Chemistry and Biochemistry Department Adapts to Distanced Learning


COVID-19 has necessitated a drastic change in how educational models are constructed in order to stop its spread; various departments have been forced to come up with new and creative ways to deliver on the significant material of the class, while keeping all parties safe from an outbreak. This has hit STEM departments with difficult problems, as much of the work is based in group collaboration and in-person interaction with the material.

Prof. Matthew J. Côté, the Chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, affirms this process of rethinking how this subject matter could be taught given the current global pandemic. The Bates Student emailed Prof. Côté to ask how the Department has formulated syllabi for this module. He noted that the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department is learning to adapt to changes that have occurred during module A, making the class structures and material discussed flexible to adapt to any necessary changes. 

“As a department we’re sharing our experiences with each other so we can zero in on some approaches that work well for our discipline,” he wrote. Côté noted that, with the socially distant classroom models, the spaces that the department traditionally inhabits are not being used. This results in an unfamiliar classroom environment for both the students and the professors.

Dana Chemistry Hall, home to the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, is closed due to a wider project to renovate the science buildings on campus, along with the construction of the Bonney Science Center. Because of this, the planners for module A and B knew that this year would look dramatically different. 

Côté wrote, “We took that into account when designing our approach for 2020-2021, in the hope that we can apply some of this year’s COVID-adaptation to next year’s building move adaptation.” 

Because of the tumultuous summer that required tireless efforts to plan how Bates will function as an in-person institution, the usual summer research program in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department did not run. Instead, folks involved in running that program spent months planning the fall semester. 

“Staff who would normally have a couple of months off during the summer worked hard to prepare for this year as well.” Côté adds, “everyone is working creatively to teach during this academic year, but our successes so far have been made possible by their unselfish and diligent efforts last summer.”