Is It Easy Being Green? - Article, Office of College Advancement

Tuesday, February 2, 2016.

By Ohlone College.

Woman with protective lenses working with test tube.Although Ohlone is not a research institution, Dr. Anu Ganguly has not stopped researching in the field of Organic Chemistry. Her latest endeavor is developing greener, safer ways to conduct the organic synthesis processes that make up the majority of her lab assignments, or “labs.” She took a one-year sabbatical in 2013-14 to conduct research on what was happening in the field at other universities with a plan to integrate the “green” activities of the other schools into Ohlone‘s curriculum.

What she found surprised her. Most schools were not pursuing the opportunity to convert their general chemistry and organic chemistry labs to being green. The few schools she found that were working on these new methodologies were not achieving the level that she wanted to achieve at Ohlone. Her plan was for Ohlone to become the first “all-green” program in the country.

“To be an all-green program you are only able to convert 70% to 75% of your labs. You cannot change all the lab assignments because transfer universities require that students use certain chemical processes that cannot be converted,” she explains. “But where I can, I modify the labs to reduce the use of caustic or hazardous chemicals.”

Methods used to “green” her labs began with eliminating solvents in many of the assignments. In other assignments, she significantly reduced the amount of solvent used, or substituted with a benign solvent. Labs requiring heat were microwave-assisted, and therefore more energy efficient. Over the course of her one-year sabbatical, and the subsequent year of testing the lab assignments with students, Dr. Ganguly has converted a total of 35 organic chemistry labs and 23 general chemistry labs into a green curriculum. These new lab assignments significantly lower cost, increase safety, and reduce the need for disposal of the solvents.

Through the new curriculum, insights were attained that will be implemented in the design of the new, green Science Center at Ohlone College. Just as important, these green procedures represent the trend of the future in research. So research-and-development laboratories are eager for students who have learned and tested these greener, safer processing methods.

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