In Fall 2017, I took Intro to General Chemistry, or CHEM 111. This fulfilled one of the requirements for my major.
This lecture and lab course is required of all science majors in order to provide a general background in Inorganic Chemistry. The LIFE STEM students took this class together in our own cohort, which made it one of my smallest classes. This course was untraditional in the testing methodology. Instead of traditional large exams, our progress was benchmarked with “quests”, a 5-10 question quiz-test hybrid on a singular Chemistry concept. Quests had two categories: primary and secondary. In order to pass, every student must get an 80% or better on the 6 primary quests. To determine the letter grade, every student had to get an 80% or better on a certain amount of secondary quests. If a student fails a quest, they could re-take it, but those opportunities were rare. This testing strategy threw me off in the beginning and I found myself being very frustrated because this was not a way I had been tested before. However, I studied hard by going to tutoring every week and by getting help from a friend who was a Chemistry major. By the end, I had gotten a better understanding of how to prepare for the quests and I ended up with a good grade. Reflecting back on the class, I now feel neutral about the “questing” system. While I hated their frequency and how one assignment could determine the fate of my grade, I liked the idea of “chunking” the material individually and I liked how short they were. I like to think that by the end of the semester, the challenges of CHEM 111 helped me become more knowledgeable in Chemistry. My hard work and dedication to passing this class pushed me to really learn material for one of the sciences out of my comfort zone. This class pushed my comfort levels because of how hard it was for me, which I think helped me close the mental gap between high school and college mindsets.
The artifact I chose to include is the Nitrate Project. This project helped tie the LIFE STEM Summer Bridge trip to the Chesapeake Bay to CHEM 111 by analyzing the nitrate levels of the Chesapeake Bay and understanding how higher concentrations of nitrate affect the water. We did this by testing the absorbance of water samples that we took at the Chesapeake Bay and developing a calibration curve to determine the concentration. This assignment brought awareness from a Chemistry perspective on an issue traditionally seen through an Environmental Science perspective. The entire goal of the LIFE STEM Summer Bridge was to determine the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and this assignment was a continuation of that discovery. This assignment helped show me how interdisciplinary today’s issues are in science and not just one branch of science can provide answers.