Friday, February 4, 2011

Visualized molecules can make chemistry comprehensible

From the Departmental news letter written by Jes Andersen:

When students experience chemistry as “tough stuff”, it’s often due to the difficulty of fully appreciating molecules that are too small and reactions that are too fast. Chemistry professor Jan Jensen has a method of making chemistry much more visible. Using computer-based simulations and visualisations, he offers his students a more intuitive and less abstract gateway into the field of chemistry. Now, Jensen and his colleagues at the Centre for Computational Molecular Science have received 200,000 kroner from the University’s “Education at its Best” project to develop and diffuse visualisation tools throughout the courses of his fellow chemistry instructors. He is convinced that these tools will make it a bit easier to become a chemist.

“In the oral examinations, I’ve noticed that even those who are quite poor at equations have improved in their ability to explain what is going on at the molecular level,” explains Jensen. In the coming months Jensen and his collaborators in the Centre for Computational Molecular Science will adapt the visualisation tools to courses at the University of Copenhagen.

The hope is that ambassadors from the Centre will ensure that the visualisation methods spread like ripples across water. While Jensen expects to employ student interns to create finished “instruction packages”, he encourages curious professors to sign up for the development phase. “I am confident that this will make it easier to teach chemistry. But here at the beginning, it would be more fun to test ideas in collaboration with professors who actually have a desire to use these tools,” affirms Jensen who is confident that these methods will benefit instructors as well. “I have a few lectures where I do not use the visualisations and I can clearly see that I lose the students’ attention,” concludes Jensen.

Read Jan Jensen’s blog post about visualisation.
Read about the grant.
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