Monday, January 31, 2011

Break the Pattern: Pendidikan dan Penyelidikan dalam Kimia

Artikel bertajuk Let's Get Practical di dalam jurnal Nature cukup menarik untuk diperkatakan dalam kita membincangkan inovasi dalam kaedah pengajaran dan masa depan penyelidikan kimia.

Beberapa perkara yang di utarakan boleh memberikan refleks kepada kita supaya hala tuju yang lebih jelas dapat di garap dalam menjadikan tawaran pendidikan dan penyelidikan daripada jabatan adalah lebih berdaya saing.

Pada masa kini, antara perkara yang menjadi isu utama dalam bidang pendidikan kimia di USA adalah oversupply graduan PhD dalam kimia berbanding tawaran pekerjaan yang ada. Sememangnya kita harus belajar daripada pengalaman mereka yang lain dan perlu mengelak daripada mengejar benchmark yang telah ditandai oleh institusi lain yang sentiasa mengalami perubahan.


  • George M. Whitesides & John Deutch

Nature Volume: 469, Pages: 21–22 Date published: (06 January 2011)

Real-world solutions

Here is what chemists should do instead:

Rewrite the social contract. Chemistry must reorganize to try to solve problems that are important and recognizable to the society that is paying for the research, especially those to do with water, food, health, energy and the environment. To make fundamental discoveries, an approach that starts with practical problems, and uses them to reveal unsolved fundamental problems, will work at least as well as (and arguably better than) one that starts with the familiar questions of familiar disciplines.

Note: Research grants from government mostly contributed from people's money through taxation, thus society contribution should be adhered as the research outcomes and KPI.

Do away with the old disciplinary structures. Disciplines mature, and must be subsumed into others. Chemistry should cluster its teaching and research around the exciting and uncertain future rather than the ossified historical past. A first step is to merge chemistry and chemical-engineering departments. A second is to form broad new entities that address the most challenging problems that require the skills of chemists. Plausible topics could include functional materials, catalysis, complex dynamic networks, energy, the environment and sustainability, health and out-of-equilibrium systems.

Note: Are we fancy to have Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering UTM? I thinks most of the collaborative efforts between chem. and chem eng. can be materialized through our RA, isn'it? The new entities may be envisaged through RA as well.

Focus on chemistry's strengths. Chemistry has unique capabilities in many areas: complex kinetics, biological and environmental networks, synthesis of new molecules and forms of matter, examination of the properties of molecules, relating the properties of molecules to the properties of materials, and many others. A focus on these intellectual strengths avoids being second-best in someone else's game.

Teach students, rather than use them. Many subdisciplines of chemistry still use an apprenticeship model in which a professor conceives the problem and strategy, and graduate students execute the bench work. It is hard to imagine a worse way to prepare tomorrow's chemists to work at the integration of many disciplines. Instead, professors should teach students the tools of curiosity. An independent, engaged student, exploring as a colleague in a promising area, will do better work than a simple apprentice.

Note: Do we need to introduce the new PhD system as PhD students should learn what they need to know to succeed and benefit others in the later stage. What is the new effective system?

Chemistry must also change its coursework, to include the hard parts (the role of solvent in chemistry, the importance of thermodynamics in biochemistry, the centrality of mathematics to the study of networks, the subtlety of catalysis and systems of coupled catalysts). It must also include 'non-science' subjects — especially economics and corporate finance and manufacturing — useful in generating practical technologies.

Note: We are on the right track as the new curricculum offers the update and innovative field of chemistry. However when they mentioned about non science course, relevancy of our SSA programme must be adressed (need to introduce newly science-related course, but embedded more on soft skills, i.e mathematics for chemistry?)

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