Curious Cornhuskers: Is there a way to petition for new systems for chemistry labs?

As part of our Curious Cornhuskers initiative, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Is there a way to petition to get new systems for the spectroscopy lab for the general chemistry courses?”

Jason Kautz, professor of practice in chemistry and coordinator of general chemistry, said students are able to speak with any of the faculty in the chemistry department if they have ideas about what the department needs.

Students use a variety of equipment in the spectroscopy lab to study the absorption and emission of light and use that information to determine what molecules are present, according to Kautz.  

He said getting new equipment for the labs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is part of a process and members of the department come together to decide if the purchase is necessary. They also consider what added value the purchase will bring to the chemistry department and if the addition can enhance teaching.

Students pay lab fees each year that go toward purchasing equipment and reagents, which are substances or compounds added to cause a chemical reaction. But Kautz said money cannot be spent without considering all of the options involved.

“We don’t mind spending the money that we have as long as there’s an added value and we have to be very careful about thinking about what that added value is,” he said.

Kautz said science is a combination of ideas and so the department is always looking for outside ideas — especially those that could enhance students’ education.

“Science is always moving forward,” Kautz said. “The things that we do today are very different than the things that we did just even five years ago and an infusion of new ideas about things — that’s just kind of the way that scientists work.”

Whether students have a general chemistry question or want to find out about research opportunities, Kautz said students can talk to a faculty member about their ideas and the student will be directed to the right point of contact to start a conversation.

“One of the things that I think is really important about education in general is that whether it’s a student or a faculty member or a staff member … people are invested in their own experience — to make the most of that experience,” Kautz said. “One of the good ways to do that is just have conversations with other people about various ideas.”