This course is focused on the interpretation of infrared and Raman spectra for direct application to real problems. The course is continually updated to meet the demands of the industry and government. Suggestions of new topics or emphasis from course participants are taken very seriously and those suggestions help shape new course material.
A complete set of notes that includes many example spectra is provided to every participant. The notes follow the lectures so that participants may annotate the notes easily. The latest audio-visual technologies are used in the lectures so that participants can readily follow the material.
Significant time is devoted to workshops where the staff interact with participants on a one-to-one basis. Spectral interpretation workshops involve groups of three or four participants and all participants are strongly encouraged by the staff to contribute to the workshop exercises.
The instructional staff is the most accomplished and experienced staff of any course on infrared or vibrational spectroscopy. All four staff members have many years experience in the interpretation of vibrational spectra as well as many years of practical experience with the technology. Every member of the instructional staff is an accomplished lecturer and most of the staff have won teaching and research awards. Regardless, none of the staff rests upon past accomplishments; every lecture is critiqued by the other instructors who provide strong feedback.
Instructors must be invited to lecture in the Bowdoin Infrared and Raman Courses. The selection process is based on the international reputation of the lecturer, proven competence in the field of vibrational spectroscopy, and presentation skills. Every staff member considers the course a duty to the infrared and Raman communities and strives to present the most clear and informative lectures possible.
Certainly it is a straightforward exercise to identify a spectrum with the use of a spectral searching program. Nonetheless, there are several assumptions made when a spectral search is undertaken. First, it is assumed that the compound being measured is actually in the spectral database. Considering there are many million compounds known at this time, and that spectral collections rarely exceed 250,000 entries, it is reasonable to assume that many compounds are missing. Second, the veracity of the database is difficult to establish. Although the majority of entries in all databases are correct, it is prohibitively expensive to verify every spectrum (by interpretation) to be sure the compound is pure or is indeed the compound as stated in the database. Lastly, spectral searching has some problems with spectra of mixtures.
Fundamentally, the analyst must determine the identity of the sample from the spectrum and total reliance on computer interpretation can be fraught with problems. Overall it should be remembered that spectral similarity does not necessarily equal structural similarity, so the answer provided by a search system for a spectrum not in the database may not be close to the true identity of the sample.
Of course the answer to this question is subjective and is best answered by the scientist and his or her employer. Based on on-going correspondence from previous participants, the answer seems to be an overwhelming "Yes". Regardless, the true value of the course has to be measured in terms of cost to a project. What does it cost if incorrect answers are reported? What does it cost if time has to be spent searching for answers if the scientist does not have the training? These costs can be measured in ruined or out-of-specification product and waste of employee time. In comparison the cost of the Bowdoin Infrared and Raman Courses is quite small.
The cost of a one-week Infrared & Raman Course with single-occupancy on-campus accommodation and all meals (which includes the Lobster Bake) is $2800. This can be compared to single-day, single-instructor courses that cost more than one-third this sum. Even at that rate lodging, meals, and workshops are not included. All-in-all we believe the week-long courses presented at Bowdoin College to be the best courses offered anywhere, and they are offered at a very reasonable price.