In 2019, the journal Inorganic Chemistry updated it's scope (https://pubs.acs.org/page/inocaj/about.html). This updated scope inspired me to update my first day of class activity for Inorganic (which was typically a version of the excellent first-day LOs from VIPEr).
I asked students to read the journal scope (web link or hard copy provided) and answer a few questions in small groups:
- What are the major subclasses of inorganic chemistry they define? Does anything surprise you? Do you think anything is missing?
- Which of these areas have you heard about previously? Which areas have you learned about in a class? Which are new?
- What are topics the journal does not publish?
- Which areas do you think are particularly interesting? Why? Which would you like to learn more about?
I then handed out the list of Nobel Prizes in Chemistry that had been awarded in the Inorganic field (see linked LO below - I used the updated version attached below). I had them classify the Nobel Prize awards into the categories given by the journal. I also asked them to note any trends in the subject areas of the awards over time.
- A student should be able to identify the major sub-disciplines of inorganic chemistry
- A student should recognize the breadth and interdisciplinarity of topics that are classified as inorganic chemistry
- A student should be able to recognize how the field of inorganic chemistry has changed over time
- A student should observe the connections between the listed sub-disciplines and the course content
Web access or a printout of the Inorganic Chemistry journal scope
The initial activity and discussion using the journal scope was relatively straightforward.
Students struggled in some cases to classify the Nobel Prize awards as many of the early awards are nuclear chemistry/discovery of elements which are not included in the journal scope. This was expected, and helped direct the discussion about how science, and fields of science, evolve over time (e.g. the computational and bioinorganic fields being relatively "new").
I then used the sub-classes defined by the journal to help outline the semester course plan and goals, and specifically discussed which areas of inorganic chemistry we would and would not be covering.
This particular course was going to spend a significant amount of time discussing organometallic chemistry, so it was a wonderful tool to point to the importance and relevance of organometallic chemistry (at least according to the Nobel committee).
There is no formal evaluation for this activity.
Students commented on the overlap of some of the listed topic areas with other chemistry disciplines.
Students were particularly intrigued by how the focus of the Nobel Prize awards in had changed significantly over time, and really fell into very limited categories.