The Chemistry Department at Creighton University is committed to providing the best possible laboratory-based chemistry education for our majors and for the College as a whole. In an average semester we enroll an average of 400 students in General Chemistry and another 275 students in Organic Chemistry. In addition to these service courses we offer courses designed for nursing students and for elementary education majors every semester. All of these courses have laboratories associated with them.
We are very proud of our major program. We are (and have been consistently over the past 15 years) one of the largest producers of American Chemical Society (ACS) certified chemistry graduates in the nation. Over the last 10 years we have graduated an average of 28 chemistry majors per year. A recently published (2001) study on academic excellence (sponsored by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, the Robert A. Welch Foundation, and the W.M. Keck Foundation among others) ranked the Creighton University Chemistry Department 17th out of 1115 Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions in its production of chemistry baccalaureate degrees. This places us in the top 2% nationwide.
Undergraduates matriculating from our department continue with their formal education. Approximately one-third of our majors proceed directly to medical or dental school, another one-third of our majors enroll in Ph.D. programs in chemistry or chemistry-related (e.g., biochemistry, chemical engineering, environmental science) disciplines, and the remaining one-third participate in organized volunteer programs (JVC, Peace Corps, Teach for America), obtain employment in chemistry-related fields, or enroll in MBA or JD programs. In short, the Chemistry Department prepares Creighton students for many possible futures. The formal training in laboratory-based courses is an integral portion of this preparation. We believe that our laboratory courses instill in the students an ability to problem solve in unique and creative ways, utilizing both team-based and independent learning environments.
One aspect of our program that is absolutely essential but is not reflected in the “traditional” chemistry courses is our emphasis on scholarly endeavors by both our faculty and our students. Chemistry is an ever-changing and evolving science. Research is important for our faculty in order to maintain their familiarity with the current status of the discipline. We require our certified majors to participate in an independent research project. We believe that traditional scholarly inquiry strengthens a student’s ability to problem-solve, emphasizes the need to be creative in science, and provides unique opportunities to investigate fields of chemistry that are not treated directly in the courses that we offer. Additionally, a good research program will involve the students in investigations of the chemical literature, give them opportunities for scientific writing and oral presentations, and directly challenge them to think about the ethical aspects of science and of professional behavior, in general.
Some of the most important aspects of joint undergraduate student–faculty research programs are more difficult to quantify. When students participate in research, they are participating in the discovery of new knowledge. This can increase their confidence in their own abilities and often provides the absolute proof that science is an evolving enterprise and that they can (if they choose) make a contribution to that process. The importance of one-on-one interactions between the student and his/her faculty mentor cannot be underestimated. Professional relationships that can last for a lifetime are often formed in these situations. This leads to Creighton University alumnae that have very positive and endearing memories of their undergraduate years and a real and continuing connection to the University in the form of their mentor. Obviously, undergraduate participation in faculty scholarship yields great rewards for all involved, the students, the faculty, and the University.
One traditional measure of scholarly productivity involves analyzing the number of publications and presentations that result from the scholarly endeavors and quantifying the external support (funding and equipment for such activities). By those measures our faculty have fared very well. In the past 10 years (1992-2002) scholarly activity in our department has resulted in 123 publications in national and/or international journals, 25 with Creighton University undergraduate student co-authors, and 245 presentations at regional, national, or international meetings, 84 of which had undergraduate co-authors and most of those papers were read by the undergraduate students themselves. In addition, our faculty has received (as principle investigators) $1,621,817 in external funding in support of research and an additional $1,716,705 as co-principle investigators. It is important to note that the numbers above do not include any internal (University) funding such as faculty development grants, University support for sabbatical activity, Clare Boothe Luce funds, funding from the Health Future Foundation, or the “Success in Science” initiative funding. It is quite clear that the research that is being done by the faculty in the Department of Chemistry at Creighton University is being recognized as worthy by both their peers in science and by the various funding agencies, including NSF, NIH, the Department of Agriculture, Research Corporation, and the ACS-PRF.