Undergraduate Research Immersion

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Nabyl Merbouh, Department of Chemistry

Timeframe: September 2012 to April 2013

Support provided: $3,000 for student stipend, chemicals and glassware, nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry analyses, travel and dissemination costs, plus assistance with proposal development

Final report: View Nabyl's final project report (PDF), which includes two student testimonials.

From the final report: One student commented, "This research experience has enhanced my time at SFU and I highly recommend other students to try and become involved in a research lab. It allows potential career options to be explored and investigated. " Read more >>

Description: This project will investigate how to mentor second and third year students in organic chemistry research through the “Undergraduate Research Immersion in Chemistry.”  During CHEM 286 (Organic Chemistry Laboratory II) or CHEM 380 (Methods of Identification of Organic Compounds) several students will be identified for research immersion.  Selection will be based on a student’s strong interest in research projects, laboratory skills, GPA, and time availability.  Students will then be presented with additional research questions/challenges to complete in two-weeks.  Training will be provided on modern library and bibliography research tools.  The students will subsequently have to present their findings in a disciplinary accepted manner.  The two-week period will be used to identify the final candidates. 

Next and under the supervision of a lecturer, students will be presented with a research project that includes a description of the research to be conducted, skill set possessed or necessary to engage in the research, milestones, expected student learning outcomes with supporting documentation, mentorship-student interaction & responsibilities, and as appropriate, a listing of specialized infrastructure, consumables and accessibility.  The students taking up a research project will be personally mentored on a daily basis throughout a period ranging from four to eight months.  Each research project may culminate with a peer reviewed presentation, poster or manuscript.

Questions addressed:

  • Is a chemistry student with 15~20 credits in chemistry properly equipped to work on a small research project without a long acclimatising period? 
  • Can the student take ownership of a research project? 
  • How early can the student be independent and how long till the student can start and finish a given project with all the help, equipment, and knowledge available?
  • How are such initiatives received by the students and how will I quantify their success?

Knowledge sharing: The results and outcomes of this project will be shared with the both organic chemistry division and entire chemistry department.  A presentation of the research will be scheduled into the departmental senior undergraduate thesis presentation-day to spread the word to colleagues who might not be aware of such initiative.  The project findings and suggestions will also be disseminated via the Chairperson of the Department of Chemistry to the Dean of Science Advisory Committee.

If successful, we should become informed as to how to expand this initiative.  The mentoring structure will establish a mechanism for a faculty member who has a teaching appointment to voluntarily engage in undergraduate research activities.  The potential significant benefit to the University will be to provide a mechanism for all faculty lecturers to be support and be engaged in undergraduate student research, make peer reviewed research contributions, and have a lecturer’s teaching remain informed by research.

Chang S., Desai S., Leznoff D., Merbouh N., & Britton R. (2013, May). A short, gram-scale synthesis of 2,5-disubstituted furans. Paper presented at the Western Canadian Undergraduate Chemistry Conference (WCUCC), Saskatoon, SK.

Gerak C., Cerda V. C., Merbouh N., & Bennet A. J. (2013, May). Enzymatic synthesis of isotopically labelled uridine 5’-(α-d-glucopyranosyl diphosphates) for use in kinetic isotope effect studies. Paper presented at the Western Canadian Undergraduate Chemistry Conference (WCUCC), Saskatoon, SK.