Students Become Better Acquainted with a General Chemistry Scientist Through a Scientist Report Writing Assignment

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Brief Abstract

How often do students get to delve deeper into the lives of the scientists typically mentioned in a general chemistry class?  A Scientist Report writing assignment has been used to allow students to do just that.  Join this presentation to learn about the assignment and attempt some scientist trivia.


Dr. Danica Nowosielski is currently an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Hudson Valley Community College. She has been teaching at the college level for over twenty years and enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for the subject of chemistry with students each semester. Dr. Nowosielski is a physical chemist by training and holds both a Ph.D. and M.S. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as well as a B.S. from Russell Sage College. In her spare time, she enjoys playing music and reading.

Extended Abstract

How often do students get to delve deeper into the lives of the scientists that are typically mentioned in a general chemistry class?  Most of the time, the scientist's name is mentioned and then their scientific contribution becomes the main topic of discussion.  Facts like Arrhenius being Swedish, Lavoisier being beheaded by the guillotine, and that several scientists have craters on the moon named after them may not be shared in the general chemistry classroom.

A Scientist Report writing assignment has been used since the Fall of 2010 in a calculus-based General Chemistry I course to allow each student to become more familiar with one of the scientists normally discussed during the semester.  Students choose a scientist and write a paper about the scientist's life and scientific contributions as well as other relevant historical aspects.  There are a variety of sources that can be used to find the necessary information.  Therefore, students encounter different search engines and research databases.  The papers meet eligibility requirements for a campus-wide library research award presented each year at our college.  It is rare that science students would be able to be nominated for such an award. 

In this presentation, the assignment layout will be discussed as well as the scientists available to be chosen by students.  Student reception and results will be shared, including scientist choice frequency.  In addition, adaptations of the task will be discussed.  These include use in an online lecture format, in a six-week summer course, and basing the report on elements rather than scientists.

Attendees will have the chance to participate in scientist trivia as some interesting details uncovered by students in the course of their research are revealed.  Participants will also have a chance to guess the most frequent scientist and element choices from the past 12 years!  A listing of the most common sources used by students will be talked about after viewers are polled for where they would suggest students look.