Guest post by Dr Simon Norris a Chemistry teacher at a school in the UK. As his alter ego The Cycling Scientist he has visited primary schools with his science road show. His current interests are using IT to enhance teaching and learning and using social media to create personal CPD for teaching colleagues.
It’s a simple idea. Have 100 plus T-shirts printed in various colours, each with one of the chemical elements on the front. Distribute them to chemists around the world, who get a photo of themselves wearing it, send it to me and I compile the Periodic Table of T Shirts. Advertise the project via Twitter, have the chemists of the world tweet and retweet about it, and the orders would flood in. Another great idea of mine which I would mull over for a few days, perhaps tell a few friends about, do nothing and the opportunity is lost. Except this time, I actually gave it a go and it‘s been a really enlightening experience. Here’s how it happened.
I happen to have three students in my house whose names are also the symbols of chemical elements. I thought it would be fun to get one of them a T-shirt with his name on in the style of a periodic table entry as he had been particularly helpful to others in the house. My students are quite used to my chemistry geekiness so they would not have found this particularly odd. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anywhere that sold them, despite enquiring to the #RealTimeChem community on Twitter. How difficult would it be to design...
This advert just popped up whilst I was reading something on the Guardian science pages. I clicked on it and it took me to the UK’s Department of Education who, in conjunction with the Royal Society of Chemistry are offering chemistry graduates a £20,000 bursary to start teacher training. Good news.
So what’s wrong with this picture? Take a look at the model molecule sitting on the bench behind the teacher? Its a bit fuzzy but it looks rather unlikely to me. I’d sort of hope that someone might have come up with something better to stick on an advert for chemistry teachers. Or maybe it’s part of some cunning plan to select just the most pedantic chemistry graduates.
UPDATE: I just spotted the same picture in a magazine with the Royal Society of Chemistry logo on it!
The 60th anniversary of Watson and Crick’s DNA structure paper is fast approaching (25th April). So I’ve been hunting for nice DNA demos. My favourite so far is a replication of Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling’s diffraction experiment (which appeared in the same issue of Nature). Franklin and Gosling’s paper featured the now famous photo 51, which contained the tell-tale information that led Watson and Crick to build their double helical model.
The neat thing is you can demonstrate the relationship between the patterns seen in photo 51 and diffraction off a helix using a laser pointer and a spring from a retractable ball point pen.
Just shine the laser through the spring, onto a wall about 3 meters away and you end up with pattern that is strikingly similar to photo 51.
It makes for a great lecture demo or a full lab class, were students can work out the structure of a spring from the diffraction patter. You can find full details in a really nice paper published in The Physics Teacher.
Diffraction pattern from a spring
I think we have all heard our undergraduates say the darnedest things and this video coming out of Stanford seems to do a good job summarizing some of the most common.
On a side note, if you ever see your undergrad directly sniffing chemicals please stop them.
Direct Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6TnjSfPoK4M
Professor W. F. v. Gunsteren has written a very interesting essay for Angewandte entitled “The Seven Sins in Academic Behaviour in the Natural Sciences”. In this piece he defines the seven sins as follows (taken from the essay)
A poor or incomplete description of the work, for example, publishing pretty pictures instead of evidence of causality.
Failure to perform obvious, cheap tests that could confirm or repudiate a model, theory, or measurement, for example, to detect additional variables or to show under which conditions a model or theory breaks down.
Insufficient connection between data and hypothesis or message, leading to lack of support for the message or over-interpretation of data, for example, rendering the story more sensational or attractive.
The reporting of only favorable results, for example, reporting positive or desired (hoped for) results while omitting those that are negative.
Neglect of errors found after publication.
The direct fabrication or falsification of data.
Take the incomplete description of the work. Here the scientific journal(s) come in for some criticism; mainly for the restriction of journal space this in turn leading to more date being squeezed into the supplementary material. Interestingly this material is usually freely available while the actual article it corresponds to sits behind a paywall. So in my humble opinion this is a complete waste of time. Either one or the other but not...
In an essay to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Angewandte Chemie our friend and mentor Prof. K. C. Nicolaou had penned an essay for this august event. Which can be seen here.
Not to be outdone in this essay he examines the flow of chemical knowledge from its emergence in the 5th century B.C. to the present day, 2,500 years or so. Stopping along the way of this long journey, he highlights the leading scientific personalities of each age together with their theorems discoveries.
Emerging out of this primordial soup of chemical knowledge is the science of organic synthesis the “Flagship” of which is “the art of total synthesis”. This “Flagship” was launched in the 19th century and sat in the harbour for quite a few decades until the scientists of the day got their collective acts together and came up with atomic theory. I suppose somehow like hitchhikers in the galaxy. Indeed in 1845 two of these eminent thinkers and, more importantly experimentalists put their heads together and came up with the answer to the ultimate question, and it was not “24”.
Laurent and Gerhardt started to unfurl the sails of the flagship, which had been sitting there gathering dust, recognising that the molecules synthesised to that day could be classified into a “homologous” box and a “type” box, the latter assuming that all organic molecules belonged to three different types. This suggestion paved the way for the connection between inorganic and organic chemistry. Kekulé was...
A quick heads up. This year The Royal Institution is treating us to chemistry themed Christmas Lectures. Plus to get us in the mood they have put up an excellent chemistry themed advent calendar containing a host of favourite elements.
Remember the BBC’s recent botched attempt to produce an entertaining program about chemistry?
It got covered in a variety of chemistry blogs, so I won’t go into details again.
I wasn’t satisfied with whinging about it in cyberspace, so I also complained directly to the BBC.
Here’s their reply.
Thank you for contacting us about ‘James May’s Things You Need to Know’ broadcast on BBC Two on 17 September.
Your concerns were brought to the attention of the BBC Commissioning Executive responsible for this programme and we’re very grateful to you and to the others who contacted us to highlight the errors we made.
We do not wish to make excuses but we feel you deserve an explanation as to how the errors occurred. We used a chemistry professor as a consultant on the programme who checked over scripts and supplied formulas and visual plans to the programme animators. However, the animators were not as focused on the accuracy of rendering the formulas and images they had been given and we did not get the consultant to double check the pictures once the programme had been completed – a real mistake which we will not be making again.
We have now corrected the film wherever relevant throughout so that it will be accurate for future broadcasts.
That seems like a pretty reasonable response to me. Good to know they listen to complaints and do something about it.
Thanks to See Arr Oh for putting on this blog carnival. Hopefully this can help someone out there
Your current job.
I teach at a small, liberal arts university in the Midwest (Primarily Undergraduate Institution). I am a full-time, non-tenure track, teaching faculty and my position is officially Lecturer in Organic Chemistry.
What you do in a standard “work day.”
I teach one, 4-day-a-week, 1 hour organic chemistry lecture, and four, 1-day-a-week, 3 hour labs. Usually, they’re all OChem labs, but this semester, I’m teaching 3 OChem labs and 1 GenChem lab. That makes 16 contact hours per week. That’s a lot, but I have no formal research requirements as part of my contract. I conduct a bit of pedagogical research every now and then, and I did have a summer research student one summer.
What kind of schooling / training / experience helped you get there?
I have a BS in chemistry from Xavier University (Cincinnati) and a PhD in organic chemistry from UNC-Chapel Hill. I’m formally trained in total synthesis (focusing on spiroketals) (read my blog post on my PhD research), but the best training I had was tutoring 1-2 students every semester. The students I tutored would bring the most challenging concepts and topics, and paid me to get them through the hardest material. This forced me to come up with accessible ways for students to learn these concepts. I also received a Future Faculty Fellowship which teamed me up with a full professor mentor and...
Macrolactonization: Now here is a word to strike fear into the heart of any synthetic organic chemist. It’s usually the last step, or one of the last steps in a long complicated natural product synthesis. Not much material left to experiment with so each crumb of unreacted starting material, usually the seco-acid has to be recovered. So which method do you choose? Off to the library may no longer be required, as recently Campagne etal have kindly updated their comprehensive review on the subject1 containing 860 references and covering the literature in the review up to 2011.
Upon reading this I was astounded with the number of methods, obviously I was acquainted with some of them, even done a few in the lab, but the scope here is tremendous. There are some 26 or so methods discussed in this review. Which begs the question: Which one do you choose? Stick with the older well-documented ones or go for a newer method? Well it obviously depends upon your molecule and its functionality. I will just pick out some of the reactions discussed, mainly those I am not so well acquainted with and hope that you will find something useful for your own synthesis.
Let’s begin by looking at macrolactonizations by the Boeckman method. This is based on the known formation of ketenes by thermolysis of dioxolenones2. The conditions are mild and hydroxy or amino groups can trap the ketene. Here is the general idea:
Boeckman3 applied it in the following step note the high dilution.
A testimony to...
A molecule with one stereocenter has one pair of stereoisomers: a pair of enantiomers.
A molecule with two stereocenters has 6 pairs of stereoisomers: 4 pairs of diastereomers and 2 pairs of enantiomers.
Given that, how many stereopairs does a molecule with 3 stereocenters have (assume no meso)? How many pairs of diastereomers? How many pairs of enantiomers?
Can you come up with formulas for the number of total stereopairs, diastereomer pairs, and enantiomer pairs given a molecule with n stereocenters?
First one with the right answer is the coolest!
For more fun, don’t just reply when you have the right answer. Reply with some initial guesses, first approximations, and thought process. A good discussion is more fun than one person posting the right answer
WARNING: The (a) correct answer is posted below. There are other correct general formulas I’ve seen. If you still want to play along, don’t read the comments. Try it on your own first, then read the comments.
To see more creative NanoKids, click here
Final installment today: Nanimals and NanoThings. These are all structures drawn by my spring 2012 organic chemistry class. Full background here.
(Note: some captions have been edited to remove class/school specific references)
(Click images to enlarge)