P626: Creative world of synthesis: An introductory laboratory activity with a context
Laboratory courses for first year undergraduates often tend to be the cookbook type, which seldom demand independent investigation. The lack of contextualisation and time constraints unfortunately make students merely ‘complete’ the courses without really internalizing embedded concepts. In an attempt to simulate real-world research, a unique laboratory activity was designed around introducing Multicomponent reactions, in such a way that students assumed the role of a synthetic chemist. Each student worked on various aspects of the Biginelli condensation independently, although the group was in fact working around the same reaction. The activity comprised of three parts: the first being an ‘Introductory Handout’ distributed a day prior, briefly presenting the relevance of the topic and generating anticipation. The actual lab session followed, which was supported by a detailed yet lucid task-sheet unique to every student. The concluding part was a post-activity reflection session on the next day, where the entire experimental design was gradually ‘constructed’ on the board as students presented their work, eventually arriving at variables by themselves. The activity was student-centred in that everyone was able to perform, and was spaced out so as to reduce cognitive load. The primary aim was not collecting data, but creating a platform for discussion. It attempted to introduce a frontier area with a context, presenting the challenges of parameters and variables in synthesis. Students’ involvement and feedback has been positive and enthusiastic.