Scribner Seminar Program
Molecules That Matter
Instructor(s): Ray Giguere, Chemistry
Scientific progress in organic synthesis continues to have profound effects on modern life. Our increased understanding of organic materials at the molecular level has led to the development of consumer products that touch nearly all aspects of daily living: carbon-based fuels, pharmaceuticals, coatings and dyes, polymers and plastics, contraceptives, cosmetics, herbicides, food preservatives – the list is seemingly endless. How has our understanding of synthetic organic chemistry at the molecular level perturbed the natural evolution of the biosphere in ways that profoundly impact global society? In this seminar, students will study the underlying chemistry and role that organic synthesis plays, discovering not only its connections to major consumer applications but also some unintended consequences of these monumental developments. Students will also examine the significance of rational thought in scientific investigation and the role serendipity often plays in scientific discovery. The 2007-2009 Skidmore Tang Teaching Museum traveling exhibit, "Molecules That Matter," will serve as an overarching guide for the seminar, illuminating our course readings, in-class discussions, and small group projects.