SENCER E-Newsletter, August 2003, Volume 2, Issue 2
SENCER's Impact on Teaching Industrial Chemistry At The University of Montana - By: Edward Rosenberg
When I attended the SENCER Summer Institute last summer (SSI-2002), I was immediately struck by how well the concept of engaging students in the evaluation of civic and environmental issues fits the lower division curricula of the physical sciences. The modular SENCER courses that were distributed at the Institute gave detailed logistical and mechanistic information about how to conduct a course based on SENCER ideals. I did not find there, however, any upper division chemistry course models based on those ideals. It occurred to me that students at the junior level in chemistry, physics, biology and geology have sufficient chemical background to understand the chemistry and environmental issues associated with the chemical industry in Western Montana. In addition, local industry has been very keen to have students visit their plants and to help educate students about the impact that the chemical industry has had on the lives of Montanans. I wrote a proposal to develop SENCER based course to the NSF A&I program based around five local industrial processes: aluminum refining, precious metal separations, computer chip equipment manufacturing, the production of ultra-pure silicon, and liner board production (paper mill). The grant was funded and the abstract is available on NSF's Fastlane web site (# 0310616). The challenge will be to construct the curriculum and means of assessment for the course such that module developed for the local industries in Western Montana will apply to other areas of the country. The grant began July 1, 2003 and we will be visiting the plants mentioned above shortly.
Ed Rosenberg is chair of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Montana in Missoula.