Developing Scientific Writing Skills in First Year General Chemistry Students

Grace Murray

My name is Grace Murray, and I am a junior studying chemistry and studio arts at the University of Pittsburgh. This semester, I am working with Dr. Eugene Wagner in the chemistry department to develop a curriculum focused on providing instruction to first year honors general chemistry students to improve their scientific writing skills. Coming into college from high school, there are very different expectations on lab report writing, and scientific writing as a whole. Some students see the task of completing a lab report daunting or challenging, and others lack the exposure and instruction to be successful at a collegiate level. Through this project, we hope to provide students with a better understanding on how to successfully write different sections of a lab report through instructional videos, interactive discussions and worksheets, and examples from literature. In all areas of study at Pitt, there is an emphasis on writing curricula to strengthen students writing abilities. By starting scientific writing instruction with first years, we hope to provide a foundation of information that will be further built upon in future courses.

My current academic goals include completing degrees in both chemistry and in studio arts. A potential career goal is graduate school to pursue becoming an Art Therapist. This CUTF project will be beneficial to me for multiple reasons. First, it is reaffirming the standards for scientific writing that I am going to continue to use in my upper-level chemistry courses and labs. Additionally, it helps me to be better at reading and understanding scientific literature – a skill that I will continue to need throughout undergraduate and graduate school. Continually, this project allows me to interact with students in a way that I had not yet been able to. My freshman year, I took two semesters of Honors General Chemistry with Dr. Wagner. I then worked with Dr. Wagner last year as an undergraduate teaching assistant for both Honors General Chemistry 1 and 2. This new role allows me to mentor not only the new first years, but my former students who are now the new UTAs. This will be useful in learning how to interact with individuals from different backgrounds, as well as provide instruction to individuals with different learning styles. This personal interaction is what I like best about being a teaching assistant, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to continue working with Dr. Wagner through the CUTF project.

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