Submitted by Betsy Jamieson / Smith College on Tue, 01/13/2009 - 11:59
My Notes
This is an assignment I use to give students a sense of what kinds of problems real life, contemporary inorganic chemists work on.  I start out by having them find 2 contemporary inorganic chemists.  They give a 15-20 min presentation on their two chemists that gives a general overview of their research projects.  Once everyone has done their general presentation, I have students choose a specific journal article by one of their chemists to present in class.  I usually have this assignment run throughout the semester, with the general presentations taking place in the first half of the semester, followed by the journal articles done in the second half.  
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Learning Goals
The main learning goal is for students to gain a sense of current research in the various sub-disciplines of inorganic chemistry.  They also get a chance to refine their presentation skills and learn how to read/discuss journal articles.  
Implementation Notes
It helps to have students give a list of 3-4 chemists they'd like to do early on in the assignment.  That way you can arrange the lists to make sure that nobody is doing the same chemist and that you get a good representation of different sub-fields of inorganic chemistry.  
Evaluation Methods
I grade the presentations given in class.  I normally break the grades down into "content" and "presentation-style" categories to give students feedback in each area.  I also give students credit when they are not presenting for participating in discussions and asking questions.  I have thought about having students write reviews of each others presentations, but haven't actually done it in class yet.  
Evaluation Results
Normally students do very well on the general, overview presentations.  I often have to work with students on the journal articles to find ones they can understand well enough to present in class.  However, once we've found the right article, students generally tend to do well on these presentations as well.  I think by the end they have gained an appreciation for the varied kinds of research inorganic chemists do.
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