Archive by category | Other columns

Educating Excimer: Room to fail

Chemistry lab courses should focus more on method and problem-solving rather than specific techniques, with room for students to “fail” so they can learn from their mistakes. The best approach is to use open-ended experiments that require students to formulate conclusions other than “it worked” or “it didn’t work.” However, these experiments usually require a significant time commitment on the instructors’ part, and so these kinds of experiments are usually only found in labs for chemistry majors with small student enrollments.  Read more

Educating Excimer: The End of the ‘Cookbook’ Lab

[Joining The Sceptical Chymist is our latest guest blogger, Aaron Finke. A grad student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, he works on polyphenylene dendrimers and hyperbranched polymers. You may know Aaron better as Excimer from his posts at Carbon-Based Curiosities.]  … Read more

Sugar Daddy: Not so boron after all

With the changing of the guard in Washington, late-night night television hasn’t quite been the same. I guess the new guy in charge is a harder target for comics. Anyway, to a certain extent, the late-night hosts have been turning their attention elsewhere, and eventually chemistry was bound to make it. In this clip, Conan O’Brien draws attention to, among other things, the discovery of a fourth form of pure elemental boron.  Read more

Sugar Daddy: Like sleeping with an elephant

As a fifth-year chemical biology graduate student, I sometimes wonder if I’ll know when I’ve been in grad school too long. Maybe I’ll want to finish that last project, or start something anew to pass along to a new student. Maybe a personal life decision is playing a factor in my wanting to leave now or stay longer. Maybe I look around at group meeting and realize that free pizza once per week isn’t as great as it used to be, partially because I know what everyone in the group is working on and am slightly less interested in it than I used to be. Maybe I read every paper in my field with such a critical eye that it all seems boring now when it was so exciting only a few years ago.  Read more