Student-Designed Multistep Synthesis Projects in Organic Chemistry

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Chemistry | Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Higher Education | Organic Chemistry | Physical Sciences and Mathematics


The incorporation of research projects into undergraduate chemistry courses provides a perspective that is fundamentally unavailable in most laboratory experiences. While independent, multistep synthesis projects in organic chemistry have been reported previously, most efforts have been directed at relatively restricted, closely guided research plans with modest student participation in the experimental design. We have implemented a more open-ended synthesis project, limited principally by cost, safety and availability of materials. In the second semester of the sophomore organic sequence, students develop multiple drafts of a plan for a three-to-four-step synthesis. Subsequently, students obtain their own literature protocols for the individual steps. The synthesis is performed over three four-hour laboratory periods. The students conclude this project with a poster presentation of the results at the end of the semester. Evaluation of the students’ work focuses not only on the successful synthesis of the target but also on planning, troubleshooting, purification, and spectral analysis.