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Andrew P. Dicks

Andrew P. Dicks

Academic Title: Professor, Teaching Stream

Phone: 416-946-8003

Office: LM 118



My research interests are primarily within the field of chemistry education, and more specifically in the areas of laboratory instruction, teaching green chemistry and sustainability, lecture interactivity, problem-based and discovery-based learning approaches, team-teaching strategies, teaching assistant (TA) training, effective writing instruction, creating student learning communities, and science humour/puzzles.

As one example, many students working under my supervision have developed novel microscale and semi-microscale organic laboratory experiments. Recent years have seen movement away from traditional macroscale synthetic procedures within the undergraduate organic laboratory. Smaller scale experiments are more cost effective and afford benefits such as minimized waste disposal and reduced reaction times. Although exposing students to essential laboratory techniques and illustrating fundamental reactivity, some current experiments fail to spark an interest in organic chemistry. One aim is to construct small-scale synthetic procedures where the isolated product has an everyday relevance. New experiments designed should have the following features:

  • be demonstrative of appropriate lecture material: e.g. basic organic reactions, mechanisms and spectroscopy
  • be demonstrative of laboratory techniques such as vacuum/gravity filtration, reflux, recrystallization etc.
  • involve the synthesis of a "real-world" compound - one that has a well-defined use in society, or some other interesting properties (see examples below)
  • involve cheap, readily available, safe starting materials
  • involve fundamental laboratory apparatus
  • generate a product at a semi-microscale (~500 mg) or microscale (~100 mg) level

By adopting this approach it is possible to make the undergraduate organic laboratory experience a fascinating and stimulating one. Particular recent interest has focused on aspects of green chemistry, and designing reactions that proceed in water/under solvent-free conditions, or in an energy-efficient manner.

Selected Publications

  1. A First-Year Chemistry Undergraduate “Course Community” at a Large, Research-Intensive University. De La Franier, B. J.; Diep, J.; Menzies, P. J. C.; Morra, B.; Koroluk, K. J.; Dicks, A. P. J. Chem. Educ. 2016, 93, 256-261.
  2. Chemistry Writing Instruction and Training: Implementing a Comprehensive Approach to Improving Student Communication Skills. Stewart, A. F.; Williams, A. L.; Lofgreen, J. E.; Edgar, L. J. G.; Hoch, L. B.; Dicks, A. P. J. Chem. Educ. 2016, 93, 86-92.
  3. Assessing Process Mass Intensity and Waste via an aza-Baylis–Hillman Reaction Gómez-Biagi, R. F.; Dicks, A. P. J. Chem. Educ. 2015, 92, 1938-1942.
  4. Problem-Solving Exercises in Green and Sustainable Chemistry (edited textbook). CRC Press: Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, FL, ISBN: 978-1-4822-5257-6, 175 pages, published 28th October 2015.
  5. Aqueous Suzuki Synthesis of 4-Phenylphenol (textbook chapter). In Mayo, D. W.; Pike, R. M.; Forbes, D. C.Microscale Organic Laboratory with Multistep and Multiscale Syntheses, 6th Ed., Wiley: Hoboken, NJ, 2015, pp 421-427.
  6. Green Chemistry Decision-Making in an Upper-Level Undergraduate Organic Laboratory. Edgar, L. J. G.; Koroluk, K. J.; Golmakani, M.; Dicks, A. P. J. Chem. Educ. 2014, 91, 1040-1043. (featured on the July 2014 journal cover)
  7. Green Organic Chemistry in Lecture and Laboratory (edited textbook) CRC Press: Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, FL, ISBN: 978-1-4398-4076-4, 283 pages, published 29th August 2011.