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Practical vs. theory; industrial vs. academic October 27, 2008

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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I am preparing to teach a couple of short (one-week) courses. One is on problem-solving in chemical analysis. The agenda was put together and advertised before I got drawn into teach it. I was a late replacement for the scheduled instructor.

One big thing strikes me in looking at the course outline and the related materials. An academician must have been the original creator of the concept. It is chock full of basics and background about analytical techniques and instrumentation, but very, very weak on both what can go wrong (and how to recognize and fix it) and on choosing what needs to be done if you’re given a problem.

Being from an industry background, I think a lot of those fundamentals are already being used and known to the people who are taking the course. The know something about equilibria, reactions, and other freshman chemistry concepts. The emphasis I am putting in, which will be a hugh metamorphosis from the planned to the actual, is how do these create problems? What are symptoms? How do you systematically come to a plan of attack?

Academicians rarely get involved in the nitty-gritty. Those issues in their research are dealt with by the grad students. They also just ignore any odd questions, like what is this dark brown sludge that I get if there’s too much water?

I think I will be ad libbing a lot, winging much of the lecturing and trying to emphasize the real-world analytical chemistry rather than the textbook/ classroom variety.

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