Like science educators everywhere today, Dr. Carl Fictorie is continually finding ways to use hands-on, inquiry-oriented learning in his classes. A recent $10,000 grant toward a $25,000 Shimadzu GC2014 gas chromatograph with an integrated autosampler will allow approximately 180 introductory and intermediate chemistry students to be more actively engaged in chemical processes. It also allows students to work with tools and techniques they would use as future scientists.
The grant, one of 10 awarded this year, comes from the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, Inc. (a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation) and its co-sponsoring technical societies, The Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP) and The Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh (SSP). The grants are awarded to small college science departments to help them purchase scientific equipment, audio-visual or other teaching aids, and/or library materials for teaching undergraduate science.
A chromatograph separates complex mixtures into their component compounds.
“It is a technique widely used in industry,” says Fictorie, noting as an example its use in bio-fuel research. A chromatograph helps industry scientists maintain quality control, ensuring that appropriate concentrations are maintained in a particular solution they are producing.
“The stereotype of chemistry tools being glassware and test tubes is no longer accurate,” says Fictorie. Today’s modern labs rely heavily on advanced instruments in addition to test tubes.
The new chromatograph will replace and upgrade old equipment used in several of Dordt’s STEM-related courses.
“The big thing is that more students will be able to use this instrument because of its autosampler feature,” says Fictorie. Now, instead of students having to wait in line while each process is completed, a class of 20 students can put their vials in the instrument and have them analyzed overnight. The next day all 20 sets of data will be available.
The Shimadzu GC2014 chromatograph will find its home in a science building that is currently being extensively renovated. It will feature spaces and equipment that reflect best educational practices and equipment. The new facilities will be ready for next fall’s classes.