Chemistry Labs Get Facelift

The Department of Chemistry in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences is seeing a $15 million dollar facelift that will affect all freshman and organic chemistry laboratories.

The state-of-the-art labs will feature multimedia projectors, more workspace for students and an upgraded version of MeasureNet, the electronic data collection system developed by chemistry department faculty and staff (and currently used by more than 60 colleges worldwide) that enables electronic acquisition of experimental data from individual student workstations.

The labs, which see nearly 1,500 students each quarter, previously didn't have audio/visual capabilities and only limited real-time data acquisition facilities. New modes of operation will now be possible, such as using video pre-lab presentations or combining and displaying the results of all students working on one of the workstation networks, enhancing the educational experience for the students.

“The new labs provide a much more conducive learning and working environment for the students,” says department head and professor Patrick Limbach. “There is more technology incorporated into the lab, which enables state-of-the-art teaching.”

The organic labs will feature a room full of ventilated fume hoods—devices designed to limit users’ exposure to hazardous material—that allows students to conduct experiments in a safer lab environment similar to organic chemistry labs in the chemical industry.

The first phase of the renovations is complete, with one freshman lab ready for student use as of March 1. Two more freshman labs and two new organic labs are projected to be completed by fall quarter.

Old freshman labs.

Old freshman labs.

Other changes will include renovating the supply stockroom and creating a student lounge and a TA help room for all freshmen and organic chemistry students.

“The labs will be as good as laboratories can get. It’ll be a vast improvement from where we were,” says academic director David Knowles, who, along with undergraduate program director and professor Bruce Ault, oversaw the renovations. “It gives staff and faculty a great scope to improve the number of experiments they run and the experiences of students will also be greatly enhanced.”

He continues, “It’s a great boon for the department.”

The lab renovations were made possible with funding from McMicken’s Office of the Dean and the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost.

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