CHEM 492 Professional Development for Chemists

This course is designed to cover the majority of the cultural aspects and training in graduate school. In the course, we will cover the topics of being a more effective TA, professionalism in a research environment, and non-technical skills for career preparation. The course is a requirement for all first-year Chemistry graduate students. Others may also enroll with departmental approval. Credit: 1 hour.

The class meets every Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 PM in 1024 Chem Annex, starting the Wednesday BEFORE the beginning of classes. Attendance will be taken. A small snack will be available starting at 5:15 PM.

Dr. Lloyd Munjanja is coordinating the course overall. The TA training module is organized by Dr. Ray, the ethics module is organized by Prof. Murphy, and the non-technical skills module is organized by Prof. van der Donk. Please direct any questions you have to the most appropriate course instructor.


  1. Graduate Manual Handbook. A pdf copy can be accessed online here:
  2. Lab Dynamics: Management and Leadership Skills for Scientists, Third Edition
    By Carl M. Cohen, Science Management Associates, Newton, Massachusetts; Suzanne L. Cohen, Science Management Associates, Newton, Massachusetts


Module 1:  Teaching Skills

Instructor: Dr. Christian Ray

August 22:                        


Getting started.

  • The purpose of this course
  • Things to know on your first day of class with students
  • What you should ask your instructor
  • How to get your section off to a good start

August 29:        


  • Lab tutorial:  practical tips on how to be a lab TA
  • Lecture tutorial:  practical tips on how to teach well

September 5:   

Grad student panel discussions about TA responsibilities

Split into 4 sub-panels of graduate students. Open discussion with graduate student panel about their given assignments.

  • 100/200 Level classes Lab
  • 100/200 Level classes Lecture
  • 300/400 Level classes Lab
  • 300/400 Level classes Lecture

September 12:

Everything you should know about joining a research group

5-6 Students in different situations (year, joint appointment, new lab, changed lab)

Module 2:  Professional Ethics

Instructor: Prof. Catherine Murphy

September 19: 

Ethics:  You as a TA

  • Dealing as a TA with cheating
  • Proper and improper TA behavior; Capricious grading
  • Serious problems and the Emergency Dean

September 26: 

Ethics: You as a scientist in the lab

  • Obligations of researchers; dos and don'ts (e.g., data manipulation)
  • Laboratory notebooks; Control experiments
  • On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research (National Academies Press)
  • Case study and discussion (active student participation)

October 3:

Ethics: Publications, Conflict of Interest, and When Things Go Bad

  • Publications and authorship considerations; Proper citation of scientific literature
  • Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research (ACS)
  • Conflicts of interest
  • When things go bad (e.g., journal corrections; withdrawing publications)
  • Research misconduct – fabrication, falsification, plagiarism; Jan Hendrick Schön scandal
  • How to avoid scientific misconduct: what you can do


Module 3:  Non-Technical Skills

Instructor: Prof. Wilfred van der Donk

October 10:     

Sexual Harrassment in Research Labs

Facilitators/Panelists: ODEA, OSCR, Campus Police

October 17:     

Introduction to non-technical skills for chemists

Instructor: Prof. van der Donk.

October 24:     

Mental Health in Graduate School

Facilitators/Panelists: WRC, LBGTQ Center, Counseling Center, McKinley

October 31:     

Structuring Your Work & Project Management

Instructor: Prof. van der Donk

November 7:    

Drafting your Five year Plan

Facilitator: LAS

November 14: 

Best practices from senior students

Instructor: Prof. van der Donk