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Undergraduate Chemistry

Chemistry Freshman Research Initiative

What is a Freshman Research Initiative (FRI)?

The FRI is a unique classroom experience that will allow first-year students to experience real research currently being conducted in Penn State labs in a classroom environment. The goal of the FRI is to help students put the learning they gain from their core classes in perspective and to inspire them to get involved in science.

Although the research focus shifts periodically, students are currently examining research being conducted by the Zhang lab, led by Assistant Professor of Chemistry Xin Zhang. Dr. Zhang has selected a molecule studied in his lab for students to work with. Throughout the semester, students will make predictions about the compound and conduct experiences to learn how it works. Students will also learn how chemistry makes a difference in the world and the impact of their work. 


What will I Learn?

Students will gain a better understanding of:

  • Critical concepts in chemistry

  • Scientific method application

  • Research procedure in the academic world

  • Acid based chemistry

  • How structure and reactivity relate

  • pH

  • Polarity

  • Fluorescence


History of the Course

The initiative was developed by Assistant Head for Undergraduate Engagement Dr. Kate Masters. The class is part of a college-wide effort across the Eberly College of Science to inspire students to get involved with research and participate actively in the scientific community at Penn State.

The chemistry FRI is designed to introduce students to critical concepts in chemistry and to make research more accessible to incoming students. To help her achieve this goal, Dr. Masters enlisted the help of Penn State chemistry alumna Cassidy Camplese. Camplese, who earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry last spring, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in education at Penn State. Camplese and Dr. Masters worked together to develop an innovative curriculum that brings the real-life research of Penn State’s chemistry labs to the classroom. 

How Can I Get Involved in the FRI?

The class will be offered in the fall; it will be open to all first year students in the sciences. Interested students should sign up for Chem 111 Section 200.