Minh Quan Dinh, a
BS in chemistry major, began doing research in his freshman year, working with Professor Justin Fair. While a junior, Minh helped design an innovative lab experiment for students in Organic Chemistry I.
The experiment is the midsemester capstone, and it's quite a departure from how classic lab exercises in Organic Chemistry I are approached at many other universities.
Typically, students get thick instructions, detailing a procedure for them to follow, executing techniques they've learned in previous labs.
Minh's assignment is a single sheet of paper. It positions the students as professional chemists hired by a textile company that dyes wool organically and is looking to reduce overhead costs by recycling dye and acetone, a compound used to clean dye vats between batches.
The students aren't told what to do. They have to come up with the procedure.
Minh thrives on just such challenges.
“I'm a hands-on learner. When I learn about a concept in a lecture, I'm like, okay I get it. But when I research it, I understand the concept way better.”
The lab requires the student chemists to incorporate distillation, recrystallization, and extraction techniques they've learned to create a procedure to follow for themselves. Minh researched and executed all the components of the lab to ensure the procedure works.
Fair's goal is to reinvigorate the capstone lab with a real-world industrial model to show the true applications students may see once they graduate.
He was delighted to add the capstone redesign to Minh's other research projects. “Minh's not in college just to ‘check the box,’” he notes.
Minh says, "A lot of students want to do research, but I think some feel unsure how to get started. I tell the students I tutor, just ask any professor about doing research. They'll be happy to get you involved."
Major in Chemistry at IUP
Deborah Klenotic, IUP Communications and Marketing