A RESEARCH PROJECT FOR UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS: INTRODUCTION TO SUSTAINABLE CHEMISTRY
The introduction of Bologna System in the European Higher Education has led to favour the mutual recognition of qualifications and learning periods among European Union countries, as well as the strengthening of the quality and relevance of learning and teaching in them. The new procedure consists of three different periods bachelor's, master's and doctoral studies involving final individual projects at the end of the first two steps that allow students to reinforce the knowledge acquired during the theoretical lessons, to improve their skills in the area and to get better approaches to the labour market or research system.
The final bachelor and master projects constitute excellent opportunities to develop a deeper learning in particular aspects that cannot be performed with large groups of students. In this sense, in scientific degrees this last step is a good chance to introduce the students in the investigation field and allow them to perform research studies related to aspects of relevance for the society, which, in addition, provide them a real view of the relevance and application of those concepts learning during their studies.
Green Chemistry, based on the principles of simplicity, economy and sustainability, is one of the main trends in the different areas of Chemistry. However, its study, although is included in the different subjects of bachelors and masters, has not been consolidated in the syllabus. In this sense, the final project constitutes an ideal opportunity to encourage undergraduates to study such aspect. Analytical Chemistry is one of the areas in which Green Chemistry and environmentally friendly procedures have acquired greatest relevance. Particularly, the development of miniaturised techniques that involve a low or absent consumption of solvents combined with the application of new materials has sharply increased its application in the field.
In this sense, the combination of methods such as dispersive liquid liquid microextraction (DLLME), developed in 2006 by Rezaee et al., with novel solvents such as deep eutectic solvents (DESs), characterised by their easy preparation and high biodegradability, is an interesting alternative that has been widely applied for the evaluation of organic compounds in environmental and food analysis.
In this work, a novel strategy has been proposed for the practical introduction of undergraduate students in the learning and application of miniaturised extraction techniques using DESs in combination with chromatographic systems for the evaluation of plastic migrants in samples of interest. The educative approach was based on the description of the technique and the familiarisation of the student with it in short seminars performed directly in the laboratory in which several important parameters affecting the extraction procedure were thoroughly studied and experimentally evaluated for their further discussion. Additionally, a partial validation of the developed method for the analysis of plastic migrants was also proposed to the students in order to show them the reliability of the technique. The whole strategy was carried out during the development of the final degree project and was applied individually by only one student. It provides an effective learning based on practice performance.