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Vol. 26 No. 3
May-June 2004

The Project Place | Information about new, current, and complete IUPAC projects and related initiatives
See also www.iupac.org/projects

Toward a Core Organic Chemistry Curriculum for Latin American Universities

In the fall of 2002, the Committee on Chemistry Education and the Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry Division began a joint pilot project to update organic chemistry curriculum for Latin American universities (see July-Aug 2003 CI, p. 23). A mini-satellite symposium on this project topic was organized 25 September 2003 at the 7th Latin American Conference on Physical Organic Chemistry (CLAFQO-7), which was held 21–26 September 2003 in Florianópolis, Brazil.

The symposium was opened by a brief report on the overall current state of the project, and then each member of the Latin American Task Group (LTG) presented the “state of the art” of the project at his/her university. Participants from other countries, still non-members of the LTG, were invited to briefly comment on the teaching of organic chemistry in their universities. The audience was also enriched by the attendance of several lecturers and participants from the CLAFQO-7, who made significant contributions during the discussions.

Although the presentations shared common themes, a wide spectrum of approaches was observed, and all participants emphasized the need for an updated core organic chemistry curriculum to facilitate communication, transferability of courses, and exchange of students. Some topics, considered essential by the task group, such as NMR and MS spectroscopy, conformational stereochemistry, and introduction to organic synthesis, are not taught in many universities. This is mostly because of difficulties in getting professors who are up to date in these topics. To remedy this situation, someone proposed the development of a sort of “Summer School” in which professors with expertise in the different subjects could offer training courses for other teachers.

At one point during the symposium, the results of the questionnaire that had been circulated during May–July 2003 among the universities of the region were presented and discussed. As a result of the discussion, it was proposed that an up-dated organic chemistry curriculum should be designed using this material. A proposal was then written and distributed among the members of the LTG in December 2003 to be tested in 2004. The proposal of a core organic chemistry curriculum includes 14 main topics to be developed in two semesters:
1. structures and properties
2. isomerism and stereochemistry
3. reaction mechanisms and intermediates
4. addition reactions
5. spectroscopy (UV, IR, NMR, MS)
6. displacement reactions (substitution and elimination)
7. reactions of compounds with single C-O bond
8. aromatic systems
9. nitrogen-containing compounds
10. radical reactions, polymerization
11. interconversion of functional groups
12. heterocyclic compounds
13. bio-organic compounds
14. introduction to synthetic strategies; sustainable organic synthesis

A draft of this proposal in Spanish is available from the project Web page.

At the symposium, an active discussion followed on ways to help disseminate the draft curriculum to other universities. Involvement of national representatives of IUPAC’s National Adhering Organization was considered an essential next step. Participants recommended contacting ministries of education, academies of science, and national chemical associations within their own countries to inform them about the project. Regional organizations, such as the Latin American Federation of Chemical Societies and the MERCOSUR, will be contacted after the proposal had been tested in 2004 and amended if necessary.

For more information contact the Task Group Chairman Norma S. Nudelman <nudelman@qo.fcen.uba.ar>.

www.iupac.org/projects/2002/2002-010-1-050.html


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