In any other year, students in VEN 123L, the laboratory class for Analysis of Musts and Wines, would gain hands-on experience running the various methods of chemical analysis used in wine production. Due to current circumstances, this year’s instructor, Thi Nguyen, a graduate student finishing up his Ph.D. with Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, revamped the course for online instruction for Fall 2020.
A series of videos were created to showcase the above-mentioned analytical methods, which the students viewed before attending “lab” on Zoom. Time normally spent conducting experiments was spent in breakout rooms discussing the idiosyncrasies of these analyses, quirks which might have otherwise gone unexamined. In going virtual, the students were also given the opportunity to delve more deeply into another very important aspect of analytical chemistry: statistics.
The focus of the course shifted from generating data to analyzing data. Chemical analysis can be used to support winemaking decisions, but VEN 123L encourages students to ask the question: How do we know we can trust our analytical data? By the end of the course, students should be able to apply basic statistical methods to the analysis of chemical data (to describe and interpret results, test hypotheses, evaluate method performance) and implement measures to assess and ensure the quality of data generated in an analytical laboratory. Statistical analysis will be the “toolbox” that students will have, one which they can continue to use long after graduation.