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Assistant Professor Robin Grote teaches hands-on science with the Five Cardinal Experiences

Assistant Professor Robin Grote teaches hands-on science with the Five Cardinal Experiences

Assistant Professor Robin Grote is a Five Cardinal Experiences faculty sponsor for Undergraduate Research and Creative Work. She teaches a variety of courses including Organic Chemistry, Advanced Topics in Organic Chemistry (Mechanism, Synthesis, Medicinal Chemistry and Spectroscopy), as well as courses in the Integrative Studies and Freshman Year Experience programs. Her research interests focus on the development of new synthetic methodology to make heterocycles and the characterization of novel compounds. She earned her bachelor's degree at San Diego State University and her doctorate degree at the University of California.

1. How did you get involved with the Five Cardinal Experiences program?
Research is a crucial part of science. It is just as important to teach our students in the research lab as it is to teach them in the classroom. I have been working with students on research projects since my first year at Otterbein.

2. How does being a Five Cardinal Experiences sponsor enhance your own Otterbein experience as a faculty member?
Working with students in the research lab is such a gratifying experience. I am able to share my love of “hands-on” science; I am able to introduce them to the practice built upon all the theory I teach in class.  It is incredibly rewarding to witness a student’s first “Aha!” moment in the lab and to watch them grow as a scientist over the course of a research project.

3. Has being a Five Cardinal Experiences sponsor increased your engagement with your students in any way?
I strive to connect with all of my students in the classroom but the one-on-one interactions a student experiences while working alongside a research advisor is without comparison. Student and professor work as a team in the research setting discussing ideas, strategy and conclusions. This is a special relationship that lasts beyond college. As a former undergraduate, I still am in contact with my research mentors and as a mentor myself, I am in contact with groups of alumni who are now in post graduate programs.

4. Was your sponsorship part of a course or for an individual student?
Student research is an essential part of the Chemistry Department at Otterbein. Students complete research as part of their chemistry degree requirements and as part of the Honors program requirement. Students frequently also participate in research to experience what they can expect as a career scientist post-graduation. Chemistry faculty at Otterbein have “Research Programs” that allow students to complete individual research projects and answer small but meaningful research questions that also contribute to a larger research question. Students in my “research group” all work on some facet of cyclodehydration reactions but each student works on a piece of that larger project. Some students might focus on specific starting materials and others might examine different reaction conditions.

5. When you were an undergraduate student, if your university would have had something like the Five Cardinal Experiences, which ones would you have participated in?
As an undergraduate student I was lucky enough to have a professor that encouraged me to participate in research and it was an extremely impactful experience for me. That being said, I think that all of the Five Cardinal Experiences demonstrate the breadth of the things college, and specifically Otterbein, can offer.

6. Why do you believe that the Five Cardinal Experiences are an important component of an Otterbein education?
College is about more than class work. It is about growth, which comes only through experience. The Five Cardinal Experiences highlight all the things outside of the classroom that Otterbein can give to students.

Student Amber Zanella, sponsored by Assistant Professor Grote:
"During my time within the lab, my skills were enhanced not only through the techniques that were required of me to be successful, but I was challenged to use the appropriate strategies and understand how and what was happening within the reactions. I was capable of becoming multi-literate with the context of the literature that was being used as a guide for the premises of the experiments. There were times where the nitrogen tanks were empty so I was required to use another strategy to obtain the same outcome, of running the experiment in a nitrogen rich environment in order for my reactions to be successful with the outlined objectives. In addition to becoming multi-literate, I was capable of improving upon my inquisitive abilities due to understanding the results from the four different reactions that I ran and reflected on how the reactions could have been improved upon in further trials. The final products were weighed and calculated to determine the percent yield that I obtained from the individual reactions. If the reactions had a percent yield lower than expected, the reactions could be rerun being more precise with the techniques to attempt higher percent recoveries. The time I spent in the lab was extremely rewarding in the aspects of allowing me to think critically in addition to molding me into a better scientist."