Many students often find the hunt for distribution credits to satisfy UTM’s graduation requirements to be tedious at times. To graduate from the university, every student, regardless of what field of study they are pursuing, must complete one credit in science, one credit in social science, and one credit in humanities. Courses that satisfy the social science and humanities breadth requisites are often devoured by students early on during their first year, while the science credit is seen as a struggle to complete.

To combat this struggle, a new course, CHM201, offered by the Chemical and Physical Sciences Department for the first time this semester, has been engineered precisely for those looking to fulfill the science breadth requirement of their degree. The course, obviously being associated with science, seeks to appeal to those studying within the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Titled “The Science of Human Health,” CHM201 will focus on educating students on the overarching theme of “the science behind human well-being.” Any chemistry required to facilitate understanding of this theme is taught solely on a rudimentary basis, as students do not need to possess any prior knowledge of the discipline. One critical take-away from the course includes an enhanced ability to make decisions relating to human health, whether they be personal or larger in scope.

As described in the syllabus, the course will explore three realms of human health: “nutrition for the prevention of disease, diagnostic tests for the detection of disease and drug discovery for the treatment of disease.” The course also plans to address questions such as, “Should ketchup be considered a vegetable?”, “How do diagnostic strips work?”, “How are drug targets identified?”, and “What is the path from drug discovery to bringing a drug to market?”

In terms of structure and mark breakdown, CHM201 presents itself in a layout atypical to most science courses. Assignments and group projects make up 50% of the mark distribution, while one mid-term exam and final examination then weigh 10% and 35%, respectively. In-class participation rounds out the remaining 5%.

Although CHM201 has been under development for a few years by chemistry professor Dr. Judith Poë, the course is making its first appearance this 2019 Winter term. Currently, there is one instructor for the course: David Armstrong, a postdoctoral researcher for the Chemical and Physical Sciences department. Armstrong emphasizes the course’s expectation to teach students not closely affiliated with the fields of science to make well-informed decisions in their future when they may encounter those fields.

When considering enrolling in any course, many students wonder whether it is structured in a manner that is appealing to the student in question. To this end, Armstrong describes CHM201 as “structured more like an actual science course. So, there is the front end of the course, a little theory heavy, and there are problems to work through. The way that it’s currently set up is that the assignments themselves introduce a lot of the course material, so [students] might get an assignment that has some material in it that they don’t yet know how to solve, and it’ll require a bit of interaction with each other, external research, as well as lectures from the course in order to get through those assignments.”

The course is designed to resemble a hybrid structure, where many resources are available online with less focus on lectures.
CHM201 will occasionally invoke concepts from subunits of chemistry, such as the properties of acids and bases, and thermodynamics. Although these topics are largely based on computation and problem solving like other chemistry courses, Armstrong remarks that “the first thing is de-emphasizing the hard math a little bit. You can fundamentally discuss things like thermodynamics and acids and bases with very, very basic math without having to do explicit calculations, and still get a meaningful idea of how they work.”

Although students will still require some mathematical skill to maneuver the course, “I think they’re perfectly capable of getting through it.”

Despite the course’s affiliation with the chemistry department, CHM201 appears to be a course solely for those seeking a distribution credit, as there is an exclusion towards any CHM/JCP course taken previously or concurrently. In other words, those who have taken chemistry at any university level cannot enroll in CHM201. Armstrong explains the main reasoning for this decision, stating that “because it’s intended specifically for humanities and social science students, the chemistry aspect of it is fairly fundamental, and would be plain too easy for a chemistry or even biology student who would’ve taken chemistry.”

Regarding the potential for CHM201 to incite further interest in a humanities or social science student to pursue studies in chemistry, Armstrong describes this as “a bit of an unusual circumstance, because the course is intended as a breadth requirement […] the more specific courses that would follow up, [students] would most likely not have the prerequisite courses for.”

Prior to the introduction of CHM201, chemistry was a discipline within UTM that did not offer a course easily approachable for students looking to fulfill breadth requirements. Armstrong notes PHY100 as an example of a science course popular for this purpose.

At this time, CHM201 will be offered exclusively during the winter terms of each year. Enrolment numbers may change this in the future. And given the rising relevance of health and wellness to the lifestyle of many, this certainly seems to be a likely possibility.

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