Less Cookbook and More Research! Synthetic Efforts Toward JBIR-94 and JBIR-125: a Student-Designed Research Project in a Sophomore Organic Chemistry Lab

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The Chemical Educator

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In light of the meaningful learning gains that can be obtained through a genuine research experience, chemistry educators have had a longstanding interest in making teaching labs less “cookbook-like” and more research-driven [1]. With this mindset, we recently restructured our two-semester sophomore organic chemistry lab course to include a synthesis project that was chosen, designed, and carried out by students. This led to progress toward the syntheses of JBIR-94 and JBIR-125, two antioxidative/anticancer natural products that have yet to be assembled through organic chemistry. The major drawback of our course redesign is that it requires close supervision by an instructor or TA experienced in synthetic chemistry and is limited to small class sizes. Its up-front cost is also prohibitive; however, this can be minimized by employing synthetic steps that involve reagents already available on-site. The advantage of this restructuring is encapsulated by highly-positive student feedback and enthusiasm, which led all participating students to continue working on the project after the semester had ended. Exam performance is also discussed. For reference, complete and reproducible experimental details and full copies of student evaluation results are included as Supporting Materials.