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New chemistry class encourages creative problem solving

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Reported by Cassandra Osborne

Langara’s new chemistry class allows students to work on term-long projects. Photo by Cassandra Osborne.

 

A new chemistry class at Langara College is structured unlike any other by focusing on semester-long individual projects, encouraging students to think critically and solve problems without the need of constant outside influence.

Science projects, spearheaded by instructor Kelly Sveinson, encourages mistakes in favour of growth.

“The vision that I had when I built this course was to get the students to experience science in a more authentic way,” Sveinson said.

He said that post-secondary education at the undergraduate level usually exposes students to a very contained and controlled version of science that lacks creativity and doesn’t encourage mistakes.

According to Sveinson, the course is “only appropriate for a handful of students,” due to its difficulty and level of commitment.

Course addresses real world situations

Under the instructor’s supervision, Aidan Royea is studying molecules using a specified computer program for the semester.

“[The course] gave us the opportunity to explore real world problems, as opposed to regular second year courses,” he said. “Doing the routine doesn’t actually prepare us, it doesn’t even give us an idea of what to expect in the real world.”

Sveinson believes a common misconception about science is that it lacks creativity. “It’s very not linear, it’s very not systematic,” he said. “It’s a human characteristic, a computer couldn’t do that.”

Student projects have lofty longterm goals

Paul Habbas, a bioinformatics student, is working with contaminated soil trying to find a way to remove the contamination by using the bacteria to clean it up. He hopes to transfer this idea to medicine, with the goal of looking into DNA to treat hereditary diseases.

“It’s not just theory anymore it’s application which is what this whole course is about,” he said.

Habbas compares what he’s learned about the scientific process to an art form, “A painter […] has to lay down the drawing and he has to go in there with colours. It’s the same thing with science, you see a problem, you try to think of questions to solve that problem and then you go and you apply it.”

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