"What we teach is often based more on the convenience of what is available in textbooks rather than on consideration of what students should learn.....Again, it is for us to choose what we teach. We are free to ignore the textbooks and to introduce new material that prepares students for new problems."
George M. Whitesides, 2007 Priestley Medal Award Address

General Chemistry Reform - A New Approach Focusing on Medicinal Chemistry

Since 2005, Chemistry at Winthrop University has implemented an initiative to escape "The Tyranny of the Textbook" by developing and piloting an Introductory Chemistry sequence of topics that is relevant and interesting, that represents a logical sequence, and that stresses the great ideas in modern chemical science.

The new approach focuses on medicinal chemistry and neuroscience during second semester after an atoms-first approach and complete coverage of thermodynamics during the first semester. Over 25% of chemists in this country are employed by the pharmaceutical industry; half of all government research funding in chemistry now comes from the National Institutes of Health. Feedback from our students in graduate schools continues to emphasize the importance of teaching relevant biochemistry to undergraduates. The intent is to teach key concepts in chemistry by focusing on biomedical/pharmaceutical applications in a manner that reflects the essence of BIO2010 recommendations. Further information on this approach has been recently published:

For the last two decades, chemists across the nation have expressed serious concerns on the Introductory Chemistry course taught to entering undergraduate science majors. Several have pointed out that the course could more appropriately be called "Historical Chemistry;" a recent workshop during a national ACS meeting lamented the time spent teaching students information that many professionals consider to be fairly useless. Countless faculty and students have characterized General Chemistry as a mixed collection of topics that do not fit into a cohesive framework, a stark contrast to the flow of logic that is so apparent in the organic chemistry sequence. The ACS has developed a "Chemistry in Context" book for nonscience majors that examines many important modern topics that ironically receive little, if any, attention in the chemistry texts for science majors.

Earlier Publications on General Chemistry Reform at West Point during the 1990's

Earlier Presentations on General Chemistry Reform at West Point during the 1990's
  • "Teaching Biochemistry in General Chemistry: A Necessity for Modern Times," P.M. Owens, National ACS Meeting, Orlando, August 1996.
  • "What We Teach in General Chemistry, Is It the Right Stuff?" D.S. Springer and P.M. Owens, presented at the 3rd Pan American Chemical Conference, San Juan, PR, September, 1995.
  • "Engineering Materials Curricula at the United States Military Academy," M.S. Knapp, P.M. Owens, and E.M. Lenoe, American Society of Engineering Education Symposium, San Francisco, CA, June, 1995.