Debra Dillner (United States Naval Academy, USA)
Interest in undergraduate student research has grown in response to initiatives from various professional societies and educational organizations. Participation in research changes student attitudes towards courses as they realize the utility and relevance of what they are learning. At the U.S. Naval Academy, the chemistry majors’ curriculum was redesigned to require fourth-year projects of all the majors. The restructured laboratory curriculum is based on four semesters of integrated laboratory, a sequence organized around broad themes in chemistry such as separation and purification, synthesis, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, and so forth rather than traditional subdisciplines within chemistry. The integrated laboratory curriculum has facilitated the inclusion of a research or capstone experience for all the chemistry majors. The two tracks for the fourth-year chemistry majors to participate in projects are described. The development of these options, challenges with implementation, outcomes, and advice to other institutions are discussed. These changes required significant effort in redesigning the curriculum and the acceptance of undergraduate research as a culminating experience worthy of faculty and administrative support. However, the effort was justified as the number of chemistry majors has increased, students seem more satisfied with the major, interactions between students and faculty have increased, and research productivity seems to have been enhanced.