Research has long been a hallmark of the Earlham science experience. Each summer, many Chemistry faculty members offer four to ten week research programs for students. Topics vary widely, from water analysis to organic synthesis to the design and construction of new instruments. Also, some Chemistry students may choose to participate in the off-campus Oak Ridge National Laboratory research semester. During the school year, some faculty offer Ford/Knight research projects for interested students. This work is often continued through the summer. Many students present their research findings at local, regional, and national meetings.
Smaller-scale research projects are common throughout the Chemistry curriculum at Earlham. For the laboratory of Organic Chemistry II, students design their own month-long synthesis or isolation/extraction project. Recent independent projects have had such diverse topics as the synthesis of caffeine, the isolation of organic compounds from turmeric and catnip, and the synthesis (and testing!) of antibacterial drugs. In these independent projects students are not only allowed, but encouraged, to get hands-on experience with modern instrumentation such as Earlham’s 400 MHz NMR, Flash Chromatography, GC/MS, etc.
Similarly, students in Equilibrium and Analysis design, execute, and present the results of an independent project. In previous years, small groups of students have chosen to analyze mercury in local waters and tuna fish, determine trace metal concentrations in blood and coffee, quantify nicotine in tobacco products, as well as many other projects. As always, students are encouraged to make use of the Department’s instrumentation, including GC/MS, HPLC, ICP-AES, AA/Graphite Furnace, FTIR, XRF, and NMR.
Many other Chemistry courses at Earlham have independent laboratory components. We strongly believe that exposure to research methods and skills allows our students to succeed in whatever vocation they seek, be it graduate school or industrial work in chemistry; medical or veterinary school; teaching; or entirely unrelated fields.