Submitted by Shirley Lin / United States Naval Academy on Thu, 04/11/2019 - 15:45

This BITeS post is dedicated to Prof. Julius Rebek Jr. on the occasion of his 75th birthday.

It's April and spring is here at last. For many faculty, the change of season brings the welcome close to a busy academic year. Our thoughts turn to warm weather activities such as working in the lab, writing up new learning objects for VIPEr (hint, hint), and gardening. To most people this latter activity may bring to mind putting plants into the ground; for those of us who lack a green thumb and/or serve on curriculum committees, our thoughts may turn instead to sowing the seeds of curricular change.

For example, while preparing for our ACS periodic review last spring, my department spent some time discussing the ACS Committee on Professional Training guidelines on incorporating macromolecular, supramolecular, and nanoscale (MSN) systems (found here) into our undergraduate curriculum. Not surprisingly, VIPEr already has resources to help with teaching these topics: check out our recently updated collection on nanomaterials and several LOs related to polymer chemistry. Joining these riches are two new LOs on supramolecular chemistry involving research from the Rebek group, experts on host-guest systems that self-assemble through intermolecular forces. The first is a literature discussion of two journal articles about the "tennis ball" host system, able to encapsulate small molecule guests such as methane, ethylene, and dichloromethane (in a single bound!). The second is a web resource LO about the Rebek Laboratory homepage. The webpage provides narrated videos and interactive JSmol files of several of the group's most well-known host systems, including the aforementioned "tennis ball." For those looking to incorporate a hand-on experience with supramolecular chemistry into their major, check out Rebek's J. Chem. Educ. article on an advanced laboratory experiment highlighting (you guessed it) the "tennis ball."

While these new LOs are organic chemistry examples of supramolecular chemistry, the ACS guidelines also provide multiple examples on how to incorporate MSN concepts related to inorganic chemistry. This list is shown below. Friends of VIPEr, if you are an expert and/or have been teaching in any of these areas, please consider creating new LOs on these topics this summer. That would be!

Inorganic Chemistry MSN Topics

  • Coordination – catalyst formation, metalloenzyme structure, structure of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), control of porosity and framework size, control of gas adsorption properties
  • Ziegler-Natta, metallocene catalysts for olefin polymerization – impact on industrial/materials development
  • Structure/bonding/property relationships in silicon or phosphorous based polymers and semiconductors, including backbone flexibility, conductivity, and molecular orbital and band theory compared to C based analogs
  • Utilization of X-ray and calorimetry to determine percent crystallinity
  • Polymer/inorganic natural systems such as chitin/calcium carbonate composites
  • Absorption properties of metal nanoparticles (e.g., colloidal gold used to color stained glass windows)
  • Quantum dots – effect of size on optical properties, electrical properties, effect of core-shell structures


Claude Mertzenich / Luther College

Perhaps remove electronic spectra (microstates, terms, allowed/forbidden transitions, Orgel Tanabe-Sugano, etc.) to allow for discussions of some of these MSN systems in upper level inorganic?

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 13:08 Permalink
Shirley Lin / United States Naval Academy

Claude, thanks for the suggestions in your comment. It is definitely a challenge to include more topics in inorganic chemistry and the hard question is always what to swap out.

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 13:58 Permalink
Mark Schofield / The George Washington University

I can see the attraction to including MSN topics in the usually lone inorganic course that ACS degree candidates get. However, a “modern” description of structure and bonding necessarily requires an analysis of observables, i.e., spectra. With the rise of material science writ large over the past few decades, a well-prepared student will have taken a deep dive there in addition to “core” courses like inorganic. Surely, this material could be worked into either a stand-alone course or a “special topics” course offered every other year?

Fri, 10/08/2021 - 07:55 Permalink
Shirley Lin / United States Naval Academy

In reply to by Mark Schofield / The George Washington University

Mark, thanks for these comments. I agree that special topics courses are a great place to incorporate more MSN topics. If they are elective courses, then it's hard to ensure that all students are getting equivalent exposure to those subjects. And unfortunately my experience has been that the chemistry majors in my department are often looking for bio-related electives instead of MSN ones. My polymer synthesis course has not had high enough registration in the past 10 years to be offered.

Fri, 10/08/2021 - 11:10 Permalink