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Project #186

Pathways to Innovation: Reframing Chemistry and Biology Education at PSU for the 21st Century

We proposed to reframe the way that Chemistry and Biology curricula are delivered at Portland State University (PSU). The plan was to focus on our strength in being able to provide students with hands‐on experiences and personal interactions with experts in their fields to provide a solid foundation of core concepts and explicitly prepare students for 21st century STEM careers.


Principles of Biology, Genetics as well as General and Organic Chemistry classes were taught and incorporated POGIL‐style learning for the students. Overall 12 classes utilized POGIL‐based pedagogy. In addition, Anatomy and Physiology incorporated peer‐led workshops in partnership with chemistry.

A unique advising resource was incorporated in the Chemistry and Biology Departments via the creation of mirror PSU squared websites. These sites interface with the PSU’s CSO website and thus are synergistic with the broader campus efforts by Advising and Career Services to afford students a variety of curricular and career‐related opportunities. 

A summary of future joint chemistry and Biology laboratories structure was created and addresses issues identified as impediments during our exploration phase.

In addition, an advanced laboratory course was designed to afford chemistry and biology students an opportunity to learn modern practical skills and address timely research issues. A proposal is currently under consideration to award credit for a Capstone through University Studies as well as for general laboratory degree credit.


The new pedagogy used in the large lecture hall in the Collaborative Life Sciences Building afforded faculty a means to improve overall learning outcomes, despite the increase in class sizes. Based on the data generated during the year, with limited benchmarking or controls available, it was evident that DFW rates dropped and final exam scores improved.

The PSU squared websites are one-stop, essentially self-contained advising resources that will benefit both students and faculty and contain details such as Junior Cluster and Senior Capstone Courses grouped by relevance for each Chemistry or Biology subspecialty or specific student career plan. 

The new tool enabling students to self-assess to place out of intro Chemistry or Biology will better enable them to graduate early or on-time, and allow them to take alternative classes of their choosing. The placement opportunities should prove to be an attractive recruiting tool.

The advanced laboratory course fills two critical needs. First, there is a need for more Capstone opportunities that engage students in the process of authentic scientific discovery. Second, Chemistry does not currently have an advanced organic or inorganic laboratory class. A more formal laboratory course could thus efficiently address the growing demand for an authentic research experience as part of the PSU curriculum. Biology independently currently offers a limited number of advanced lab classes directly involving faculty research. The collaborative theme of the advanced lab class is unique from anything currently available to our students, and will better allow them  to follow their intellectual curiosity to a number of research fields, from molecular biology to nanotechnology to imaging while preparing for the increasingly multidisciplinary workforce.



For more information, please see the project End-of-Project Report, Project Artifacts and Final Expenditure Report.


  • Rob Strongin - Professor, Department of Chemistry, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Suzanne Estes - Professor, Department of Biology, College of Liberal Arts & Science


  • Dirk Iwata-Reuyl - Professor, Chemistry
  • Jason Podrabsky - Professor, Biology
  • Gwen Shusterman - Professor, Chemistry
  • Mike Bartlett - Associate Professor, Biology
  • Todd Rosenstiel - Associate Professor, Biology
  • Andrea Goforth - Assistant Professor, Chemistry
  • Dean Atkinson - Associate Professor, Chemistry
  • David Stuart - Assistant Professor, Chemistry
  • Thomas Hancock - Senior Instructor, Biology
  •  Mark Woods - Associate Professor, Chemistry
  • Daniel Ballhorn - Assistant Professor, Biology



Project Management Plan

Project Plan

Status Reports

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Original Proposal