Discovery Project: Chem 102: Foundations of Discovery Learning for College of Chemistry Transfer Students

This one-unit course is designed to assist incoming transfer students with their transition into the College of Chemistry through discussions around coursework and careers, interactions with the CoC community, and rigorous preparation for engaging in a creative discovery learning experience.

Author: Katherine Blackford, Lecturer in Chemistry
Course Number & Title: Chem 102: Foundations of Discovery Learning for College of Chemistry Transfer Students
Grant Type: Berkeley Discover Departmental Innovation Award Program (Discovery Trailblazers)

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Chem 102


Chem 102: Foundations of Discovery Learning for College of Chemistry Transfer Students

Delivery Format


High Impact Practices (HIPs) Categories

(Review definitions for each category.)

  • First-Year Seminars and Experiences
  • Internships
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Learning Community
Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Explore discovery learning opportunities, such as undergraduate research, industrial internships, community-centered educational outreach, and STEM entrepreneurial pursuits, and create a proposal describing their desired discovery learning experience

  • Write a Statement of Purpose that could be readily modified for use in applying for discovery learning opportunities

  • Engage with the College of Chemistry community through participating in lab tours, research presentations from faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates, panel discussions with STEM professionals, and discussions with their classmates

  • Connect with mentors, including senior transfer students and research faculty in the College of Chemistry

Course Expectations Students are expected to attend class every week (except in cases of illness or emergency), participate in discussions with classmates, attend a one-on-one advising meeting with the instructor, and complete several writing assignments and one brief presentation focused on exploring and preparing to engage in discovery learning experiences.
Innovative Teaching Reflection

This course provides support, mentorship, and resources specifically targeted towards incoming transfer students in the College of Chemistry, who have historically engaged in discovery learning experiences such as research and internships at lower rates than their peers who entered as first-years.

Assignments Types

Written Assignments: 

Students engage in a series of written assignments (brainstorming assignment, topic choice, draft, revised submission) that culminates in the creation of a Statement of Purpose and a Discovery Proposal. The Statement of Purpose is intended to help students apply for internships, research positions, jobs, or graduate programs. The Discovery Proposal describes a student’s desired discovery experience and the steps they plan to take to engage in this experience. Students also complete a “three-semester plan” assignment in which they plan out which courses they will take during their remaining semesters at Berkeley as well as a planned timeline for engaging in discovery learning experiences.

“What Brought You to Berkeley Chemistry?” Presentation: 

Students create a slide containing 5-10 images that describes their pathway to Berkeley chemistry, and each student shares this slide during class in a 2-5 minute presentation. This assignment is intended to help students get to know each other and to help them start thinking about creating a Statement of Purpose that speaks to their relevant experiences, interests, and future goals.

Overview of Grading Criteria

The course is graded out of a total of 100 points:

  • Attendance (2.5 points per class meeting): 32.5 points

  • One-on-One Advising Meeting with Instructor: 2.5 points

  • Three-Semester Plan: 5 points

  • Journal Entry: Discovery Experience Brainstorming: 5 points

  • “What Brought You to Berkeley Chemistry?” Slide and Presentation: 5 points

  • Statement of Purpose and Discovery Proposal Topic(s): 5 points

  • Statement of Purpose Draft: 10 points

  • Discovery Proposal Draft: 10 points

  • Revised Statement of Purpose and Discovery Proposal: 25 points

Written assignments are mainly evaluated based on their content and whether students have thoroughly addressed each topic stated in the instructions for the assignment, though writing style and organization also make up a smaller portion of the grading criteria.

Impact & Feedback

Based on course evaluations and interviews with students, students appreciated that the course helped them form connections with transfer peers and mentors in the College of Chemistry. Students also mentioned that the process of completing the Discovery Proposal and associated assignments encouraged them to start researching and finding opportunities early and to put together a more concrete plan for their discovery journey than they would have without the support and external motivation provided by the course. Transfer students who took Chem 102 in Fall 2022 have also engaged in undergraduate research experiences at a greater rate compared to historical data on research participation among transfer students in the College of Chemistry.

Applicable Materials See syllabus document 1, syllabus document 2