CHEM 494 general information



CHEM 494 A/B is a full-year research project laboratory (6 hours per week) worth one full credit (0.5 credit for the A portion and 0.5 credit for the B portion). It is required of all fourth-year Honours students majoring in Chemistry (including the Option programs, such as Physics, Environmental Studies, and Mathematics and the Applied Chemistry program). It is an option available to fourth-year Honours Biochemistry and Materials and Nanosciences students. Normally, this course is not available as an option to other students, but may be allowed in special circumstances to students in fourth-year Honours Science (with emphasis on Chemistry). It may not be taken by any students before they reach Year 4 of their program.

Note that the Department of Chemistry regards 494A/B as a full-year course, so students are required to register for both parts. At the end of the first (normally Fall) term, a grade of IP (in progress) will be reported for 494A, and when 494B is completed at the end of the second (normally Winter) term, a final grade will be recorded for both 494A and 494B (the same mark for both terms). No credit whatever and no mark will be given for 494A unless the entire 494A/B sequence is completed.

Students taking CHEM 494 are required to select a research supervisor and project and make arrangements with them for laboratory space, equipment, chemicals, etc. Upon completion of the project, a detailed written report will be required, as well as a short oral presentation (Seminar), sometime before the end of your CHEM 494B term.

Appeals for exemption

CHEM 494 is a valuable learning experience. Students intending to do graduate work should be aware that many North American graduate schools require an undergraduate research project for admission. The Department of Chemistry will rarely grant exemption from it and only as follows:

If CHEM 494 is a required part of your program, you must take it, unless you have done equivalent research work, both in quality and quantity, and can prove it by written submission (letters from employer-supervisor, work reports, company reports, journal publications, etc.). Such complete submissions must be given to the Coordinator not later than the end of the first week of Fall term lectures. A special Appeals Committee will consider the request, will interview the individual requesting exemption if necessary, and will rule on it (a majority vote of the committee makes this decision – it cannot be made by the Coordinator alone). The Committee will take into account reasons presented for such an exemption but the major consideration will be having done equivalent work elsewhere. If exemption is granted, additional courses must be taken in lieu of CHEM 494 – these must be arranged and approved by the Department's Undergraduate Office.

Informing yourself about a project and supervisor

Before you complete your 3B term, you should view the Research web page. Please look it over carefully, including all of the projects described. You should then visit those faculty members whose project areas appeal to you to discuss further details. You should visit at least two faculty members, and preferably more, to get a thorough idea of what is being done. These visits are for information, and do not imply a commitment to take a student or have them work on that particular project. Any member of the Department of Chemistry is eligible to supervise CHEM 494 students if they wishes; a personal visit is the best way to find out about possible projects. A complete listing of all such faculty members can be found on the Department of Chemistry website. With special permission, a CHEM 494 student may work with a faculty member in another department provided the project is of a chemistry-related nature and is approved by the CHEM 494 Coordinator.

Selecting a project and supervisor

After having visited at least two faculty members, you will normally come to some conclusions about your first choice, second choice, etc. This is the time to re-visit your first choice and make an arrangement to work with this particular individual. If for any reason, they cannot accept you as a student, then try your second choice, etc., until a firm, mutually-agreed arrangement is made. (Note that some faculty members have time and laboratory space for only one or two students and, indeed, unless there are specially approved circumstances, no faculty member is normally permitted by the Department of Chemistry to supervise more than four CHEM 494 students.) This selection of a project and supervisor may be done before the end of Year 3, or may be deferred until you return for Year 4.

In the beginning of your 494A term, anyone who has made a definite arrangement with a faculty member should confirm it to ensure no problems have arisen and to let the faculty member know you have returned to school as you planned. Then, you should visit the CHEM 494 Coordinator's office to inform him who your supervisor is and have it formally recorded – this should be done, even if you talked to the Coordinator in the Spring – to ensure they know you have returned for Year 4 and have not changed your mind. Anyone arranging a project with a faculty member outside the Department of Chemistry who is not an adjunct or cross-appointed member must get formal approval from the CHEM 494 Coordinator before making a definite commitment.

After making a definite arrangement, all further discussions, problems, etc., should be sorted out with your research supervisor who is responsible for ensuring you are working at the project and who will be checking on your progress and making suggestions and recommendations as it goes along. Lack of satisfactory effort or progress in the first term will be brought to the attention of the Coordinator and the Undergraduate Officer, as well as producing a low mark for the portion of the final grade allotted for this first term effort.

Although the written report and seminar are important and should be done with care, both should only be presentations of the good laboratory/theoretical work which preceded them. This work is the vital part of the CHEM 494 project. If it is good, all the rest should easily fall into place.

The final written report

The final written report will be read and graded by your supervisor and by one other faculty member selected by them. The following comments are meant to serve as a guide – no attempt is made here to make them all inclusive. Your best guide for help with suggestions regarding style, format, how much material to include and in what detail, is still your research supervisor. They will have available, for inspection, copies of previous submissions, journal articles, graduate student theses, etc., – all of which can be helpful as a guide. Your research supervisor may prefer a particular style or format based on experience, and you should consider such advice carefully.

The following general comments should be noted:

  • Laboratory work must be finished before the end of the Winter term lecture period, and the report should be submitted as soon as possible thereafter – preferably before the start of the final examination period. Late reports will be penalized in marking, so plan accordingly.
  • The report must be submitted on LEARN as a PDF document. A paper copy of the report is no longer required.
  • The first page should list the title of the project, the author, the date of submission, and that it is being submitted as partial fulfillment of the requirements of CHEM 494.
  • The next page should be Acknowledgements, and should acknowledge the assistance of the research supervisor and any other faculty members, graduate students, departmental members, and others who have been especially helpful with any aspect of the project.
  • The next page should be a Summary, not normally more than half a page, concisely summarizing what is being presented in the report. The summary will highlight any important features discovered or determined.
  • Then a Table of Contents, a List of Tables (if any), and a List of Figures (if any) should be included. These items 3-6 should be numbered as pages (i), (ii), (iii), etc., and item 7 should begin with regular page numbers 1, 2, 3, etc.
  • The body of the report will usually be discussed under main headings, such as:
    1. Introduction – a brief outline of what the project is about and why it was started.
    2. Historical – a brief outline of previous work in the areas before you started. (These above two areas (1) and (2) may be combined, if desirable.)
    3. Experimental – as much of the actual experimental details, especially of any new experiments, should be written down, so someone else could repeat the work or continue it.
    4. Results and Discussion – with equations, tables, illustrations, etc., – as long or as short as necessary to describe and evaluate what was accomplished. Note: (4) may come before (3) in some kinds of projects; for example, organic chemical projects often are written up with the experimental details at the end.
    5. References – the last page should list all previous work to which reference was made. References are best made chronologically throughout the report and listed here in that order – authors, publication, and date should be shown in each case. Consult recent journals or theses in your research area for appropriate style and format.
  • Length of report will vary with the project and its details, but normally the main body of the report will range from 15-30 pages. Neatness, logical order of thought, clarity of expression are important – an overly long report is not necessarily a good one. If in doubt, get your supervisor's advice.

Assessment of the report and the CHEM 494 final grade

The CHEM 494 final grade is based on your research work, the term by term effort that went into it, your interim report, your seminar, and on the written report that concludes the project. This written report should be a careful exposition of what you have done and why you have done it. Your supervisor will undoubtedly have some subjective judgment of the quality and quantity of your day-to-day work and this will influence their assessment of your report. How well you have written your report will also be a very important factor. Also note that a well written report cannot be used to hide a less than satisfactory amount and quality of laboratory work.

The CHEM 494 final grade will be derived as follows, for a maximum total of 100 percent:

  • Interim report – 15 percent (to be graded by the supervisor; two copies to be submitted by a predetermined deadline)
  • "A" term effort – 20 percent
  • "B" term effort – 20 percent
  • Seminar – 15 percent
  • Final report – 30 percent (two markers, 15 marks each)

It is to your advantage to get off to a good early start in the laboratory and to maintain it.

If you put in a good solid steady year's work and present an organized seminar and a good write-up, you can expect to receive a fair grade, even if your experimental results didn't turn out exactly as you hoped. The faculty are realistic and do not expect miracles – they do expect effort, reasonable enthusiasm, and reasonable experimental competence. Most students enjoy this project laboratory and learn a lot from it.

Usually, you will be expecting to graduate at the end of the term in which you complete CHEM 494.

Marks from CHEM 494 are due at the registrar's office one week after the last official day of examinations. This requirement cannot be changed by you or by your supervisor. Therefore, you must see that your report is submitted in time to be graded before that deadline. If you submit too late, and the deadline is missed, your averages which are examined at the promotion meetings will be incorrect, and the computer-generated default decision on your status will be incorrect. This makes additional work, and additional room for possible errors, in deciding your case. If the delay is substantial, you may graduate, but your name will not be listed in the convocation program, which may disappoint both you and your family and friends.

Oral presentation (Seminar)

This is a departmental requirement. It consists of a short (approximately 12-15 minutes) presentation of what you started out to do and the success you achieved. It will usually be presented on the first or second Saturday in March (or in the last four weeks of your 494B term). Even if the project isn't complete, you will be able to describe what you had hoped to learn and what has been achieved up to this point. Even negative results, showing that something doesn't work, can often be scientifically interesting. Such oral presentations are good training for the future; also the organization of the presentation will be useful in writing the final report which will be done shortly thereafter.

Exact details regarding times, locations, etc., of the seminars will be announced by mid-February so individuals can plan accordingly. If you need some advice regarding your seminar, your research supervisor will be happy to offer suggestions, criticisms, etc.

Seminar grading

All of the audience attending a given seminar session will be asked to participate by rating the seminar A, B, C, D, or F. Both content and delivery will be considered. The seminar chair will collect all the rating sheets (using one colour for faculty and a different colour for students and others, and with a 2:1 weighting for faculty vs student ratings). By discussion with the CHEM 494 coordinator, the letter grades and comments will be assessed to produce a final numerical mark out of 15 (the portion allotted to the seminar).