Nichole Powell, Brenda Harmon (Oxford College of Emory University, USA)
We have implemented a significant and meaningful change to our general and organic laboratory curricula during the final half of the spring semester by anchoring the undergraduate teaching labs to the problem of developing, synthesizing, and testing possible anticancer compounds. The students in the organic chemistry labs work in small groups to attempt to synthesize and characterize one novel antitumor ligand that is part of a series of possible drugs. The general chemistry students work to determine the DNA binding ability of this series of chemotherapy agents in order to relate the DNA binding ability of the compounds to the efficacy of the drugs to kill cancer cells. Both general and organic students are required to do some literature searching, to come up with the methodology (guidance is necessary), and to complete the study in independent groups of 4 students. At the end of the semester the students write formal reports in addition to class presentations.
Because of this project, students have the opportunity to be involved in guided-inquiry projects that require them to use scientific competencies and apply the content covered in these introductory chemistry courses to a relevant, real-world, health related problem. Our general and organic chemistry courses are populated by a significant number of students who are interested in the health sciences. This approach, which introduces them to cancer research and the connection between chemistry, human biology, and medicine generates significantly increased student interest and motivates students to better understand the connections between chemistry and medicine. The students seem to have very positive feelings about participating in a real, novel research project and feel that the project should be continued and expanded. We intend to share the development, implementation, problems, challenges, and student response to this project.