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Dr. Neil Garg, this year’s recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, initially worried that student music videos as an extra credit opportunity might only work in Los Angeles, where sheer proximity to Hollywood ensured a passion for filmmaking. Since 2010, Dr. Garg, Kenneth N. Trueblood Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), has been encouraging students to make music videos for extra credit. But after a semester at Baylor teaching Organic Chemistry II (CHE 3332), Dr. Garg boasts, “the videos Baylor students have created are just as good of quality as those from UCLA students.”
In Dr. Garg’s CHE 3332 course this semester, 116 students took part in the extra credit assignment, creating a total of 38 music videos. These videos set original lyrics about chemical structures, equations, and the challenges of the course to the tunes of popular songs. You can view two of the top videos linked here and here.
Although unorthodox, Dr. Garg’s teaching methods have garnered much acclaim. His past teaching awards include the UCLA Distinguished Teaching & Eby Award for the Art of Teaching (2014), California’s US Professor of the Year, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2015), and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Award for Exemplary Contributions to Education (2019). A complete list of Dr. Garg’s honors and awards can be found on his lab’s website here.
Baylor students gave Dr. Garg, the course, and the music video project high marks. “Dr. Garg makes a point to get to know his students and motivate them to learn and love organic chemistry...his effort to learn about each student in his class helps to make the class more engaging and organic chemistry more accessible,” said Allie Stinchcomb, a Senior majoring in Biochemistry. “The music video making process was fun! It made us review a lot of organic chemistry in order to find words and phrases that we could incorporate into the video,” Stinchcomb continued.
Bisi Otulana, a Senior Biochemistry major, stated, “Dr. Garg has a natural passion to teach his students and it really sets him apart from other professors. His energy and positive attitude every class is enough to make you want to learn. The music video was a lot of fun making, and it really allowed me to relearn the material that I may have forgotten. Because it’s a different approach to an extra credit assignment, it is really a good thing, and I don't see it too often here at Baylor.”
Dr. Garg says he has been impressed with Baylor students overall. While the exams are challenging, there are always students who get near perfect, and that is a true feat in itself.
When grading the music videos, Dr. Garg and his teaching assistants review the videos in a relaxed setting. Students are graded on production quality, incorporation of organic chemistry material relevant to the course, and, of course, entertainment value.
According to Dr. Garg, the music video project allows his students to get creative and express themselves in a different way. “It is a great opportunity to increase community engagement in such a large class” Dr. Garg remarked, “it enhances student’s imagination and is a reciprocal relationship. I’m excited that they’re excited; everyone wins.”
Pictured: One of the graduate teaching assistants for the course Amy Jackson (right) who is a Doctoral Candidate in the Chemistry department, works with Junior Biology major Etana Johnson (left) on CHE 3332 material.
Pictured: Spring 2019 CHE 3332 class photo