Chemistry/Environmental Studies 247 The Elements of Life Winter 2010–11

Web link:
Catalog description: Viewable here
James S. Evans
Science Hall 131
Extension 6571
Home: 734-6304 (not after 10:00 PM, please)
Office hours: You may either make a specific appointment, or just stop by the office any time that the door is open (that will be most of the time).
Class meetings: 11:10–12:20 M W F, Youngchild Hall 237
Text: The Biological Chemistry of the Elements: The Inorganic Chemistry of Life, 2nd ed., by J.J.R. Fraústo da Silva and R.J.P. Williams, published by Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-850848-4 (2001).
Coverage: We will not have time to assimilate everything from this book. Student interests will help guide the selection or omission of topics for class discussions and individual presentations.
Speaking-intensive approval: This course has been approved by the Committee on Instruction to be offered in a format that fulfills the speaking-intensive criteria within the general education requirements for a B.A. degree at Lawrence University.
Rationale for this course: A far-ranging subfield of bioinorganic chemistry has burgeoned over the past three decades, leading to important understanding that the molecular details within living systems comprise far more subtlety and complexity than seen solely from the vantage point of “organic” molecules and “biochemical” processes. Several metallic elements are utterly indispensable to life, but in exceedingly tiny amounts in very specific forms; sometimes a different form or an excess of that same element can be lethal. Indeed, there are significant interdisciplinary linkages to medical interventions, toxicological problems, and environmental issues both localized and global that curious minds might explore. This course provides a scientifically disciplined way in Lawrences’s curriculum whereby interested students can engage with such topics and concerns through reading, writing, and especially oral expression.
Since books in this area are closer to the monograph model than the textbook model, students regardless of background will need help decoding, assessing, and assimilating information. Students having different prior strengths in biology, chemistry, or environmental science will be encouraged and guided in offering peer support in and out of class. Speaking as scientist-to-scientist will be emphasized from the outset, with expectations increasing up to taking major responsibility for well-prepared presentations drawn from later chapters of the book. This will model the way that professional scientists actually interact and help one another with new or unfamiliar concepts, theories, and data.
Class meeting format: Class discussions will be student-originated and student-centered without formal lecturing. Virtually daily participation will be expected. Examples would be explaining a table, figure, paragraph, or longer segment from the book. Peer questioning will also be expected, both as another form of participatory activity and as a direct assessment of success in explanations. The instructor may “play dumb” and draw out further depth and clarity of explanation. The instructor may assign grades to several short talks and larger ones given later by each student.
There should be frequent challenges, mediated by peers as well, to ensure that oral exposition is clear, authoritative, and responsive to questions raised by others. When peers appear not to understand, they ought to articulate the origins of their difficulty since active listening and careful reading are both important.
Assessments: If this were not a speaking-intensive course, then frequent problem assignments, two in-class exams, the final examination, and an optional individual project would form the basis for evaluation.
     Assignments 45%
Hour exams 30%
Final exam 25%
Optional project     displace 5–15%
As it is, however, we should probably plan to modify this scheme. In particular, the “project” will not be optional; rather, each student will have principal responsibility for at least one major presentation drawn from the book, as noted above.
Ordinarliy the instructor would cite the cumulative distribution of grades for this course in previous years, but this is a fairly new course (and type of course). Past percentages would be merely history, in any event, and would in no way represent quotas or promises for this year.
In seeking to make this course “speaking intensive” the instructor had to respond to the questions “What percentage of the final course grade is based on oral work?” and “How will feedback on oral work be given?” and responded as follows: At least one-third. Lots of informal critiquing in class. Individual office appointments to take up any personal issues not appropriate for public comment. Perhaps an occasional written paragraph inviting self-reflection and either a written or oral response.
Assignments: In a typical science class, there might well be six to eight assignments, coming along after every two or three class meetings, but we may have somewhat fewer.
Assignments are due at 1:00 PM on the stated day. Late work will be handled as follows: Each student will begin the term with a “contingency” account containing 10 “contingency points.” When an assignment is late, this account reduces at the rate of 2 points per calendar day (or fraction thereof). If an assignment can be completed nicely and handed in earlier than 5:00 PM preceding the stated due date, then additional contingency points can be accrued at a rate of 1 per calendar day. The contingency account uses signed integer arithmetic. At the end of the term, the balance may be used to resolve ultimate grading decisions, but there is no predetermined relationship of contingency points to the standard grading scale.
Honor code: Each piece of work that you submit in this course should bear the Lawrence University honor pledge, your signature, and the date of completion on the final page.
Please seek help from others whenever you can learn effectively in the process, but always acknowledge the source, nature, and extent of assistance or collaboration. The final product should be distinctively your own.
Assistance: CHEM/ENST 247 is a challenging opportunity intended for mature students who can seek out assistance well in advance of the fabled “point of desperation.” Please bring any ambiguities about expectations or any lack of understanding from class meetings to the instructor’s attention immediately.
Lawrence’s Center for Teaching and Learning has some resources of potential usefulness to students in speaking-intensive courses at the Communication link. When you go to the Center to look over those resources, you might also consider offering yourself as a subject-matter tutor for students struggling with other courses. Tutoring can be a relevant and rewarding experience for building your confidence in oral exposition.
Tentative schedule (2010-11): The pace will be brisk. Procrastination can be fatal. Keep up! Although the book has 20 chapters, the schedule shown below reflects a slower pace that does not finish the book by the end of the term. And try to sustain a healthy balance.
Week Day Date Readings, assignments, and events
1 Mon  03 Jan  Chapter 1; personal introductions
Wed  05 Jan  Chapter 1
Thu  06 Jan  Written portion of Assignment 1 due at 1:00 PM
Fri  07 Jan  Chapter 2; oral portion of Assignment 1
2 Mon  10 Jan  Chapter 2
Wed  12 Jan  Chapter 2
Thu  13 Jan  Written portion of Assignment 2 due at 1:00 PM
Fri  14 Jan  Group analysis and discussion of scientific paper 1
3 Mon  17 Jan No class (MLK day)
Wed  19 Jan  Chapter 3; oral portion of Assignment 2
Fri  21 Jan  Chapter 3
Sat  22 Jan  Assignment 3 due at 1:00 PM
4 Mon  24 Jan  Chapter 4
Wed  26 Jan  Chapter 4; pick up take-home Exam 1 (Chapters 1–4)
Fri  28 Jan  Chapter 5
Sat  29 Jan  Hand in take-home Exam 1 by 1:00 PM
5 Mon  31 Jan  Chapter 5
Wed  02 Feb  Chapter 6
Fri  04 Feb  Chapter 6
6 Sun  05 Feb  Assignment 4 due at 1:00 PM
Mon  07 Feb  Chapter 6
Wed  09 Feb  Chapter 7; pick up take-home Exam 2 (Chapters 5–7)
Fri  11 Feb  No class (reading period)
7 Mon  14 Feb  Chapter 7; pick individual, then pair topic areas and dates
Tue  15 Feb  Distribute draft copies of Exam 2 to everyone else
Wed  16 Feb  Oral portion of Exam 2 (Chapters 5–7)
Thu  17 Feb  Written portion of Exam 2 due at 1:00 PM
Fri  18 Feb  Group analysis and discussion of scientific paper 2
8 Mon  21 Feb  Teamwork from Chapters 8–20
Wed  23 Feb  Teamwork from Chapters 8–20
Fri  25 Feb  Teamwork from Chapters 8–20
9 Mon  28 Feb  Individual work from Chapters 8–20
Wed  02 Mar  Individual work from Chapters 8–20
Fri  04 Mar  Individual work from Chapters 8–20
10 Mon  07 Mar  Individual work from Chapters 8–20
Wed  09 Mar  Individual work from Chapters 8–20
Thu  10 Mar  Final deadline for all written work is 1:00 PM
Sat  12 Mar  Final examination 3:00–5:30 PM
Printed references: Texts and monographs are written from several different perspectives for different audiences. Here is a sampling of those accessible to undergraduates.
Some of these printed references are available in the Lawrence University library, a few are available in the instructor’s office, and others are newly published. Note that certain items may be rather dated, yet may still be useful for background.
Science  Bioinorganic Emphasis The Biological Chemistry of the Elements: The Inorganic Chemistry of Life, 2nd ed., by J.J.R. Fraústo da Silva and R.J.P. Williams. Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-19-850848-4. Textbook for this offering of CHEM/ENST 247.
Bringing Chemistry to Life: From Matter to Man by R.J.P. Williams and J.J.R. Fraústo da Silva. Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-850546-9. [QD 33 .W718 1999] In some ways, an advanced general chemistry text.
Bioinorganic Chemistry by Ivano Bertini, Harry B. Gray, Stephen J. Lippard, and Joan S. Valentine. University Science Books, 1994. ISBN: 0-935702-577-1. Advanced undergraduate and graduate level.
Bioinorganic Chemistry: Inorganic Elements and the Chemistry of Life by Wolfgang Kaim and Brigette Schwederski. Wiley, 1991. ISBN 0-471-94369-X. [QP 531 .K3513 1994]
Principles of Bioinorganic Chemistry by Stephen J. Lippard and Jeremy M. Berg. University Science Books, 1994. ISBN 0-935702-72-5. [QP 531 .L55 1994]
Bioinorganic Chemistry: A Short Course, 2nd ed., by Rosette M. Roat-Malone. Wiley, 2007. ISBN 0-470-19170-5. [this e-book is accessible online from the Lawrence library site]
Environmental Emphasis The Natural Selection of the Chemical Elements: The Environment and Life's Chemistry by R.J.P. Williams and J.J.R. Fraústo da Silva. Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-19-8558436-0. [QD31.2 .W57 1996]
The Chemistry of Evolution: The Development of our Ecosystem by R.J.P. Williams and J.J.R. Fraústo da Silva. Elsevier, 2006. ISBN 0-444-52155-0. Demonstrates that life is totally interactive with the environment.
Ecological Stoichiometry: The Biology of Elements from Molecules to the Biosphere by Robert W. Sterner and James J. Elser. Princeton University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-691-07491-7. [QH 345 .S74 2002]
Biogeochemistry Biogeochemistry of Trace Metals edited by Domy C. Adriano. Lewis Publishers, 1992. [TD 196 .M4 B56 1992]
Biomineralization: Principles and Concepts in Bioinorganic Materials Chemistry by Stephen Mann. Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-19-859882-4. [QH 512 .M36 2001]
Chemical Emphasis Chemistry of the Elements by N.N. Greenwood and A. Earnshaw, 2nd ed. Elsevier, 2002. [QD 466 .G74 2002]
Historical Emphasis Discovery of the Elements by Mary E. Weeks, 7th ed., completely revised and new material added by Henry M. Leicester. Journal of Chemical Education, 1968. [Library has 5th ed. QD 466 .W4 1945]
Speaking  Scientific and Technical  Speaking Technically: A Handbook for Scientists, Engineers, and Physicians on How to Improve Technical Presentations by Sinclair Goodlad. Imperial College Press, 2001. ISBN 1-86094-034-X. [T 10.5 .G67 1996]
A Handbook of Public Speaking for Scientists and Engineers by Peter Kenny. Adam Hilger Ltd, 1984. ISBN 0-85274-553-2. [PN 4121 .K4 1984]
Other  Notebook for Public Speaking: A College Course in Basic Principles by Ray Ehrensberger and Elaine Pagel. Prentice Hall, 1952. [PN 4130 .E5]
An Introduction to Effective Oral Communication by Don B. Morlan and George E. Tuttle, Jr. Bobbs-Merrill, 1976. ISBN 0-672-61408-1. [PN 4121 .M63]
Classic  Basic Principles of Speech by Lew Sarett and William T. Foster. Houghton Mifflin, 1936. [PN 4121 .S27] A third edition (1966) by Alma J. Sarett, Lew Sarett, and William T. Foster is also now out of print.
Electronic references: Some of these electronic references may assist with comprehension of the material in the text. Others may be useful for background. Still others may provoke ideas for projects or deeper study.
Scientific topics  Properties of the elements  Biochemical Periodic Table by Steve Toeniskoetter, Jennifer Dommer, and Tony Dodge, 2007. Each atomic symbol links to descriptive material containing further links to references.
Elemental Data Index by M.A. Zucker, A.R. Kishore, R. Sukumar, and R.A. Dragoset, 2005.
Environmental topics Of Stones and Health: Medical Geology in Sri Lanka by Chandrasekara Dissanayake, 2005.
Other categories, perhaps  This section on scientific topics is currently quite sparse. Whenever you come across something useful, bring it up in class to see if it should be inserted here.
Speaking and Listening  Criteria  Eight Public Speaking Competencies and Criteria for Assessment, as used at the University of Alaska Southeast
Criteria Used for Evaluating Speeches, made available by McGraw-Hill to accompany the book The Art of Public Speaking, 8th ed., by Stephen E. Lucas
Speaking evaluation forms Competent Speaker Evaluation Form, as used at the University of Alaska Southeast
Speech Evaluation Form, as used by Carla Gesell-Streeter at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
Speech Evaluation Form, as used by Eric Pollock at Kyunghee University
Peer Evaluation Form, as used at Metropolitan State College of Denver
Speech Evaluation Form, as used at Metropolitan State College of Denver
Speech Evaluation Form, made available by Houghton Mifflin to accompany the book Speech Preparation Workbook by Suzanne Osborn
Speech Evaluation Form, made available by Cengage Learning to accompany the book The Art of Public Speaking, 8th ed., by Stephen E. Lucas
Listening evaluation forms Listening Problems Checklist, made available by Cengage Learning to accompany the book Speech Preparation Workbook by Suzanne Osborn