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1997 ChemConf: On-Line Chemistry Education Conference

06/01/97 to 08/01/97

Technical Program
Abstracts of Papers
Paper 1. "Using Netscape as a Presentation Manager"
Scott E. Van Bramer, Widener University, Chester, PA 19013., Discussion of Paper 1

Paper 2."Assessment in Chemistry/New Strategies for New Times"
I. Dwaine Eubanks, ACS DivCHED Examinations Institute, Clemson University, Clemson SC 29634 Discussion of Paper 2

To view Paper 2, you will also need to download and install a copy of the free program Adobe Acrobat Reader. There is also an alternative site from which to download this paper.

Paper 3. "What Every Chemist Should Know About Computers, II"
Mary L. Swift, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College Of Medicine, Howard University, Washington DC 20059-0001. , and Theresa Julia Zielinski, Chemistry Department, Niagara University, Niagara University, NY 14109. Discussion of Paper 3

Paper 4. "The Costs of Incorporating Information Technology in Education"
Brian M. Tissue, Department of Chemistry, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0212. Discussion of Paper 4

Paper 5. "Using Pseudoscience to Teach General and Analytical Chemistry"
Michael Epstein, Margaret Bullard, Brad Buehler, Robin Koster, Department of Science, Mount Saint Mary's College, Emmitsburg, MD 21727. Discussion of Paper 5

Paper 6. "Nature Doesn't Solve Equations, So Why Should We? Mathematically-lean simulations in Chemistry"
Hugh M. Cartwright, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford University, South Parks Road, Oxford, England OX1 3QZ.

Alternative source of Paper 6 with smaller in-line images. Discussion of Paper 6

Paper 7. "Supplemental Instruction: A Model Program That Goes Against the Grain"
Cory Emal, Tanya Johnson and Paul Kelter, Department of Chemistry, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588-0304. Discussion of Paper 7

Paper 8. "The Use of Excel in Physical Chemistry Seminars"
A. A. Kubasov, V. S. Lyutsarev and K. V. Ermakov, Moscow State University, Russia.

Alternative source of Paper 8 in North America. Discussion of Paper 8

Paper 9. "Are Simulations Just a Subsitute for Reality?"
Harry E. Pence, Chemistry Department, SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta, NY, 13820. Discussion of Paper 9

Paper 10. "Environmental and Industrial Chemistry - An On-Line Intercollegiate Course"
Leonard J. Archer (1), James M. Beard (2), Sylvia R. Esjornson (3), Aline M. Harrison (4), Reed Howald (5), Peter Mahaffy (6), Maria Pacheco (7), Erik Ricker (8), Donald Rosenthal (9), and James N. Stevenson (10).

(1) Missouri Western State College, St. Joseph, MO
(2) Catawba College, Salisbury, NC
(3) Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford, OK
(4) York College of Pennsylvania, York, PA
(5) Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
(6) The King's University College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
(7) SUNY- Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY
(8) Niagara University, Niagara University, NY
(9) Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY
(10) Concordia University, Austin, TX
Discussion of Paper 10

Paper 11. "A Practical Guide to the Development of Interactive, Intercollegiate Learning Experiences for Chemistry Students."
George R. Long, Department of Chemistry, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA 15705 Discussion of Paper 11
June 1 to June 20 - On-Line Session 1

On or before June 1 - Retrieve Papers 1 to 5
June 2 - Short Questions for Paper 1
June 3 - Short Questions for Paper 2
June 4 - Short Questions for Paper 3
June 5 - Short Questions for Paper 4
June 6 - Short Questions for Paper 5
Week 1 Archives

June 9 and 10 - Discussion of Paper 1
June 11 and 12 - Discussion of Paper 2
June 13 and 16 - Discussion of Paper 3
June 17 and 18 - Discussion of Paper 4
June 19 and 20 - Discussion of Paper 5

June 23 to July 11- On-Line Session 2

On or before June 22 - Retrieve Papers 6 to 8
June 23 - Short Questions for Paper 6
June 24 - Short Questions for Paper 7
June 25 - Short Questions for Paper 8

June 30 and July 1 - Discussion of Paper 6
July 7 and July 8 - Discussion of Paper 7
July 9 and July 10- Discussion of Paper 8

July 14 to Aug. 1 - On-Line Session 3

On or before July 13 - Retrieve papers 9 to 11
July 14 - Short Questions for Paper 9
July 15 - Short Questions for Paper 10
July 16 - Short Questions for Paper 11

July 21 and 22 - Discussion of Paper 9
July 23 and 24 - Discussion of Paper 10
July 25 and 28 - Discussion of Paper 11

July 29 to August 1 - General Discussion and Evaluation

Conference Articles

Abstracts of Papers:

Brian M. Tissue
Department of Chemistry, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0212


The purpose of this paper is to stimulate discussions concerning the costs and benefits of incorporating computer and network technology in science education. Some costs are quite obvious, such as the initial cost of hardware and software; and the continual costs of upgrades, maintenance, and technical support. Other costs are less obvious, and can include increasing instructor time to remain knowledgeable of advances in information technology; shifts in classroom, laboratory, and student study time to learn technology skills rather than science concepts; and changes in the use of classroom and laboratory space. This paper discusses the cost of using information technology in science education within the framework of the ever increasing cost of scientific research, which arises from the need for more specialized and expensive laboratory space and instrumentation. The challenge for science educators is to provide an education in ever-expanding fields, in a regime in which funding for science and education has reached a steady-state condition.

Scott E. Van Bramer
Department of Chemistry, Widener University
Chester, PA 19013


With helper applications and plug-ins, a web browser such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Explorer can present a wide range of multimedia material. This includes animations, video clips, images, spreadsheets, molecular structures, Mathcad documents and many other resources useful for teaching chemistry. The browser can load this material from a hard drive, a CD-ROM, a local network, or the World Wide Web. During a lecture, any type of multimedia file from any location can be accessed without changing programs and opening files. In addition, students can access these files to review the multimedia material after class.

I. Dwaine Eubanks
ACS DivCHED Examinations Institute, Clemson University
Clemson SC 29634


New paradigms for chemistry instruction increasingly diversify what was once a narrowly focused view of what chemistry is and how it should be taught. Conceptual understanding is replacing algorithmic computation in
many courses. Others are focusing on cooperative learning and team projects. Others are returning the laboratory to a central role in instruction. The body of knowledge considered appropriate for introductory chemistry is changing, with, for example, great interest in a materials science focus in some quarters and biological chemistry in others. These instructional changes mandate significant change both in what is assessed in chemistry and how that assessment is done. New question formats, new assessment delivery systems, and new assessment objectives are supplementing those that have been used and valued in the past. The result is that chemistry instructors can do a better job than ever in matching assessment with curricula.

Mary L. Swift
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College Of Medicine
Howard University, Washington DC 20059-0001

Doing modern chemistry requires the use of computers. Research grade instruments of all stripes are fully integrated with computers that manage control functions, as well as the collection and processing of data. Last but not least the final report or paper is crafted using a computer. The extensive use of computers in chemistry has created an additional set of essential competencies required of all chemists. Just as we teach about the instruments and their components we must discuss the computer and computer applications for doing chemistry at all levels of the curriculum. If one is going to be a chemist or work in a chemistry laboratory one must know about computers and be adept with a core set of computer applications. Central computer competencies that should be required of all chemistry graduates comprise the set that includes skills with software, hardware, visualization and communication tools. All students should be able to use a spreadsheet, a scientific graphing package, an equation engine, and statistical analysis applications. They should be facile with word processing and manuscript preparation. They should be able to connect peripheral devices to the computer, distinguish between a serial port and parallel port, and be able to use the computer to collect data if given the basic tools, such as a DAT board and appropriate software. These are the tools of the trade of the practicing chemist. Recent developments now necessitate inclusion on the list of computer competencies basic navigational skills for them to access materials from the WWW and to author simple html documents either by embedding the html markups manually or through use of a freeware, shareware or buyware Web authoring tool. During their WWW explorations chemistry graduates must be able to assess the suitability of information found in this rich environment. They must be able to evaluate critically sites and be cognizant of the fact that not everything in print (posted on the Web) is true, valid or up to date. Beyond providing experiences with the core of chemical computer competencies required of all students is the responsibility that instructors have to expose them to emerging fields of chemical investigation that use computers as the primary tool for their conduct. Significant in this arena are computational chemistry and chemometrics applications. Important uses of computational chemistry include drug design and molecular modeling. Extensions of these types of investigations are used to study biomolecular processes and substrate enzyme interactions. Closely allied to this is the research to develop new algorithms to compute molecular properties by ab initio, semi-empirical, or molecular mechanics methods. Database management and informatics is another example. These fields require a solid chemistry background and strong computer skills. Our students are locked out of these fields when we do not give them adequate exposure to the basic tools and possibilities. This paper presents an overview of the various aspects of computer literacy required of all chemists. It portrays an ideal case scenario, one that might be met if systematic introduction of the various computer competencies is made an integral part of the core curriculum. We know that all or even a significant part of this cannot be done in a short period of time. We suggest that each of us look at our curricula and courses to find places where increased use of computers that demand enhanced skills can be incorporated as integral components for doing the chemistry. The long term aim is to make it as likely that students would reach for a computer to solve a problem or build an experiment as they now are reaching for their calculator or analytical balance.

Michael Epstein
Margaret Bullard
Brad Buehler
Robin Koster,
Department of Science, Mount Saint Mary's College
Emmitsburg, Md 21727


Why pseudoscience? Most students view the traditional topics of general chemistry as dry and boring. The usual highlights in general chemistry books on how household bleach or dry cell batteries work are not very exciting for students or instructors. There is also rarely any ethics training associated with introductory courses in the chemical sciences. In an attempt to resolve these deficiencies, I introduced the concepts of pseudoscience and the investigation of anomalies into the curriculum of second-semester general and analytical chemistry courses at Mount Saint Mary's College during the spring semester of 1996. While the investigation of the unusual and the unknown has sometimes led to great scientific discoveries, it has more often led to great embarrassments. The appearance of scientific anomalies most often results from a misunderstanding of scientific principles, and culminates in what is termed "pseudoscience", "pathological science", or "deviant science". A study of the experimental procedures and motivation of the researchers in cases of pseudoscience can be extremely instructive, and fits in quite well with traditional topics in general and analytical chemistry, such as pH, chemical kinetics, intermolecular bonding, colligative properties, atomic structure, electrolysis and trace element analysis. Students can learn how to properly approach a scientific problem in a critical, but open-minded manner, thus avoiding pseudoscientific pitfalls. They learn that the real scientific discovery is not heralded by the cry "Eureka!" (and the press conference), but by the murmur "that's strange?" Here is science at work, for both good and bad, with a strong moral and scientific message. Scientists are people and people make mistakes. What separates the scientists from the pseudoscientists is the ability to recognize and admit error.

While the examples of pseudoscience are a very small portion of these traditional courses in general and analytical chemistry, they will undoubtedly be some of the most memorable particulars that the students recall in future years. And if the examination of scientific foibles by these students helps to avoid future cases of pathological science on their part, we have gained much with little investment.

Hugh M. Cartwright
Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford University
South Parks Road, Oxford, England OX1 3QZ


In any university, computers are crucial tools for the teaching of chemistry. There is widespread agreement that computers can perform a vital role in developing student understanding, but less universal agreement on what that role should be. At one extreme, computers may be used as fast calculators, or to run spreadsheet macros or Basic programs. At the other extreme, they may drive complex, interactive simulations, perhaps taking advantage of multimedia or the Internet.
The versatility of the computer permits a wide range of uses. For example, their speed makes them ideal tools in the acquisition and analysis of experimental data; their memory makes make them powerful bibliographic search engines. However, one can argue that in neither role does the computer actually do much to help students understand the underlying chemistry. Instead, it amplifies and illustrates whatever understanding the student already possesses. Spreadsheets may help in the assessment of chemical data - and this is undoubtedly a valuable role - but, when using them, students' data massaging skills may develop at a faster rate than their chemical understanding.
As the power of computers increases, the range and complexity of chemical systems that can be simulated increases in proportion. It is now possible to routinely simulate in real time the interactions among several hundred (small!) molecules in the gaseous or condensed phases. Such simulations intrigue and stimulate students, and, if carefully designed, are effective teaching tools also. The recent dramatic growth of Internet applications employing Java provides new opportunities for chemists to provide such simulations to their students. Those chemists who might previously have been reluctant to face the trials of working with X and Motif, can now develop professional-looking, effective simulations and make them available, through the net, to a wide
As a consequence both of the increase in computer power and of the development of Java, chemical simulations and graphical applications of all types are appearing at a considerable rate. However, allowing
students to simulate a chemical process does not guarantee enhanced student learning.

This paper argues that simulations in which a mathematical description of natural phenomena can be derived from the behaviour of a physical system have notable advantages over those in which the
mathematical description is the basis for the simulation itself. We shall discuss simulations of both the "mathematics-rich" and "mathematics-lean" variety, and consider the advantages each may offer.
Suitable on-line links are provided.

Cory Emal
Tanya Johnson
Paul Kelter
Department of Chemistry, University of Nebraska
Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0304


In the midst of the frenetic international development of Web and CD-ROM materials, we have chosen to step back in time to an era when personal interaction was prized and the desire to develop chemistry understanding in our students included the "real time" exchange of ideas in small groups. The result, the undergraduate-led "Supplemental Instruction" (SI) program, is a program that teaches students how to learn chemistry, rather than being a tutorial session. The program has been proven successful on the basis of student test scores and attitudes toward chemistry. In this paper, we describe the successes and future challenges of small-group SI in large lecture classes.

A. A. Kubasov, V. S. Lyutsarev
K. V. Ermakov
Moscow State University


The main inconvenience in using computers in chemical science courses is the necessity to spend considerable time to teach students to use various software. We are convinced that it is possible to use only one sufficiently universal program in most cases. We have chosen the Microsoft EXCEL spreadsheet. A set of problems developed to be used in the Chemistry Department of Moscow State University at seminars in Chemical Thermodynamics, Kinetics, Catalysis and Molecular Modelling are solved by students using a PC. The authors believe that this allows students to better understand the meaning of physico-chemical models which are discussed rather than simply memorizing formulas. Training students to work with EXCEL is rather easy, and provides them with the ability to solve most problems arising during the study of physical chemistry.

Spreadsheets allow students to perform numerical calculations and obtain graphs at the same working screen. Calculations can readily be performed with changes of model parameters. Speedy solution of sophisticated non-linear equations and optimization makes it possible to obtain results for direct and inverse problems similar to those encountered in research. As a result the seminars, where such problems are solved, turn into small research projects. Students have the opportunity to see the use of the textbook formulas, the effects of changes in different model parameters, the relative input of separate members of the analyzed relation, and to evaluate the methods of solving research problems. Using EXCEL it is possible, for example, to prepare tables of experimental data, to carry out calculations and to construct graphs. It is possible to readily perform data processing using statistical calculations on linear, logarithmic, exponential, power and polynomial functions, thus giving an estimation of the reliability of results and calculating the coefficients of the function from experimental data. Complex equations and system of equations can be solved by numerical methods. The ability to consider various physico-chemical equations, to change parameters, to represent data graphically and to carry out mathematical modelling of various processes helps to build the imagination of the students.

The set of problems and exercises includes support for 26 seminars and 6 tests to be taught within 2 semesters and covers the following topics: principal laws of thermodynamics; thermodynamic functions; chemical equilibrium calculation; phase rule; adsorption; statistical thermodynamics; major chemical reaction kinetics; quasi-steady state and quasi-equilibrium; auto catalysis and oscillating reactions; complex reaction's kinetics; kinetic theory of gases; the calculation of rate constants and activation energies; homogeneous, heterogeneous and enzyme catalysis. In both semester students deal with molecular modelling, calculations of molecular properties and potential energy surfaces.

Harry E. Pence
Chemistry Department, SUNY Oneonta
Oneonta, NY, 13820


Simulations can be a valuable part of the chemistry curriculum. Unfortunately, discussions of chemical simulations often become tightly focused on the possibility that simulations will be used as subsitutes for traditional laboratory experiences. For many types of simulations, this discussion is extraneous. This paper will focus on the various types of simulations and the reasons why simulations should be included in the undergraduate curriculum in order to prepare well-educated chemists. It will also attempt to deal with the real issues raised when considering the use of simulations for laboratory.

Leonard J. Archer (1)
James M. Beard (2)
Sylvia R. Esjornson (3)
Aline M. Harrison (4)
Reed Howald (5)
Peter Mahaffy (6)
Maria Pacheco (7)
Donald Rosenthal (8)
Mary M. Schreiner (9)
James N. Stevenson (10)

(1) Missouri Western State College, St. Joseph, MO
(2) Catawba College, Salisbury, NC
(3) Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford, OK
(4) York College of Pennsylvania, York, PA
(5) Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
(6) The King's University College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
(7) SUNY- Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY
(8) Niagara University, Niagara University, NY
(9) Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY
(10) Concordia University, Austin, TX


During the spring semester of 1996 an intercollegiate course entitled"Environmental and Industrial Chemistry" was taken by approximately 100students at 22 different schools. Each school had its own courseinstructor who was responsible for scheduling classes, assigning grades and interacting with students locally. An on-line component involved interaction between students and between students and the authors of five different papers. Approximately two weeks were devoted to discussion of each paper. Three of the papers were presented by industrial chemists. Two of the papers were student papers selected from a pool of papers prepared by students at the participating schools.

The Conference presentation will provide information about the course, and student and instructor evaluations of the course. Also, some course instructors will describe the course offered at their school.

(1) Missouri Western State College, St. Joseph, MO

(2) Catawba College, Salisbury, NC

(3) Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford, OK

(4) York College of Pennsylvania, York, PA

(5) Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

(6) The King's University College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

(7) SUNY- Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY

(8) Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY

(9) Niagara University, Niagara University, NY

(10) Concordia University, Austin, TX