Dept. of Chemistry

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Dr. Gautam Bhattacharyya Assistant Professor
Chemistry Education

Phone: (864) 656-1356
Office: 363 Hunter

Research Interests | Publications

Sc.B., Brown University, 1992; A.M. (E. J. Corey) Harvard University, 1994; Ph.D. (G. M. Bodner) Purdue University, 2004. Research Fellow (S. E. Shoelson), Joslin Diabetes Center, 1997-1999. Chemical Education and Philosophy of Science

Research Interests

Our primary objective is to understand how students develop into practicing scientists. We approach this goal by studying students’ experiences in a variety of contexts and developing interventions to help students overcome their difficulties. In the course of this work we have studied how chemistry graduate students problem solve, conceptualize chemical principles, and evolve into researchers. Based on this body of research, our group currently focuses on the following three areas:

Professional Identity  Our initial studies on how graduate students develop as researchers and scientists revealed that professional identity as a chemist – i.e. the extent to which an individual views him- or herself to be a practicing chemist – is at the root of multiple areas of development, including conceptual expertise and ethical values. Follow-up work resulted in a model of professional identity development, which we are using to create a scale that will measure the extent of one’s identity formation. Once this instrument is validated, we will use it to more closely examine the relationship between professional identity and conceptual expertise and ethical development.  

Gautam Bhattacharyya Research Interest

Ethics  Our ultimate goal in this area is to develop ethics instruction that will be both meaningful for students and useful for their professional development. We recently completed a study on graduate students’ beliefs regarding appropriate and inappropriate conduct in science; the sources of the graduate students’ understanding of the “rules”; and the decision-making processes regarding routine lab activities and data validation. We are now extending this work to investigate how early-career science and engineering faculty judge the criteria for significant contribution and, subsequently, assign credit in the course of research collaborations.

Representational Competence  Scientists and engineers use a diverse array of external representations such as, diagrams, schemes, and graphs for a wide variety of applications. These representations are a primary mode of communication among practitioners, and are used in part to define their community of practice. Of the different chemistry disciplines, organic chemistry has a particularly rich collection of representational systems. Prior research suggests that inadequate interpretations of diagrams pose a significant barrier to the ability of students to problem solve in organic chemistry. To bring focus to our work in this very broad area, we have concentrated on the diagrammatic representations in the context of reaction mechanisms and have recently completed studies on the reasoning skills cued by mechanism tasks, students’ mental models of diagrams showing organic reactions and mechanisms, and the structural features that students attribute to chemical and physical characteristics. Major findings of these studies include:

We are using techniques from cognitive-behavioral psychology and systems biology to develop effective interventions to address these difficulties.



Sandi-Urena, S.; Cooper, M. M.; Gatlin, T. A.; Bhattacharyya, G., Students' experience in a general chemistry cooperative problem based laboratory. Chemistry Education Research and Practice 2011, 12 (4), 434-442.

Kraft, A., Strickland, A., & Bhattacharyya, G. (2010). Reasonable reasoning: Multi-variate problem solving in organic chemistry. Revised manuscript submitted to Chemistry Education Research and Practice.

Strickland, A., Kraft, A., & Bhattacharyya, G. (2010). What happens when representations fail to represent? Graduate students’ interpretations of organic chemistry diagrams. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, In Press.

Verdan, A., Ingallinera, J., & Bhattacharyya, G. (2010). Scientific norms and ethical misconduct: research towards the design of a course in scientific ethics. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, In Press. (Special Issue on Evidence-based Curriculum Development)

Bhattacharyya, G. (2010). Chemistry for the 21st Century: Bringing the “Real World” into the Chemistry Lab. In S. Basu-Dutt (Ed.), Making Chemistry Relevant: Strategies to Include All Students in a Learner-Sensitive Classroom Environment. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Bhattacharyya, G. (2008/2009). Promoting a dialogue on interdisciplinary training outcomes. Anuario Latinoamericano de Educación Quimíca (ALDEQ): Latin American Yearly Journal on Chemical Education, 24, 129-132. (Invited Essay)

Bhattacharyya, G. (2008). Who am I? What am I doing here? Professional identity and the epistemic development of organic chemists. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 9, 84-92. (Special Issue on Research and Practice in Chemical Education in Advanced Courses)

Bhattacharyya, G. (2008). Genesis of an academic research program. Journal of Research Practice, 4, Article D1.

Bhattacharyya, G. (2007). Ethnomethodology and ethnography. In M. Orgill & G. M. Bodner (Eds.), Theoretical Frameworks in Chemistry/Science Education (Chapter 10). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bhattacharyya, G. (2006). Practitioner development in organic chemistry: How graduate students conceptualize organic acids. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 7, 240-247.


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