Teaching

We strive for excellence in teaching at all levels.

We strive to teach our students the skills and knowledge required to be professional and practical scientists via Research-Oriented Learning. Some of our learning goals for undergraduate chemistry education include:

  • Knowledge: Develop an appropriate level of content knowledge and the ability to apply knowledge required by the professional community
  • Communication: Develop the ability to communicate chemical ideas, verbally and written, to non-scientists as well as experts in the field
  • Research Process: Develop an understanding of the scientific process and be able to apply this process in research projects or proposals
  • Lab Techniques: Demonstrate familiarity with disciplinary methods, techniques, and instruments
  • Problem Solving: Demonstrate the ability to use fundamental science and analysis to solve complex and integrated problems
  • Critical Thinking: Demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate data and evidence, give an interpretation of the data, and define the interpretation

We strive to teach our students the skills and knowledge required to be professional and practical scientists via Research-Oriented Learning. Through these types of experiences, we teach the skills needed by professional scientists, including teamwork, presentation skills, writing proposals, and communication skills necessary to spread knowledge and new science.

Introducing the Chemistry Residential Peer Mentors

Introducing the Chemistry Residential Peer Mentors

Connie Gan, Chemistry Residential Peer Mentor, recognized with Harriet K. Switzer Leadership Award

Connie Gan, Chemistry Residential Peer Mentor, recognized with Harriet K. Switzer Leadership Award

First-Year Opportunities

student in lab coat and safety glasses works at a bench

Women in Science

Offered every other year, the Women in Science (WIS) program allows first-year students to explore a variety of options in the sciences and learn about the role of women in science, both past and present. In addition to meeting women scientists from the Danforth Campus and Medical School who will come and speak about their scientific research and careers, you will have the opportunity to shadow and interview women scientists to learn firsthand about the joys, successes, and frustrations of these accomplished scientists.

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Applications in Chemistry

First-year students can experience a weekly lecture by a chemistry faculty member, or other scientist from academia or industry, on their current research activities. The goal is to provide students with a sampling of current research activities dealing with fundamental an applied problems in science and society that are being approached from a chemical point of view.

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Chem 111/112

Attention incoming first-year students! Don't forget to take the diagnostic exam required for enrollment in General Chemistry. Learn about the exam and other information you need to succeed. 

General Chemistry Requirements

Peer-led Team Learning (PLTL)

What is PLTL?

PLTL is an abbreviation for Peer-led Team Learning. It is an optional program offered to all General Chemistry students (students are eligible to enroll only if they have completed the Diagnostic Exam). Students who choose to enroll are placed into a study group that meets for two hours on Saturday or Sunday throughout the semester. Group members work through a problem set designed to require a collaborative effort, to help develop critical thinking skills and to hone advanced problem-solving abilities. These groups are facilitated by a trained undergraduate peer leader, who guides and encourages the group through the learning process.

What do students say about their Chemistry PLTL experience?

  • “I was a little worried about doing PLTL since I'm not a big fan of working in groups, but I can definitely say that without PLTL, my Gen Chem grade would be significantly lower. Not only do the extra problems help me with problem solving, but learning how to apply concepts from lecture on my own (with a support group) plays a big role when I take my exams. I'm very grateful that WashU has this program. It really makes fellow freshmen comfortable and eager to learn the material.”
  • “Chemistry PLTL helped me most through the challenging problems provided in the packet. The most helpful part was seeing how someone else could approach a problem differently to arrive at the same answer.”
  • “[PLTL] helped me most in ensuring that I got more exposure to chemistry problems so that my problem solving skills could increase and therefore I'd be able to solve a larger variety of problems.”
  • “Chemistry PLTL has taught me how to work in a group. It has given me more confidence in my abilities showing me that when I have the resources and the motivation, I will succeed.”

Why does it work for so many different students?

As faculty members of an elite institution, it is our collective goal to develop independent, creative, analytical, and critical thinkers. With these goals in mind, the General Chemistry instructors have designed our sequence in such as a way as to place emphasis on critical-thinking skills and problem-solving methods.

This program will assist you not only in mastering the course material, but in learning the value of group discussion, team work, and peer review in furthering one’s own knowledge. You will learn different methods of group work, critical-thinking skills, and study strategies. No answer keys are provided; you must decide as a group whether answers are reasonable and correct. This strategy enables you to be confident when applying your knowledge and understanding to new problems and concepts. This confidence is essential for performing well on quizzes and exams, as well as in any career you might choose to pursue. The PLTL program provides a supportive community of scholars and emphasizes taking responsibility for your own learning.

How do I sign up?

The online application process will be discussed during the first lecture each semester of the Chemistry 111/112 sequence. It will open at 5 pm the Monday classes begin. All first-year students who take the Diagnostic Exam, and sign up for PLTL by the announced deadline will be guaranteed placement in a Chemistry PLTL study group. Upper-level students are not required to take the Diagnostic exam in order to participate in PLTL, but they must sign up for PLTL by the announced deadline.

If you have questions about the PLTL program, please contact Megan Daschbach via e-mail (daschbach@wustl.edu).

Mentored Teaching Experiences

Graduate students complete four Mentored Teaching Experiences (MTEs) as part of their professional development en route to earning their PhD in Chemistry.

Science and teaching are intimately connected in chemistry since a research result or finding is only useful if it can be communicated and coherently explained to both knowledgeable and general audiences. Furthermore, it is imperative that future teachers know how to adapt their teaching styles to include new findings into the curriculum and to utilize new teaching methods and techniques into the classroom. PhD chemists in the industry must know how to effectively communicate findings and proposals to superiors as a key component in securing funding for their group’s efforts. As a result, the Chemistry Department continuously places a focus on teaching and communication at all levels of its PhD program, starting with mentored teaching experiences (MTEs) associated with courses and research group meetings, progressing towards formal presentations and peer mentoring, and culminating with developing and defending original ideas and research results.

Our graduate student Assistants in Instruction (AIs) engage in specific courses and MTEs that are tailored to their field of study within Chemistry and shaped by their career aspirations, their strengths and weaknesses as communicators, and their previous AI experiences. Our graduate students participate in extensive learning opportunities in preparation for their MTEs and roles as an AI. In the training, students are educated with best practices for lecturing in different environments, for developing lectures, for facilitating group discussions, for effectively leading group projects, for the utilization of multimedia in the classroom, for interacting with students, for grading and evaluating student writing, and for maintaining a safety environment in the laboratory and the classroom.

When engaged in an MTE, our AIs are observed by the instructors they are teaching with and given constructive feedback to improve their teaching style and skills. Our AIs are also evaluated by their students in each teaching experience. The great AI experiences our graduate students complete at WU lead many of our students to find great teaching opportunities in their careers.

I have been interested in chemistry since high school, but my classes and research experience at WashU have helped me to figure out what areas of chemistry I want to pursue in grad school. I’ve always felt comfortable asking for help and guidance from faculty in the chemistry department, and the community here has been a really important part of my experience at WashU.

―Emily MorganClass of 2019, Mirica Lab