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Newsletter highlights Wissinger's green chemistry initiatives

Professor Jane Wissinger, organic lab director, is featured in the Green Chemistry Community monthly newsletter. The newsletter's spotlight on education highlighted Wissinger's efforts to green the Department of Chemistry's organic laboratory course.

"Associate Professor Jane Wissinger began the process of “greening” the University of Minnesota’s organic laboratory course over 10 years ago. This two-semester-in-one course meets for a total of nine hours per week; therefore, the 1,000 students enrolled each year have ample time to explore a wide range of topics, techniques, reactions, and syntheses. As the organic laboratory director, Professor Wissinger felt it was imperative that modern green chemistry principles and strategies be incorporated into the curriculum for the 20 percent chemistry/chemical engineering majors and 80 percent other majors, alike.  

"From the introduction of one 'sample' green chemistry experiment (the traditional bleach oxidation) in 2002 to the current immersion of the green principles found in Wissinger’s in-house manual, the benefits of teaching green chemistry have been four-fold. The first, being the most obvious, was the significant reduction of hazardous waste without conversion to total microscale equipment.

"Two; as is common with large university teaching labs, graduate teachings assistants (TAs) supervise the students in the laboratory. Therefore, these TAs (many coming from undergraduate institutions that did not incorporate green chemistry) were trained and engaged in learning and teaching green chemistry for the course. Many have carried over their enthusiasm for applying green methods in their research and several are now professors at other institutions teaching green chemistry themselves.

"Through surveys and unsolicited feedback from the undergraduate students in the course, Wissinger has found overwhelming appreciation and eagerness from students of all different majors to learn more about sustainable chemistry (advanced students can now take a green chemistry lecture course at Minnesota) and seek research opportunities within the department. For Wissinger, that has provided the fourth benefit of having graduate students and undergraduates, passionate about green chemistry, volunteering to work in her laboratories to design new green experiments for the organic chemistry teaching laboratories. Examples of new green experiments developed and successfully incorporated into the course include the Oxidation of Borneol to Camphor using Oxone (J. Chem. Educ., 2011, 88 (5), pp 652–656), a Comparison of Steam Distillation and Liquid CO2 Extraction of Clove Oil, and a new tandem Aldol/Diels-Alder reaction.  

"Wissinger has recently received two Minnesota Pollution Control Agency grants to develop experiments exemplifying the synthesis of polymers made from renewable resources that have biodegradable properties. This collaboration with the Center for Sustainable Polymers at the University of Minnesota is affording the students in Wissinger’s organic chemistry laboratory course the opportunity to learn and participate in state-of the art, emerging technologies that are essential for the green and sustainable future of chemistry."