I. The Chemical World: New Perspectives
II. Virtual Sherlock

Dr. Preetha Ram (Chemistry, Emory University)

The Chemical World: New Perspectives

The faculty Science Council, Emory College and the Center for Science Education provided Dr. Preetha Ram, senior lecturer in the Chemistry department with a stipend to develop a senior seminar writing intensive course, The Chemical World: New Perspectives over summer 2000.

Preetha researched the topics, discussed the content of the course with several faculty colleagues in the sciences and humanities and developed a course syllabus and outline. Since it will involve the participation of faculty from different disciplines, Preetha also investigated the common team teaching styles in the College. She participated in a university wide discussion on Team teaching in order to understand better how other faculty have incorporated team teaching in their courses.

Based on the work done during summer, Preetha wrote up a description of the course and submitted it to the Undergraduate Committee in the Chemistry department and then the College Curriculum committee. The course was approved by the curriculum committee and will be offered in Spring 2001.

Chem 468SWR, The Chemical World: New Perspectives is designed for chemistry majors, many of whom are medical school bound. Many of them are joint majors in some other science discipline - usually biology. Most of the chemistry courses taken by these students - from Chem. 141 (freshman general chemistry) to the upper level Chem. 441 (Biochemistry) are focused and content rich. They are seldom interdisciplinary, rarely discussion based and often do not offer our students a much needed opportunity to gain a unified perspective of chemistry or the role of science in our society. The Chemical World will be interdisciplinary, discussion based and will provide our students with an opportunity to gain a unified perspective of chemistry and the role of the sciences in our society. Topics for seminar/discussion will be chosen for their timeliness, relevance, societal impact, interdisciplinary content and scientific content. Faculty experts from other departments or programs will be invited to participate in the course and in the subsequent discussion.

Each of the topics chosen will have material in it that comes from at least one non-science discipline. Topics include:

  • Cocaine: Chemistry and structure of cocaine. (Chemistry/Biochemistry). Social impact (Sociology). Legalization of drugs? Criminal behavior of the addict (Violence Studies). Economics of Cocaine (Economics).
  • Beginnings of life on earth - (Science and Religion, Philosophy).
  • The Pill: The story of its synthesis. The man who discovered it - Carl Djerassi (Chemistry/Biochemistry). Social and economic impact on women (Women's studies).
  • Silcon and the computer revolution: Why silicon? (Chemistry and Physics) What has it done for us? (Computer science, sociology) Implications for the future: the Bionic Man?
  • Arsenic in ground water: A public health nightmare in Bangla Desh (Public Health, CDC)


Preetha also received help from the Hughes initiative in continuing the development of Virtual Sherlock (log in as "Group1" and use "group1" as the password - it is case-sensitive). Virtual Sherlock is a web based problem based learning environment. It was initially developed with funds from the College in the form of a Culpeper summer fellowship.

In Virtual Sherlock, students try to solve a crime using the clues and information available. The problem solving process requires students to use the library and the internet to look for additional information, learn, understand and apply it in order to solve the crime. The program is now completely operational. Students should be able to post their work online and also carry out a discussion online. Students in my analytical lab, CHEM 292L will be working on the program in a week. There are 8 students this semester in the course. (4 males and 4 females, three Asian Americans and no African Americans) Their experiences will provide me with valuable feedback that will help in the future design and development of these web based units.

Last year, 12 students participated in the Virtual Sherlock project. Their comments were quite varied. (Copy of comments already provided to Hughes). There were two African American (female students), five asian-american, and the rest were white. There were five female students. This year, 8 students are participating in the project. There are two female students and six male students. There are two asian-american students. Preetha has presented the project at several national and international meetings.

Content Chemistry: General principles of density, Spectroscopy, chromatography, neutron activation analysis, HPLC, Fibers, polymer chemistry, arsenic chemistry and biochemistry Biological chemistry: viruses, biochemistry of arsenic, DNA testing, protein structure, blood alcohol level, biological effects of high blood alcohol levels Law: issues relating to testing for blood alcohol testing, rights of individuals

See student projects based on this semesters work with Virtual Sherlock.