MIBLabs: Inquiry-based instructional organic labs featuring microwave-assisted synthesis

Project No.
PI Name
Shaun Murphree
Allegheny College

Abstract 1

MIBLabs: Inquiry-based instructional organic labs featuring microwave-assisted synthesis

Presentation Type
Andrew Koch, St. Mary's College of Maryland Shaun Murphree, Allegheny College Jun Shin, Queensborough Community College


A recurring theme in the recent chemical education literature is the need for innovative laboratory instructional materials that move away from the cookbook approach. One of the barriers facing student-centered activities in the organic lab is the length of time required to run many typical reactions. Thus, there is a need to a) identify rapid reactions that are amenable to exploration and optimization within a 3-4 hour laboratory period; and b) create accompanying instructional materials to support these investigations.


The goals for the project are:
1. The identification of rapid chemical transformations which are pedagogically relevant and can be woven into classroom discussion?
2. the development of laboratory materials which are cognitively rich, inquiry-driven,and collaborative in nature?
3. the promotion of wider adoption through dissemination and faculty workshops? and
4. the assessment of the curriculum through student surveys and interviews, as well as through laboratory observation and examination of course artifacts.


Our approach for achieving Goal 1 has been to involve summer undergraduate interns to work collaboratively with us to identify and adapt reactions from the literature to microwave methodology.

The co-PIs have been largely engaged in the generation of instructional materials (Goal 2). We have also worked with an undergraduate intern to help generate the video primers.

For the assessment work (Goal 4), we have retained two experts in educational research to evaluate the revised curriculum through surveys, lab observations, analysis of reports, and interviews.


A total of 15 video primers were generated; these video primers are supported by one-page written primers providing theoretical and general background on the technique. In addition, 16 discrete chemical systems were optimized for the new laboratory curriculum. Eight of these systems can be coupled to make four multi-step laboratories? they can also function as standalone modules.

Since we are only in the first year of the treatment, we do not yet have assessment data.

Broader Impacts

The new curriculum has been deployed this year at all three institutions, representing a private liberal-arts college, a public liberal-arts college, and a 2-year institution. In all, 312 students are impacted by this project this semester, with additional students being impacted in the second semester.

There are three areas of impact resulting from work on this project. First, the development of curricular materials in a variety of academic environments will facilitate the wider adoption of a curriculum that has shown evidence of positively impacting student engagement and perception of science. Second, the instruments developed for assessing the curriculum (surveys, content quizzes, and observation rubrics) are useful not only for this project, but also for other similar curricular interventions. Finally, the chemical methodologies optimized in some of the modules show promise for applications within the larger synthetic community.

PI Murphree gave an invited talk on the project at the University of Pittsburgh on 18 June 2015. In addition, PI Murphree and an undergraduate intern presented some chemical findings from the project at the National Organic Symposium in College Park, MD on 01 July 2015.

Unexpected Challenges




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