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 Tuesday, July 11, 2006 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

IN THE SPOTLIGHT


Laboratory Staff Makes for Good Chemistry
By Jon Leslie, Publications and Creative Services

Each year a dedicated staff from the department of chemistry and biochemistry coordinates laboratory experiences for well over 5,000 undergraduate students. The staff handles everything from the preparation of classroom lecture demonstrations, to ensuring labs are stocked with the proper equipment and chemicals, to training teaching assistants on specific lab procedures and techniques.

Combined, the staff manages the labs for all of the department's general, inorganic, organic, biochemistry, physical and analytical chemistry classes—a job that involves equal parts organization and teamwork.

"There's a lot of good chemistry among the staff members in the department," said Bob Meyers, who primarily coordinates general chemistry labs. "We do administration, we train the teaching assistants, and we work to get the labs set up."

"The really nice thing about our jobs is that the professors in the department trust us to do our work," said Patty Feist, who coordinates the organic chemistry labs, "so there's a certain amount of independence."

In addition to their work with the chemistry labs, staff members also support and maintain the department's classroom clickers and online homework system—as well as assisting with community outreach programs like the CU Wizards, where faculty members perform experiments designed to provide an informal and interactive introduction to the sciences for students in the fifth through the ninth grade.

"The faculty do this, and we assist them with preparing for the show," said Meyers. "We try to make the demonstrations entertaining, so it's almost always something burning or something exploding."

The lab support team—which includes Meyers, Feist, Bill Eberle, Elaine Butler, Merl Schachet, Laurel Hyde and four student employees—works together to create a high-quality experience for students, enabling them to apply classroom learning and solidify their understanding of how chemistry works.

"The fundamental understanding of chemistry involves taking things, weighing things, measuring things and uncovering the relationships between different substances," said Meyers. "Chemistry is a laboratory science, and that hands-on lab experience cannot be replaced with a computer simulation."


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