Independent Study (CHM490) is taken for course credit for at least two semesters, normally in the senior year. A letter grade is assigned for each semester. If a student has not been involved in summer research, he or she should consult with faculty members early in the spring semester of the junior year. Significant results and the development of confidence, independence, and good laboratory technique can be realized only by careful planning and consultation with the research supervisor.
Each CHM490 student should expect to spend 12 to 15 hours a week in the laboratory and additional time thinking about the research project, reading relevant literature, and learning the appropriate background theories. Much of research consists of failures in the laboratory, and these frustrating experiences must be countered by perseverance, discipline, and optimism. As each student progresses, the ability to think critically about a problem should improve so that the amount of assistance required from the advisor gradually decreases. Eventually, the student should be able to suggest and devise new experiments to be performed or new directions for the project. A complete and well-organized notebook is invaluable in developing independence as a researcher and in recording all experimental observations.
It is particularly important for the student to constantly be conscious of the potential for danger in every operation and to seek advice, when necessary, from the advisor. Before beginning any operation the toxicity of reagents must be known and possible misadventures anticipated.
A careful search of the literature for previous work is an essential part of the project. A written progress report at the end of the first semester is required. If it is carefully written, much of this report can be incorporated into the Final Thesis, which is normally due approximately one week before the end of classes in the second semester.
An oral presentation of results is given at the end of each semester. Appropriate visual aids include Powerpoint™ slides or overhead transparencies. The talks are followed by questions from the audience of faculty and students.