re: Flaw in Chem at UWaterloo
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2006, 04:42:01 PM »
An increasing problem I've seen in all Chemistry departments is the relaxation of course requirements. Although, I don't see how this is a real problem for those who will be Chemists. I know as an undergrad, I took every single chem class offered as an undergrad except an environmental lab. And after I was done with that I moved onto graduate classes. There is always more classes one can take. I would doubt extra classes will keep you out of grad school, but they will prepare you better for grad school.
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Offline Donaldson Tan

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Re: Flaw in Chem at UWaterloo
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2006, 10:05:11 PM »
Although it means the undergraduate program is producing less knowledgable chemists, it also means entry requirements for non-chemistry graduates into chemistry graduate programs is relaxed. It's good for diversification, but bad for producing well qualified chemists. After-all, most people work in industry with BS or MS, not PhDs..
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Offline lemonoman

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Re: Flaw in Chem at UWaterloo
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2006, 01:15:04 AM »
An increasing problem I've seen in all Chemistry departments is the relaxation of course requirements. Although, I don't see how this is a real problem for those who will be Chemists. I know as an undergrad, I took every single chem class offered as an undergrad except an environmental lab. And after I was done with that I moved onto graduate classes. There is always more classes one can take.

WOW.  You're special though, you care about chemistry and you do it a lot.  For some people, they're looking to get a degree, and not necessarily the knowledge that goes with it.  I guess this just means that we'll have more slackers trying to squeak through.

Although it means the undergraduate program is producing less knowledgable chemists, it also means entry requirements for non-chemistry graduates into chemistry graduate programs is relaxed. It's good for diversification, but bad for producing well qualified chemists. After-all, most people work in industry with BS or MS, not PhDs..

I agree.  Definitely, not everyone's cut out for grad school.

Offline Dan

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Re: Flaw in Chem at UWaterloo
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2006, 06:26:46 PM »
That is absolutely ridiculous.

The first tutorial I ever had at uni was an introduction to quantum mechanics - it is absolutely key to understanding chemistry in general. Admittedly, I didn't really understand it at first, but it is important to be familiar with it. How on earth can you understand spectroscopy if you have never seen quantum?

As for taking non-chemistry options, this could be good. If you apply for a specific chemistry job, you might be able to get the edge over other applicants if you have taken alot of relavent chemistry options, because you have studied the relavent field(s) in detail. If you go for a non-chemistry job, or some more general post, the fact that you show ability in a wide range of subjects can work very well in your favour - especially modern languages.

The only non-chemistry options availabe to me were german and the philosophy of science - doing one of these supplimentary subjects excuses you from three practicals, and if you get a distinction, it scores you 10 extra marks (given that, combined, the mandatory exams are out of 800, it's insignificant). Problem is, three practicals takes about 4 to 5 days, but a supplimentary is a 16 lecture course and an exam - it's not a very attractive prospect - I took the labs, because I needed as much spare time as possible to try to get even slightly enthusiastic about physical chemistry (I almost failed it in my first year!).
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Offline lemonoman

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Re: Flaw in Chem at UWaterloo
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2006, 09:41:08 PM »
The first tutorial I ever had at uni was an introduction to quantum mechanics - it is absolutely key to understanding chemistry in general. Admittedly, I didn't really understand it at first, but it is important to be familiar with it. How on earth can you understand spectroscopy if you have never seen quantum?

When I look back, the 'spectroscopy' they taught us was more interpretting spectra that anything.  Sure, we knew radiation was being absorbed, and about the energy levels...but the exams focussed more on reading, say, a rotational spectrum with fine structure and finding 'B' from that.

And so now my program sounds easy lol, because we didn't learn quantum very far in.  But let me tell you...That course which we (used to) take at the beginning of second year...when the professor gave us our practice exam, it said, "Chem 474 - Princeton" at the top...our prof used to teach there, and it was an exam he had written and given to the fourth year quantum class at Princeton :P (they're not known for their chemistry I don't think..but it's a good story :D )

Thanks for your input Dan.  I agree completely with everything you said.  And I enjoyed your story as well.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2006, 05:55:43 AM by lemonoman »

Offline Dan

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Re: Flaw in Chem at UWaterloo
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2006, 04:38:09 AM »
And so now my program sounds easy lol, because we didn't learn quantum very far in.

No, I think that makes it harder in the long run. It would for me anyway. I took me quite a while to get to grips with quantum, so I'm glad they threw us at it from the start.

Just to clarify, is there absolutely no quantum until 3rd year? Not even particle in a box?
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Offline lemonoman

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Re: Flaw in Chem at UWaterloo
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2006, 06:01:41 AM »
Well, we touch on quantum several times in many different places.

I first saw particle-in-a-box in second year, after I had taken a first-year linear algebra course (which I feel helped tremendously in understanding the Operator-Eigenvalue nature of Quantum)

There can never be "absolutely" no quantum until third year, after all (like you said) it's important to EVERYTHING else...but there's no course devoted strictly to it until 3rd year (now that it's been moved from year 2 to year 3).  In years 1 and 2, it's tossed in to garnish the other chemistry concepts.

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