chem 2.0

A year of OChem, as told by a blog stat graph

**Today’s post is a guest post by James Ashenhurst, author of the fantastic blog Master Organic Chemistry**

If Google Analytics is any guide, here’s what a year of teaching organic chemistry looks like.

The typical year’s forecast calls for growing concern from September onwards, peaking in a mid December monsoon. This is followed by a cold January lull, which collides with a hot front of anxiety in February and grows in intensity towards a thundering, extended period of hail from mid-April to mid-May.  Then all becomes calm. Sunshine peeks through the summer clouds, and the months from late May through early August are breezy, steady, and smooth.  Then the cycle begins again.

I’m interpreting seasonal local maxima as popular midterm times; it’s pretty neat that the results show this (and the Thanksgiving lull). Does this jive with your experience, readers?

P.S. A big double fist bump to @azmanam and the other kind folk at the Chemistry Blog for letting me post this and for helping MOC to be such a successful project (600K visitors this year & counting). Thanks!

By September 14, 2012 2 comments chem 2.0, chemical education

Awesome Chemistry Videos

As I have for the past several semesters, I have allowed students to write and perform awesome OChem videos. Many are song parodies, but not all. I’ve also gotten Jeopardy! parodies and Big Bang Theory parodies 🙂

The first semester I did this, I got one submission. This semester, I received 17 videos, and more than 90% of the class participated!

Here are some of the awesome videos:

I Just Had Lab (Lonely Island parody)

“Got a 2% Yield.” “Still counts!”

Like a Chemist (Far East Movement parody)

Nice production value with this one.

We Won’t Sleep (Fun parody)

I cameo as Superman in this one.

Diels-Alder Beautiful (One Direction Parody)

This next one is awesome because they incorporated the word ‘pericyclic-ly’ into the song… and made it rhyme. also, it’s about my favorite reaction, the Diels-Alder reaction.

Organic Chemistry Terms (Billy Joel parody)

And this one is impressive because it’s to the tune of ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire,’ every lyric is OChem related, and she made a timed PowerPoint to illustrate every lyric in the song. Well done 🙂

I also received two “(Stuff) OChem Students Say” entries:

Enjoy 🙂

By July 17, 2012 2 comments chem 2.0, chemical education, fun

Coin Flip Game to Teach NMR Coupling and J-Value Concepts

One of the most frustrating units for me to teach in my sophomore organic chemistry class is the coupling/j-value concept in the NMR chapter. Going through the tree diagrams, we can get to a place where we understand that 3 neighboring protons cause a quartet, but I’m not convinced they really understand why. It gets worse when we get to doublet of doublets. This really goes way over their head. So I delve deeper into the theory so it will become more clear, but the concept only becomes more muddy in their mind. So I go even deeper, really getting into the physics (a class many of them haven’t taken yet), and their eyes start to glaze over and I start to lose the class.

By the end of the unit, we all resign and the students end up ‘memorizing cases’ with little to no understanding of why. I hate ‘memorizing cases.’

So last week I had an epiphany on the drive to work. I was thinking about how to make the concept more clear. Given a proton with a chemical shift, the random up or down spin state of the neighboring proton influences the chemical shift of the observed proton and offsets the chemical shift by an equal value in the positive and negative direction. Total values… a binary up/down spin state… offset by equal amount. Coins!

Given a quarter with a ‘chemical shift’ value of $0.25, a flipped penny will either land heads up or tails (heads down). Say a heads up penny adds $0.01 to the total value, and a heads down penny subtracts $0.01 from the total value. Flipping the penny thousands of times and keeping a running tally of the occurrence of the total values will give a statistical 1:1 ratio of total value $0.24 or $0.26. Flipping two pennies thousands of times will give a statistical 1:2:1 ratio of total values $0.23, $0.25, or $0.27. The analogy is perfect! And if you flip a nickel instead of a penny, we can even draw an analogy to j-values!

I was really excited about my new teaching tool, and began thinking about how to implement it in the classroom. Do I just talk it through as a pure thought experiment? No, they’ll drone me out. I can bring in a penny for everyone and we can predict outcomes, flip, and discuss as a class. Then pair up and play again with two pennies and discuss. That would work, and be interactive. But the relationship to NMR may still be fuzzy. It’d be nice if they could run lots of simulations with lots of combinations of coins on their own time…

Now, I’ve been participating in Code Year by Codecademy since it started in January. It’s been awesome. The first module in Code Year was JavaScript, a language I didn’t know but had always wanted to learn. My dad taught me BASIC when I was a kid, and I taught myself html and CSS, but I never knew JavaScript. I’m still not an expert, but I can code my way around JavaScript fairly confidently now, thanks Codecademy and Code Year!

So, feeling cocky with my new JavaScript tools, I thought this would be an excellent playground for me to test my new coding ability. If you want the entire story about how I created the site, all the gory details are below the jump. Many of you will not care. But after working on it for a week straight, it’s finally ready to launch. Here’s the game. Feel free to play around and see what you think.

Play 5 times to earn a link to a page digging into the theory.

If you teach NMR, and if you want to use this in your class, feel free to! I haven’t tested this out with an actual class of students who have never seen coupling/j-value yet, so we’ll see how it lands when I launch it for real 🙂 Hopefully the days of not understanding coupling/j-value are over!

If you have any comments/suggestions/improvement, I’d love to hear them!

Read more ›

By June 7, 2012 15 comments chem 2.0, chemical education

Hottest Chemistry Paper May 2012

The most popular paper as measured by unique clicks at ChemFeeds for May was work using rotoxanes as metal-organic frameworks by the Stephen J. Loeb group. Assuming you’re not in the UC system and you have access to Nature Chemistry you can view it here, “Metal–organic frameworks with dynamic interlocked components” by V. Nicholas Vukotic et al.

April’s winner of hottest abstract as measured from clicks at Chem Feeds will come as no surprise to those who have their pulse on the current chemical literature; the paper was heavily covered by the science press. The work was inspired from the Harry Potter novel “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets“. You can read Wei Shen and Miaosi Li‘s work here: Paper-Based Blood Typing Device That Reports Patient’s Blood Type “in Writing”.

Enjoy the reading.


By June 2, 2012 2 comments ChemFeeds