CHEM 4601b -- Changes

Mon Apr 12 13:58:41 2010

this course fulfills:
New:  ENV - ENV Environment
Criteria for
Core Courses:
Describe how the course meets the specific bullet points for the proposed core requirement. Give concrete and detailed examples for the course syllabus, detailed outline, laboratory material, student projects, or other instructional materials or method.

Core courses must meet the following requirements:

  • They explicitly help students understand what liberal education is, how the content and the substance of this course enhance a liberal education, and what this means for them as students and as citizens
  • They employ teaching and learning strategies that engage students with doing the work of the field, not just reading about it.
  • They include small group experiences (such as discussion sections or labs) and use writing as appropriate to the discipline to help students learn and reflect on their learning.
  • They do not (except in rare and clearly justified cases) have prerequisites beyond the University´┐Żs entrance requirements.
  • They are offered on a regular schedule.
  • They are taught by regular faculty or under exceptional circumstances by instructors on continuing appointments. Departments proposing instructors other than regular faculty must provide documentation of how such instructors will be trained and supervised to ensure consistency and continuity in courses.

1. The course raises environmental issues of major significance.

The main topic of this course is green chemistry, which ┐is an approach that provides a fundamental methodology for changing the intrinsic nature of a chemical product or process so that it is inherently of less risk to human health and the environment.┐  In view of the massive scale of the chemical industry and world-wide chemical research and development, the significance of this approach cannot be understated. Each week, as specific aspects of green chemistry are discussed, the associated environmental issues will be highlighted.

2.The course gives explicit attention to interrelationships between the natural environment and human society.

The number of chemicals produced that are used either directly or indirectly by human society is immense. These chemicals can themselves impact the environment (i.e., may be toxic or hazardous upon disposal) and their production may consume valuable and/or limited resources (i.e., petroleum), with financial and government policy implications. This course will cover how these chemicals and materials impact our environment and society by explicitly discussing the problems associated with chemical production and waste (cf. weeks 2-4), methods for circumventing environmentally deleterious chemical production processes (cf. catalysis in weeks 5-7, environmentally benign solvents in weeks 8-9, renewable resources as replacements for petroleum-based feedstocks in weeks 10-11), and how public policy impacts the development of green chemistry technology (week 14). A key course requirement will be that these issues be explicitly discussed in the writing assignment and the poster presentation (each worth 25% of the final grade). In addition, the assigned text by journalist E. Grossman provides a nonscientist┐s perspective on the relevant environmental, societal and ethical issues that underpin green chemistry solutions.  

3.The course introduces the underlying scientific principles behind the environmental issues being examined.

The course will introduce and emphasize the chemical principles involved in the development of environmentally benign, sustainable processes for the production and disposal of a wide range of chemical compounds. We will focus on a wide range of scientific topics that influence the environmental impact of chemical production and use, including (but not limited to) chemical reaction mechanisms, catalyst development, solvent properties, and biorenewable and biodegradable polymer synthesis and properties. These topics are explicity discussed in the reading material and will be components of the writing project, poster presentation, and exams.

4. Students explore the limitations of technologies and the constraints of science on the public policy issues being considered.

The course will specifically address the role of public policy in implementing green chemistry in week 14, with planned involvement of colleagues at the Center for Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy in the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. These discussions will also focus on how development of green chemical processes impacts cultural perceptions of chemistry, government regulations, and societal norms (cf. the use of plastic bags).

5.Students learn how to identify and evaluate credible information concerning the environment.

Through readings, classroom discussion, and the writing and poster projects, students will learn how to evaluate the ┐green-ness┐ of chemical processes through critical and objectively balanced assessment of toxicity, production efficiency (e.g., ┐atom economy┐), energy consumption, and other relevant data. In so doing, the environmental impact of the production and use of a variety of chemicals will be explicity evaluated.

6.Students demonstrate an understanding that solutions to environmental problems will only be sustained if they are consistent with the ethics and values of society.

The societal values that underly efforts to develop green chemical processes are described in the assigned text by Grossman and will be specifically considered in weeks 1 and 2 (introduction) and in the public policy discussions (week 14). Ethical issues are also raised in the readings, with discussion to include issues such as the decision-making processes behind environmental disasters (e.g., Bhopal). Students will also be expected to include discussion of the relevant ethics and values issues in the writing and poster presentation assignments.

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