Chemistry 341: Global Challenges: A Chemical Perspective

Course Level: 
Third Year
Academic Year: 

Instructor: Gregory Dake, A341


Importance of chemistry in society. Detailed case studies drawn from modern
chemistry: human health, energy, commodity chemicals, materials, green
chemistry, agriculture. [3-0-0; 3 50 min lectures per week]”


  • Toxicology and Chemophobia.
    • How does the field of toxicology define “toxicity”? Fears and realities of
      pesticides, synthetic compounds etc. in food and environment. Realities of
      relative risk. Case studies. (2.5 lectures)
      Readings: “Ranking Possible Carcinogenic Hazards” by Ames, Magaw, Gold Science 1987, 236,
      271-280.; “Nature’s chemicals and synthetic chemicals: Comparative toxicology” Ames, Profet,
      Gold Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 1990, 87, 7782-7786; “Dietary pesticides (99.99% all natural)”
      Ames, Profet, Gold Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 1990, 87, 7777-7781. “Putting the Safety of
      Organic Food Into Perspective” Magkos, Arvaniti, Zampelas* Nutrition Research Reviews 2003,
      16, 211.
  • Top 20 Industrial Chemicals. Feeding the World. Building the World.
    • Sulfuric acid production and use. Phosphoric acid production and use. Lime.
      Cements. Haber-Bosch process. Chlor-alkali process. Economic aspects. Peak
      Phosphorus. (2.5 lectures)
  • Energy.
    • Petroleum production and upgrading. Cracking processes-thermal and catalytic.
      Catalytic reforming processes. Octane number. Methanol to Gasoline Process.
      Methanol as Alternate Fuel. Batteries-Concept and Design. Fuel Cells. Solar
      Electric Power. The Futility of Biomass and Biofuels for Energy Use. Food
      Production The Water Splitting Reaction. (6 lectures)
  • Modern Materials.
    • Polymers in Society. Use of Cracking Products as Industrial Starting Materials.
      Definitions. Molecular structure and polymer properties. LDPE. HDPE. PP.
      Polyoxiranes. PVC. PVA. PVB. Polyacrylates. Polybutadienes. Nylons. Polyesters.
      Green/Environmentally Friendly Marketing. Production Practices. Recyclables.
      Biodegradability. Performance. (7 lectures)
  • Fragrances and Flavor Chemistry.
    • Fragrances (natural). Perfumes. Design of novel fragrances. Industrial Synthesis
      of Menthol as an Example of Enantioselective Catalysis. Sensory Compounds:
      Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty, Hot, Tingle. Cooking Reactions, Maillard, Amadori
      Rearrangement, Strecker degradation, caramelization, beer flavor chemistry.
      Chemistry of Chocolate (5 lectures)
  • Antibiotic Resistance and Medicinal Chemistry.
    • Advent of MRSA. Mechanisms of Antibiotic Resistance. Penicillins. Cipro.
      Vancomycin. Augmentin. Scientific Challenge of Discovery of Novel Antibiotics.
      Broader discussion of medicinal chemistry process, from lead compound to
      preclinical trials to FDA approval (4-5 lectures)
  • Green Chemistry Reactions.
    • Definitions. Case Studies of Industrial and Academic Examples of Legitimate and
      Hyped Green Chemistry Reactions (3 lectures)
      Assessments: three one-hour examinations; out-of-class assignments when
      Students also have a required, semester long library research project on a
      chemistry/society topic that incorporates individual blind peer review, teamwork
      training and team-based blind peer review. This culminates in a poster session at
      term end.