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Undergraduate Chemistry

First-Year Research Initiative

What is a First-Year 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.

Learn about experimental research and improve your confidence in lab—no prior research experience required! In the FRI section of CHEM 111, Dr. Angela Bischof and a teaching assistant will introduce you to the skills you need to design, execute, and analyze your own experiments. You will work with your peers to solve problems with chemistry through project-based experiments in a small course setting.  This semester, you will synthesize gold nanoparticles via traditional methods, then propose and execute your own green synthesis using plant extracts. You will analyze the gold nanoparticles using spectroscopic methods and use the nanoparticles to degrade organic dyes in solution. 


What will I Learn?

Students will gain a better understanding of:

  • Critical concepts in chemistry

  • Scientific method application

  • Research procedure in the academic world

  • Critical laboratory skills that will translate to future chemistry lab courses

  • Spectroscopic methods


History of the Course

The initiative was first 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. 

The General Chemistry Lab Director, Dr. Angela Bischof, recently took over course development for Fall 2022 and is excited to get first year students involved in cutting-edge nanoparticle synthesis and characterization!


How Can I Get Involved in the FRI?

The class will be offered in the fall; it will be open to first year students who are intended chemistry majors only. Interested students should sign up for Chem 111 Section 200.