Final Program Description and Suggested Course Equivalencies

Faculty: Dharshi Bopegedera, Ph.D., Krishna Chowdary, Ph.D., Rachel Hastings, Ph.D.

Matter and Motion covered topics in chemistry, mathematics, and physics through lectures, labs, workshops, and seminars. Students could choose to enroll in all or various combinations of the subject areas. Students improved their mathematical and scientific reasoning and their problem-solving abilities in chemistry, math, and physics. In addition to content coverage described below, students were given the opportunity to: improve ability to articulate and assume responsibility for their own work; strengthen skills and sensitivities in collaborative learning with the goal of creating a more inclusive classroom; improve oral and written communication skills; improve reading of technical texts to develop conceptual understanding and procedural skills; develop increasingly sophisticated mathematical models to describe and explain physical systems. Developing disciplinary expertise while making interdisciplinary connections was emphasized. Depending on the subject area, evaluations of student achievement were based on: quizzes, exams, and revisions; homework assignments; lab write-ups and notebooks; presentations; engagement in lectures, workshops, labs, and seminars. 

Physics I, II, and III with Laboratory: Through readings, lectures, collaborative workshops, and labs, students focused on conceptual understanding, analytical problem-solving, and computational methods in classical mechanics (fall and winter), thermodynamics and statistical mechanics (winter), electricity and magnetism (winter and spring), and optics and waves (spring). Modern topics in relativity and quantum mechanics were woven throughout, and microscopic-macroscopic connections were emphasized. Thirty-one lab investigations emphasized acquisition and analysis of data (often with Vernier sensors and software) and computational modeling (via VPython programming in Trinket); summaries for 24 of those labs were required. In spring, students also gained hands-on skills in analog and digital electronics via guided explorations using a commercial kit. Students were assigned 25 problem sets totaling 310 textbook problems that they self-corrected using instructor-provided solutions. There were 23 at-home limited-note quizzes. Cumulative final exams at the ends of fall, winter, and spring quarter were in-class and also resource-limited. Students were encouraged to revise quizzes and exams. Students worked through chapters 1-23 and S1 in Matter and Interactions (Chabay and Sherwood, 4th ed).

General Chemistry I, II, and III with Laboratory: Content in chemistry was based on the textbook, Chemistry, 9th Ed. by Zumdahl and Zumdahl (Cengage Learning) with custom laboratory work. Concepts covered in lectures included properties of matter, atomic structure, periodic table and periodic trends, IUPAC nomenclature, quantum mechanical model of the atom, mole concepts, reaction types and reaction stoichiometry, ionic and covalent bonding, Lewis structures, VSEPR, hybridization, and molecular orbital bonding models, polarity, intermolecular forces, phase diagrams, thermochemistry, kinetics, chemical equilibrium, gas laws and properties of gases, acid- base and other types of equilibria, entropy, free energy, and electrochemistry. Each quarter, students were given weekly homework assignments and three exams to assess their learning. During weekly workshops, students worked in small teams to solve problems based on the concepts covered that week.

A highlight in the winter quarter was the nuclear chemistry self-study where students were guided to learn this chapter from their textbook on their own. Weekly reading and homework assignments supported students’ learning in small, manageable sections. Students prepared a set of notes based on their study, which was evaluated.

The chemistry laboratory focused on learning a variety of techniques and maintaining a good lab notebook. As the year progressed the sophistication of the experiments gradually increased. Chemistry labs explored properties of matter, learning Microsoft Excel skills for graphing and data analysis, accuracy and precision in measurements, absorption and emission spectroscopy, analysis of the emission spectrum of atomic hydrogen, extracting copper from malachite, chemical synthesis, introduction to polymers, acid-base titrations with an indicator, chromatography, analysis of marble to determine carbonate content, analysis of copper bearing rocks using visible spectroscopy, constant pressure and constant volume calorimetry, kinetics of the iron-oxygen reaction and radiometric decay, exploring gas laws, isolating Bi from Pepto-Bismol, ocean acidification, chemical equilibrium, titration curves using a pH meter, atomic absorption spectroscopy for the determination of calcium and magnesium in dolomitic marble, and electrochemistry. In most of these experiments, students analyzed the class data sets (in addition to their individual data) using Microsoft Excel.  

The year ended with students completing the 2015 ACS General Chemistry Standardized Examination for assessment.

Calculus I, II, and III: We covered standard first year topics in single and multivariable calculus. Students worked through chapters 1-7 and selections from chapters 9-12 in Stewart’s Calculus: Concepts and Context (4e) and Ch. 8 in Active Calculus (Boelkins) which included: a brief review of precalculus; concepts and definitions of limits, derivatives, and integrals; graphical, numerical, and analytic techniques of differentiation and integration; applications of differentiation and integration; differential equations; infinite series (particularly power series); vectors, planes, and motion along curves; partial derivatives, and double integrals. Most applications were in physical science contexts to integrate with other program components. Students had the opportunity to complete twenty-six homework assignments totaling 470 problems and eleven lab investigations using Desmos and Mathematica. In fall, students took three quizzes and two exams. In winter, students took two quizzes and two exams. In spring, students took four chapter-level quizzes. All quizzes and exams were in-class with limited notes. Students had the opportunity to submit revisions for quizzes and exams.

Precalculus I, II: Precalculus content was based on the textbook Functions Modeling Change (4e) by Connally, Gleason, Hughes-Hallett et al. We covered Chapters 1-9 and 11, including the concept of function; linear, quadratic, exponential, and logarithmic functions; transformations of functions; trigonometry; polynomials; rational functions. We also reviewed Algebra 2 material as relevant to these topics. Homework was assigned weekly from the textbook, with attention to examples from physical sciences. Students took five quizzes, two midterm exams, and two final exams. All quizzes and exams were in-class, closed-book, closed-notes tests; students also had the option to submit exam revisions. 

Seminar: Our seminar content focused on climate change, with readings that covered science, communication, social context, and associated topics. We worked through Gibbons’ booklet “Human-caused Global Warming and Climate Change: Understanding the Science” along with supplemental readings from book chapters and articles, encompassing about 30-50 pages of weekly reading. Students used the online annotation software Hypothesis to annotate these texts and then wrote weekly short (1-2 page) essays responding to the readings and incorporating classmates’ perspectives as read in the annotations. In addition to these weekly assignments, students each chose and researched a climate change topic of interest to them, leading to a short presentation (5-7 minutes). Our in-class meetings took place roughly biweekly, initially for discussion and later as a forum for student presentations. 

(Standard) Suggested Course Equivalencies

  • 17 – General Chemistry I, II, and III with Laboratory
  • 17 – College OR University Physics I, II, and III with Laboratory
  • 12 – Calculus I, II, and III OR 8 – Precalculus I, II
  • 2 – Seminar: Climate Change

Program Syllabus, Community Agreement, and Scavenger Hunt

Below please find our fall Program Syllabus and our Community Agreement. There is no need to print out a paper copy yourself – we will provide paper copies at our mandatory first class meeting.

Below please find a copy of our Scavenger Hunt and Agreement. You may want to save this to your computer and/or print your own copy, though we will also provide you with a paper copy in class. Do your best to answer the questions before our first class meeting. Don’t worry too much if you can’t find all the answers, or are unsure of them. You’ll get a chance to work on the Scavenger Hunt during class time with your classmates.