Undergraduate projects in Chemistry – more thoughts

It’s interesting that my post from February 2011 on the topic of undergraduate chemistry projects continues to get hits (906 in total), implying it’s a topic of continued interest.

Our Chemistry course at Keele is currently undergoing quite a lot of changes, but a 15 or 30 credit final year project will continue to be a component of the final year (dual honours students will take a 15 credit module; major route and single honours students a 30 credit module).  In addition to this there is the possibility (against my instincts it has to be said) of an MChem course in the future, which would have to involve a longer project of 45 credits at least.

As I said in the last post, I do think it is important that all Chemistry undergraduates have some experience of research in their course, but I am concerned about how a small ‘department’ like ours can offer projects to all our students, especially when the numbers are increasing all the time. We have entered into a ‘3+1’ deal with a Chinese University, and in a few years time we may regularly get 30 additional students in our final year, leading to final year numbers of 100+ (with a current staff cohort of about 17). It will be a challenge which we will undoubtedly rise to, but I would like to ask the question (again) of whether every student graduating in Chemistry has to have done a project? The RSC have requirements of minimum ‘lab’ hours for accreditation, but that doesn’t have to be a research project. Alternatives to projects that give research experience include literature dissertations, which I know some departments allocate to students who don’t make the ‘cut’ to do a project.

I would be interested to hear from people in other departments about how they are addressing these issues.

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