HAMPTON, Va. (Aug. 28, 2020) – Hampton University Assistant Professor Dr. Vincent de Paul Nzuwah Nziko has been awarded a $199,834 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to revamp the delivery method and environment for Organic Chemistry courses on campus. The goal of Dr. Nziko’s project is to improve the success rate in terms of the quality and quantity of STEM majors in Organic Chemistry classes at Hampton University through various methods such as new technology and peer-to-peer interaction.
“Congratulations to Dr. Vincent de Paul Nziko for receiving this award from the National Science Foundation. We are looking forward to Dr. Nziko’s work on this very important project,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey. “At Hampton University, we sustain THE Standard of Excellence by continuing to be leaders of scientific research, innovation and education.”
According to Hampton University’s 2018-2020 Academic Catalog, Organic Chemistry is the systemic study of the sources, nomenclature, properties and uses of carbon compounds. “Organic Chemistry has always been challenging for students nationwide. Incoming students often have preconceived notions that organic chemistry is hard, and as such, the students coming into these classes set low objectives such as, ‘I just want a C.’ Students with such notions have a harder time learning and sustaining the knowledge. With this project, I want to reorganize Organic Chemistry and make it friendly so students can succeed,” said Dr. Nziko, Assistant Professor for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
The specific aims of the project are to:
1. Amend the teaching method and educational involvement of students in organic chemistry by incorporating technology and PRS in the instructional program;
2. Improve student commitment and learning of organic chemistry through peer to peer discussion via the SCALE-UP approach. This activity will help students gain self-confidence and hence improve their overall performance; and
3. Improve the student peer leader's understanding of organic chemistry and develop their pedagogic skills.
The project is starting this fall, but due to COVID-19, the students cannot be involved with the peer-to-peer aspect. “Hopefully, when the students can safely come back on campus, we can implement the project the exact way the protocol is designed for the award. If not, we plan to use the technology that is already out there, such as BlackBoard Collaborate and Zoom,” said Dr. Nziko.
Based on the success of other institutions, it is expected that the SCALE-UP method will boost students’ performance in this class, cut down failure rates, and improve students’ understanding of basic chemical principles, which will lead to an increase in the retention of chemistry and STEM students as a whole. “I think this project will definitely improve our outcome in Organic Chemistry, not only in the number of students passing the class, but also the quality of the students passing the class. This is a method that has proven to work at other institutions and now I’m bringing it to Hampton. I’m confident that at the end of this project, we will see a huge improvement in the quality and quantity of Organic Chemistry students we have on campus,” said Dr. Nziko.
“Dr. Nziko's grant should be instrumental in assisting students in learning organic chemistry concepts in chemistry through active and peer-led learning, while also increasing the interest and training of students interested in the STEM workforce. Hampton University's Department of Biochemistry and Chemistry is excited about the added possibilities for students with this NSF grant funding,” said Dr. Isi Ero-Tolliver, Interim Dean of the Hampton University School of Science.
There is also expected to be a collaborative and creative workspace in Turner Hall for students who are involved in this project.
Dr. Nziko has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Buea in Buea, Cameroon, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Chemistry from Utah State University, Logan, Utah. Dr. Nziko was a postdoctoral fellow at Oakridge National Laboratory (ORNL). He is a member and secretary of the Hampton roads section of the American Chemical Society, the Chair of the Chemistry Division of the Virginia Academy of Science, and has 24 Scientific publications.