Case-Study General Chemistry Curriculum Supplements

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Instructors/Faculty Information        

Your students arrive in your chemistry class with an enormous diversity of background.  What if the instructional material teaching the concepts of chemistry linked to many of their common experiences?

Wouldn't it become easier to make an impact, to have active learning, showing how chemistry impacts the mainstream of our lives? units are freely available for your use.  They link chemical concepts taught in General Chemistry to responsible decision making in our society. 

The cases provide a ready resource of capsules of knowledge that challenge and entertain your students.  They provide you with a continuing, thematic source of auxiliary material to supplement your instruction.

Cases Available

Alcohol, Chemistry and You
Nuclear Chemistry and the Community
Cisplatin and Cancer
Refrigerants for the 21st Century
Drug Pathways and Chemical Concepts
Fuels and Society a. Chemistry and History of Automotive Fuels
Fuels and Society b. Sixty Years of Tetraethyllead
Fuels and Society c. How Lead was Finally Removed from Gasoline

What is

How do I use

What is ChemCases Pedagogy?

How do Integrate into the chemistry concepts in the curriculum?


  Availability of Instructional Units:

Covering the Chemistry Curriculum

We live under the extraordinary influence of science and technology. New information continually surrounds us. Medicine changes daily to extend and improve life. We study nutrition, we exercise, we seek new paradigms of knowledge and behavior. We choose to protect our environment and to honor the diversity within it while simultaneously taking advantage of the comforts of time and space brought to us by technology.

Chemistry is an essential part of all of this. Sometimes dramatically apparent as in the depletion of the ozone layer, sometimes subtly hidden in the efficacy of a sports drink, chemistry nonetheless regulates nearly every aspect of our lives and our surroundings. By highlighting these connections, ChemCases reflect the undeniable relevance of this chemistry in our everyday lives.

These twelve Instructional Units are freely available on the internet:

We discuss how Gatorade changed sports physiology. The consideration of physical exertion teaches thermochemistry and thermodynamics, applies colligative properties and the gas laws. But the development of sports drinks brought issues of human toxicity, intellectual property ownership and the propriety of human experimentation into consideration.

In Silicones, simple silicon is examined from its organic compounds. Silicon and oxygen alternate to give us compounds of extraordinary softness and pliability. These marvelous polymers are used as medical implants -- and have been implicated in litigation against major chemical companies.

The artificial sweetener, NutraSweet demonstrates the role of organic chemists in chemistry, modifying materials to alter and provide attractive properties. But the synthetic sweetener faces the challenge of proving safety in an environment where even the most venerable synthetic, saccharin, seems no longer to be acceptable.

In Chemistry of the Nucleus, the role of nuclear chemistry -- from the Manhattan Project to nuclear power to diagnostic and therapeutic medical treatment -- is presented. The benefits of nuclear medicine face considerable opposition, from basic production costs to vigorous "NIMBY" community opposition.

Refrigerant gases -- the chlorofluorocarbons -- diffuse to the stratosphere where they generate free radicals that degrade the earth's mantle of stratospheric ozone. But researchers developed new refrigerants - Refrigerants for the 21st Century that relieve this threat to the planet's environment.

In 1968, Dr. Barnett Rosenberg at Michigan State noticed unusual cell growth inhibition in a laboratory experiment. From this observation came the cancer drug Cisplatin. Chemotherapy, its strengths and risks, the debate over ownership of the product of the intellect -- these are the topics subjects discussed in the ChemCase on Cisplatin.

Many of us struggle to control fat consumption as weight control or for other dietary reasons.  The idea of a fat that does not metabolize attracts us. Proctor & Gamble introduced such a material, called Olestra. Olestra substitutes 100% in certain high-fat foods such as potato chips. What is the science behind the "new fats"? How do we provide and control making this fat substitute? How do the reports of some adverse reactions from consumers affect the introduction of Olestra? The answers are discussed in the Olestra ChemCase.

How do we address the maze called chemical equilibria and acid/base properties. Perhaps we start with drugs, how they enter the body and how equilibria and buffering influence drug delivery. Drug Pathways and Chemical Concepts shows how equilibria, intermolecular properties and chemical kinetis\cs influence the use (and abuse) of common drugs like the barbiturates and penicillin.

The development of Fuels, Introduction of Tetraethyllead and the changes introduced by the Catalytic Converter and the development of Fuel Cells show chemistry and decision making at a penetrating level.


The chemistry and decisions of Alcohol, its use, dependence and abuse affect the entire community.

  About is a series of curriculum units that link responsible decision making in product development with chemical principles taught in General Chemistry. 

We expect curriculum supplements will lead interested students toward the sciences, medicine, pharmacy and engineering by:

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Developing Knowledge of how
the tools of chemistry are used in
the service of society

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Comprehension of the conflicting
information necessary to move
an idea  to the marketplace

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Application of this information
to show how chemical principles
are used to make decisions

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Evaluation of the data to synthesize
solutions to technical and
non technical challenges

t_logo.gif (12525 bytes) is a National Science Foundation supported curriculum development project. 

Principal Investigator Laurence Peterson; Project Director Matthew Hermes.

NSF Grant DUE-9652889