Title V Living Lab: High Impact Practice Project

Molecules, Molecules, Molecules:  EVERYDAY LIFE

Second Year Fellow:  Diana Samaroo
Project proposal for Organic Chemistry II

High-impact practice to be used:  collaborative assignment/project and student research

Goals:  The collaborative assignment/project with second-year students will entail research, time management, learning to access campus resources and making real world connections.

Organic Chemistry II is a second semester course that centers on the mechanisms of reactions involving hydrocarbons, alcohols, ethers, acids and amines, specifically in relation to amino acids, proteins, and carbohydrates. Second-year students will be divided into groups of three or four and decide (build consensus) on an organic molecule of interest to them to research (some requirements listed below).  Each group will select a different organic molecule.  Since this is designed for a second semester course, students will already be familiar with chemistry terminology.

Students will have one session in the library (during weeks 2 or 3 of the semester), learning to use and access library resources such as scientific journal articles, ChemDraw, etc.  Students will analyze which resources are best suited to use for their collaborative assignment. Towards the end of the semester, groups will present using PowerPoint a 10-15 min talk, which should include the following:  why the particular molecule was of interest to them, synthetic methods used for the design of their molecule and at least two relevant applications to the real world.  In addition to the presentation, a written report will be submitted.

This assignment will enable students to make relevant connections to molecules they may encounter every day.  A rubric will be used by their peers and the professor to assess the presentation (both individual and as a group).  In addition, the OpenLab will serve as a forum to post their presentations.


The general education (GenEd) competencies addressed in this assignment include:  information literacy, research, team work, presentation, written and communication skills


An example of molecules in everyday life
Research Topic:  CHOCOLATE and CAFFEINE

A typical student presentation may include the following:

  • The chemical structure of Caffeine (identify functional groups and unique structural characteristics)
  • The history of caffeine
  • The chemical synthesis of caffeine and comparison to naturally occurring caffeine
  • A data table showing the caffeine content in milk chocolate, dark chocolate or across different brands of chocolate.
  • Student may make comparisons of caffeine content in tea or coffee to that in chocolate
  • Caffeine is a known stimulant — students may draw on the chemical relationship to the biological response
  • In their research, students may be surprised to discover that drugs encountered everyday such as Midol or Excedrin contain caffeine (~30mg/tablet)


As a further assignment, student could design an experiment in extracting caffeine from tea and coffee


(Thanks to Melanie and Urmi for reading this assignment and their comments last week March 2)