9 Feb 2015

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words. . .

Submitted by Elizabeth Jamieson, Smith College

One of the things that we are hoping to do in our blog posts this year is to highlight some LOs on the site that we've found useful in class.  I'm teaching inorganic this semester and would like to mention two LOs that I've used recently in class to help students visualize delta and lambda stereoisomers and find symmetry operations.  

The first LO is The Structure and Symmetry of Metal Tris Chelates submitted by Marion Cass of Carleton College.  One of the first topics I cover in inorganic is coordination compounds.  While working through the problem set, one of my students asked if I knew of any good resources that could help her visualize delta and lambda isomers.  Of course, I turned to VIPEr and found this wonderful LO by Marion describing her website that uses JSmol images to walk students through the stereochemistry of metal tris chelates.  While I don't cover all the topics on her website in detail in my course, I found that her organization of the material into blocks worked well for me to be able to adapt and implement it with my students.  For example, Box C walks students through two methods for assigning delta and lambda isomers.  Exactly what I was looking for.  Students can rotate the JSmol images for themselves, but there are also boxes to click to help guide them through the assignment and help with the visualization.

The second LO that I've used from VIPEr this semester is Symmetry Resources at Otterbein College by Dean Johnston at Otterbein.  This web resource contains a symmetry tutorial that walks students through the different types of symmetry operations as well as a symmery gallery and challenge to help them identify symmetry operations and point groups for a large variety of molecules.  Students can manipulate the images on the screen using JSmol, and there are boxes to click to show axes and planes for the different symmetry operations.  I found this site particularly useful in class for highlighing the C2' axes of staggered ethane.  As I normally do, I showed students these axes using sketches on the blackboard and molecular models, but being able to show the visual on the screen with all three C2' axes clearly marked really brought the point home for many of them in a way I hadn't been able to do before.

Of course, I've now marked both of these as "My Favorites" on VIPEr so that I can find them easily again under "All My Content."  If you're not familiar with "My Favorites" you can read about them in Hilary's recent blog post here.  I'm looking forward to seeing what new treasures I can find on VIPEr as the semester progresses.