Design of Experiments – Undergraduate Lab Module Transfer Workshop

University of Leeds, 16-17 September 2015

The Dial-a-Molecule Grand Challenge Network has been particularly active in promoting the education and deployment of statistical methods in Chemistry Research. Previous events held under this sub-theme of the Network have indicated that although the tools and techniques are widely used in Industry, many academics have never exploited them (often because they were never made aware of them during their own training).

Realising the numerous advantages that training in statistical methods such as Design of Experiments (DoE) and Principle Component Analysis (PCA) would offer, Dial-a-Molecule has the vision that every chemistry graduate should have a grounding in the techniques, and an understanding of when to use them appropriately. To advance this vision, Dial-a-Molecule has awarded financial support to Dr Richard Bourne (University of Leeds) who has worked with Brian Taylor (AstraZeneca) to enable the development of an UG ‘Design of Experiments’ laboratory module. A proviso of the funding was that the output (i.e. the lab module) was made available to the chemistry departments across the UK, to incorporate into their own laboratory courses as seen fit.

The practical was first run at the University of Leeds during 2015, where both UG (3rd year) and CDT-masters students had the opportunity to take part. It involved carrying out a simple SNAr reaction using flow methodology, which allowed large amounts of data to be generated quickly. Overall, it was a great success, particularly among the students who provided very positive feedback and enjoyed carrying out Industrially relevant experiments. Importantly, the practical allowed them to see the value of DoE.

On September the 16th and 17th, Dial-a-Molecule provided partial support for a workshop to begin to roll out the practical to other departments across the UK. As a pilot ‘train-the-trainer’ event, two representatives from Cardiff University, The University of Strathclyde, The University of Nottingham and Loughborough University attended the workshop.

Day One began with the participants learning about designing and planning the lab module, and how it had been initially implemented at the University of Leeds. It also gave the attendees the chance to provide feedback on the barriers that would preclude its inclusion in other institutions, so that these can be addressed before it is rolled out on a larger scale.


After lunch, the participants split up into two groups and became students again, either donning lab coats to perform the lab practical or returning to the classroom to be given an “Introduction to DoE” tutorial. The roles were reversed on the morning of the second day so that participants had the opportunity to experience both the taught and hands-on elements of the course. The afternoon of Day two was devoted to analysing the results from the practical sessions, and getting an overview of how to use the Modde software package.

The feedback from participants was extremely positive and many could see how the practical could be used, or modified slightly to fit into their home institutions teaching program. The course developers are currently preparing a manuscript describing the lab module for publication in The Journal of Chemical Education, and hope to run further workshops like the one described above to enable the practical to be carried out at other institutions.

If you are interested in finding out more about the lab module, or if you want to incorporate into your own institution, please get in touch. Likewise, as the Dial-a-Molecule Network draws to a close we are seeking sponsorship to run future workshops – it you are interested, please get in touch!

 We thank the University of Leeds (facilities and staff time), AstraZeneca (staff time) and Umetrics (loan of Modde software) for helping to run this workshop.