Objectives

The Senior Capstone is intended to give you the opportunity to:

  1. Pull together much of what you have learned in separate courses and teach yourself about new areas of chemistry in the process of reading research papers.
  2. Develop and demonstrate the ability to critically read primary research literature and to recognize how conclusions are drawn from and supported by data and observation.
  3. Practice making a professional quality oral presentation, featuring good organization, clarity of expression, proper concern for your audience and advantageous use of overheads, blackboard or video display.

Research Topic

Assignment

At the beginning of the Fall semester, each Chemistry and Biochemistry senior will select a scholar from a list (representing a variety of research areas) assembled by the Chemistry Department faculty. Seniors who are currently working on an independent research project in the Department may select, with appropriate guidance from their faculty mentor, a scholar related to their research project.

Preparation

To adequately prepare oral and written presentations on a research topic, you should be able to (1) search the primary chemistry and biochemistry literature effectively using online databases, (2) find appropriate resources in the primary, secondary and reference literature to help you learn about your topic, (3) carefully read, analyze and critique research papers, and (4) organize and present effectively this newly acquired knowledge.

Much of the information in the primary research papers may be new to you. The goal of the project is for you to demonstrate a capacity to learn independently and to find appropriate resources to assist you. The faculty in the Department can be an important resource, so you are strongly encouraged to seek advice from a faculty mentor while reading your papers. But, do not expect that faculty member to read the paper for you, nor to reveal the meaning of it all the night before your presentation.

Paper

The paper will consist of a novel literature review of recent primary research literature with a centerpiece of the review being a publication on which the chosen scholar is the corresponding author. Some publications have multiple corresponding authors. Students who wish to pick such a publication as a review centerpiece must first consult the Senior Capstone director. The format of the paper should follow that of standard reviews, including an abstract, introduction, body, conclusion and references. The body should contain information gathered from at least 10 recent primary research articles (as well as other respected sources) and organized such that it gives a modern overview of the topic being covered. The review should effectively represent the breadth of scholarship on a topic and avoid a narrow focus on one or two research groups. It is expected that the student will insert his/her own comments and perspectives into the paper using review convention. This paper will be 4000-6000 words in length and follow the style put forth in the ACS Style Guide.

Submission

Each student is responsible for submitting his/her paper in a common electronic format (.docx, .pdf, or .gdoc). The document must be submitted to the designated site by 4 PM on the last day of the fall semester finals.

Grading

Feedback will be given during the second week of the spring semester. The faculty reviewer(s) will assess each paper and give it a grade of: excellent, very good, good, fair, poor or failing, based on criteria such as:
• the choice of the scope and focus of the review topic,
• fundamental understanding of the topic as evidenced by the collection and organization of information from a variety of respected sources as well as the inserted student commentary,
• clarity of expression and proper use of chemistry terms,
• organization of the material,
• effective use of and proper execution of graphics, tables, reaction schemes, etc.,
Work worthy of distinction is characterized by:
• excellent choice of topic and focus.
• excellent understanding of the material,
• evidence of originality and creativity, and
• clarity of expression.
Work that is not satisfactory to pass is characterized by a deficiency in some of the criteria mentioned above, possibilities include:
• misunderstandings of some aspects of the topic,
• a lack of focus,
• a paper that simply paraphrases the research paper and/or other source material, or
• a paper which is disorganized in content and style.
Based on written literature review, the faculty may assign a paper to clarify aspects of the topic, or require that all or part of the literature review be rewritten.

The Oral Presentation

Presentation

Each student will select two full, primary research papers (not communications, notes, or review articles) from the current literature, one of which has the chosen scholar as the corresponding author. In instances in which there are multiple corresponding authors, students should ask the faculty member directing Senior Capstone for guidance. The two papers should be related to each other and, together, will be the topic of the oral presentation, which should explain, analyze and critique the research presented in the papers. Students should briefly introduce their topic with appropriate background information, discuss in detail the experimental methods and data, and explain the significance of the results. The oral presentation should be 30 minutes in length and will be followed by a 10-minute discussion period with questions by the faculty and others in the audience.

Materials

Each student must prepare an abstract of his or her oral presentation, about one-half page (typed, single spaced) in length. This abstract must cite the research papers used to prepare the presentation and must be submitted electronically to the Senior Capstone Moodle Groups webpage along with electronic copies of the research papers one week before the presentation. The oral presentation may involve use of a chalkboard, overhead projector, computer display or other visual aids. However, the student is responsible for making certain that their medium is working properly.

Attendance

The oral presentations will be complete before the last 100 days of classes. They are open to the public, and all students in the department are encouraged to attend. Attendance at all presentations is mandatory for all seniors, including those in the Honors program. Only scheduled courses or athletic games which conflict with the presentation times of other students are excuses for not attending.

Grading

The faculty discuss each oral presentation and arrive at a grade of: excellent, very good, good, fair, poor or failing, based on criteria such as:
• degree of understanding of the material as evidenced in the formal presentation,
• responses to audience questions,
• ability to relate the contents of the two (or more) papers,
• clarity of expression and proper use of chemistry terms,
• organization of the material,
• effective use of overheads/blackboard/video,
Work worthy of distinction is characterized by:
• excellent understanding of the material,
• evidence of originality and creativity , and
• clarity of expression.
Work that is not satisfactory to pass is characterized by:
• a presentation that simply paraphrases the research papers and any other source material you use, or
• an oral presentation which is disorganized in content and style.
Based on performance on the oral presentation, the faculty may assign a paper to clarify aspects of the presentation, or require that all or part of the oral presentation be given again.