Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

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The Department of Chemistry at Lycoming emphasizes hands-on use of instrumentation by students from the first semester of General Chemistry on up. As a student progresses through our curriculum, their interaction with the instruments becomes more sophisticated. The goal is to have the students: (1) know which instrumental techniques are appropriate for a given problem; (2) know how to exploit the full capabilities of each instrument; and (3) be able to interpret the results. As a complement to that, we believe that the learning of chemistry can be enhanced significantly by lab projects that emphasize chemical problem solving. We have found that this type of discovery-based learning is much more meaningful than the traditional experiment which either illustrates a topic under discussion in the lecture portion of the course, or involves the synthesis of some useful compound. Ideally a discovery-based experiment should: (1) require that students use multiple, complementary experimental techniques; (2) foster critical thinking skills; and (3) promote significant interaction among students and between students and instructor. Investigational experiments also better illustrate how chemical problems are approached in academic and industrial research settings. Data gathered by students in their investigative labs are used to initiate subsequent classroom discussion of these ideas. We also, of course, take advantage of our instrumentation in our extensive chemical research program.