Amidst a pandemic that challenged educators and the education system, Beyond Benign and Dow successfully designed and launched the first Green Chemistry Education Challenge Awards to advance green chemistry at Dow’s partners institutions. Five institutions applied, and three universities were awarded a combined total of $30,000 for their year or multi-year projects. Through the awards, the three institutions will design approximately 10 teaching resources for undergraduate courses, which will help bring green chemistry directly to 3,000+ students each year.
Michigan State University
Michigan State University (MSU) is a research university in East Lansing, Michigan (USA) founded in 1855. With 40 faculty members, its interdisciplinary Chemistry department can reach about 10,000 students yearly. MSU has joined Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment program in 2018 with the goals of integrating green chemistry throughout its departmental research, teaching, and service. The implementation of green chemistry in MSU is currently not only performed in faculty and student research, but in its organic and green chemistry courses, as well as in its Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program and safety course.
MSU has undertaken a project to transition its large-enrollment undergraduate organic chemistry laboratory course to a Green Chemistry Project-Based laboratory. Under faculty supervision, a small group of undergraduate students have been beta testing this project which aims to cultivate students’ analytical thinking, effective citizenship, effective communication, and integrated reasoning abilities. With the funding obtained through Dow and Beyond Benign’s first Green Chemistry Education Challenge Award grant, MSU was enabled to plan and carry out the Green Chemistry Project-Based laboratory course investigation and evaluation while supporting the beta-testing undergraduate students. The implementation of MSU’s new laboratory will be able to reach approximately 1,300 students who take the Green Chemistry Project-Based laboratory course each year. Upon the completion of its study, MSU plans to publish its findings online with free access and share them at upcoming conferences so these resources can be adopted, incorporated, and practiced within the global green chemistry community and beyond.
University of California, Berkeley
With over 65 faculty members, the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry (BCGC) at the University of California (UC) Berkeley (USA) has been a Green Chemistry Commitment Signer since 2013. Their Chemistry program is able to reach more than 16,000 students annually and it is currently advancing green chemistry through research, teaching, and engagement in interdisciplinary areas. The goal is to place green chemistry, alongside carbon-neutral technologies, as a cornerstone of environmentally sustainable development and the green economy.
At UC Berkeley, faculty members, instructors, and graduate students have adjusted a published green chemistry experiment to fit the needs and resources of an introductory organic chemistry lab class (CHEM 3AL) attended by approximately 600 non-majors. In the initial experiment entitled ‘Student-Designed Green Chemistry Experiment for a Large-Enrollment, Introductory Organic Laboratory Course’ by Wu et al., students performed a “standard” procedure and then adjusted a variable of their choice to make it greener. UC Berkeley students tested the initial experiment, which then allowed faculty and instructors to pinpoint areas in which it required improvement for its incorporation into the CHEM 3AL course.
The Green Chemistry Education Challenge Award offered by Beyond Benign and Dow allowed UC Berkeley to support and compensate the two graduate students involved in this project. Besides the creation of a slide deck with the material developed, a survey to analyze students’ attitude towards green chemistry’s relevance was designed. The materials created along with the project will be implemented in the Spring 2023 semester and will be made available to other institutions.
Southern University and Agricultural & Mechanical College
As a Green Chemistry Commitment Signer since 2021, Southern University and Agricultural & Mechanical (A&M) College is a Historically Black College & University (HBCU) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (USA). This institution has the goal to increase the implementation of green chemistry practices in its biochemistry, general, organic, inorganic, analytical, environmental, and physical chemistry courses, while also continuing to foster inclusion and belonging for populations underrepresented in STEM areas. At Southern University, more than 3,000 students are learning concepts and obtaining hands-on experience in the application and importance of green chemistry in creating more benign materials to human health and the environment.
The Green Chemistry Education Challenge Award grant offered by Beyond Benign and Dow has allowed Southern University and A&M College to be able to continue the path of implementing green chemistry in its courses. Since the beginning of this journey, many students and faculty members have gained much more interest in the area. The work developed by Southern University A&M College is an inspiration for the incorporation of green chemistry into the curriculum of universities that mainly serve underrepresented individuals, and would therefore enhance the curriculum at those institutions to better prepare their students for their future careers. Moreover, the funding received has allowed Southern University and A&M College to use results, ideas, and other findings from this project as preliminary data to obtain future funding in green chemistry, which will continue to help Southern foster relationships with other institutions as well as its local community and K-12 schools.