Chemistry Undergraduate Research Opportunities

coordinator: Dennis Hore
office: ELL 318

Overview: CHEM 298, 398, 399, 498, 499

There are many opportunities to engage in exciting research projects over one or two semesters.  CHEM 298 and 398 are not-for-credit ('COM' grade), CHEM 399 is 1.5 units of credit, and CHEM 498 and 499 are 3 units of credit.

None of these are traditional 'courses' or 'labs', even though they are listed under 'courses of instruction' in the calendar and on the Chemistry website.  They are an opportunity to do some original work with a chemistry research faculty member.  All of these projects (even the two-semester CHEM 498 or 499) can start in September, January, or May.  You can take CHEM 298 and 398 as many times as you wish, but CHEM 399, 498 and 499 may be taken only once.  More specific details about these courses are given below.

For any research project, the idea is that you would first find somebody that offers a project that interests you.  You can start by taking a look at the descriptions of general research areas on the chemistry website.  Although the information on that page is very brief (often just a few keywords) most people have links to their individual research website where you can find more information.  After you find a few people who potentially interest you, email them directly, stating you are looking for a CHEM 298, 398, 399, 498 or 499 project.  They will then email you back to arrange a time to chat in person, during which time they will provide you with some options for current available projects in their lab.  Feel free to email me or drop by my office if you would like some advice on how to get started.

In all cases, it works best if you begin looking for a potential match before the start of the semester in which you wish to begin the work.  Alternatively, you can leave this to the first week of the term, but then you'll have to find an advisor and decide on a project, all within a few days.

Details of Specific Courses

CHEM 298 or 398: Research Experience

This is intended for students who wish to gain some experience in chemistry research.  It is also a nice opportunity to explore different areas before you get to your 4th year.  Please make suitable arrangements (as outlined in Section 1 above) directly with your chosen research advisor.  CHEM298 or 398 is a one-term course worth 0 units. 

1-page graphic summary.  On or before the last day of classes for the term, email me a single page "poster", 10" (25.4 mm) wide x 7.5" (19.05 mm) tall.  Put your name, CHEM 298 or 398, advisor's name, and title of the project somewhere on the page.  Use most of the page to illustrate your project with one or two key graphics.  Perhaps one-line description or summary on there too. See some examples at the top of this page.

Grading.  You will receive a 'COM' grade, based on the recommendation of your research advisor, after I receive your graphic summary.

CHEM 399: Research Project

This project course (formerly known as CHEM 498) is a for-credit version of CHEM 298/398.  Suitable projects should have exposure to research techniques, have a defined goal, and a very good chance for completion within the time frame allowed.  CHEM 399 is a one-term course worth 1.5 units.

Final Report, recommended length is 5 pages.  No title page.  Put your name, CHEM 399, date, advisor's name, and the title of your project at the top of the first page.

Grading.  The final grade will be based on your advisor's assessment of your effort, research results, performance in the lab, and your written report.

CHEM 498 or 499: Thesis-based Research Project

498/499A followed by 498/499B is a two-term course worth a total of 3 units. Make sure to register yourself online for both parts of this course. Note that you will receive a grade of 'INP' (in progress) following completion of part A.  After part B is complete, the same grade will be given for both parts (replacing the INP on your transcript). CHEM 499 is open to, and required by, all chemistry honours students. CHEM 498 provides the same experience, but is open to all students.

This is an intensive research project.  It would be beneficial if you would have already made arrangements with a research advisor prior to the start of the term, but you can do this (quickly!) during the first week of the term.

As you are preparing to take CHEM 499, you should also consider our new accelerated MSc program in Chemistry. After you have registered in the course, talk to your research advisor for details.

Final Report, emailed to me in pdf format, on the specified date (according to emailed instructions). Late reports will receive a penalty of 5% per day.

The exact format should be decided upon through consultation with your advisor. A suggested format includes a title page, table of contents, abstract (200 words), introduction (purpose, review and description of the research problem, review and discussion of pertinent literature), experimental, results, discussion, conclusions, bibliography.  The report should be no more than 20 pages (double spaced, 12pt font, 1" margins) including all figures and bibliography.  If you (or your research advisor) would like to include additional data in the form of an Appendix, that is okay, but it is understood that the Appendix will not be read in grading the report.  (The Appendix may be useful to you or other members of your research group in the future.)

A sample cover page in PDF format is available for download here.  (For LaTeX users, the source file is available here.)

Presentation and Question Period. You will give a 15-minute (max) presentation of the proposal and results. This will be followed by a 10-minute question and answer session during which two reviewers will take turns asking you questions for 5 minutes each. Using a computer to project slides during your talk is the normal style (more details in Section 3 below).  You will probably find it useful to arrange a practice talk with your research advisor prior to your CHEM 499 presentation.

All students registered in CHEM 498/499B are required to attend all presentations. The detailed schedule will be sent to you by email. The presentations will be scheduled 30 minutes apart.  Please make sure that your talk is no more than 15 minutes.  I'll give you a 2 minute warning at 13 min, just so we can all stay on time.

I imagine that most of you will prepare slides in one of .pdf/.ppt/.pptx./.odp format.  The room (TBA) will have a data projector.  I'll help you in connecting to the projector.

(1) If you want to transfer your slides to a USB memory key, I recommend that you try to open the file on a different computer, just to make sure it works.  (That way you'll know that you actually embedded all the photos, etc you imported, and that you are not missing files, fonts, etc.) 

(2) If you intend to use your computer, please make sure that you have what is required to connect it to the projector.  The projector will have only a (standard, 15-pin) VGA cable.  Many computers these days (and all recent Macs) require a separate adapter/dongle, as they don't have a VGA port built-in to the computer.  Worst case scenario, we can always transfer your slides to someone else's computer, but in that case note point #1 above! :)

Grading.  Grades for the course will be based on an evaluation of your performance in the various components of the course, together with an assessment written by your advisor.  The formula I currently use is:
final grade = 0.8*(advisor's recommendation) + 0.1*(presentation and question period) + 0.1*(written report)

Any questions, please feel free to contact me.