Friday, September 25, 2009

Cheminfo Retrieval First Class FA09

I gave my first lecture yesterday (Sept 24, 2009) for my Chemical Information Retrieval course at Drexel. One of my main objectives for the course is to provide the most current information about how to best find and review chemical information.

To this end, I set up a wiki ( which should become considerably enriched over the course of the term. I invited students to help contribute useful links to the resource page - and even before I finished giving the first lecture they added several really good ones. I also invite any chemists or librarians to add links to resources we may have missed. Just request to join the wiki to contribute.

The wiki will also be used for students to write a report on a chemical topic making use of cheminfo resources. Right after the lecture I made sure the students joined the wiki and created two pages: one for their report and one for a "research log". The idea is that students will report significant steps in conceptualizing their projects and how they are searching databases. I can then comment directly on their log pages for quick guidance. I suppose anyone with helpful suggestions that I missed could also comment - again just request an account on the wiki.

This class has traditionally required a written report. This term I'm adding a twist: the minimum number of words can be reduced somewhat if students elect to incorporate a multimedia or other creative component. To provide examples of what that might look like I visited Drexel Island on Second Life and demonstrated 3D molecules, interactive NMR spectra and a chemistry museum (from Sandy Adam). There is a lot of chemistry possible on Second Life (see Lang & Bradley) At the end of the tour on the island we visited a wildlife area recently built by Robert Brulle for a project related to environmental science (more on this in a later post). I got a hug from a panda and got sprayed when I tried to pet a skunk - just to give a taste of what kind of fun things can be constructed in a virtual world. Other projects could involve screencasts, Jmol, games, Facebook, etc. As long as it requires students to access chemical information, I am pretty open to ideas. Students will work through their ideas on their log page and the final product will also be available on the wiki. These projects could provide interesting examples for others interested in the topic of chemical information.

At the end of my lecture I provided a brief overview of the NaH oxidation controversy. There really could not be a better example of the importance of staying on top of new communication channels to follow and participate in chemical research. This year the most important of these new tools are probably blogs, wikis and FriendFeed. Next year it might be something else - Google Wave?

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At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Rich Apodaca said...

@Jean-Claude, some great ideas here. I'm curious - to what extent will you be teaching about 'traditional' chemical information sources such as SciFinder and Beilstein?

BTW, if any students are interested, there's a 64-parts series of reviews on Free Chemistry Databases in progress over at Zusammen.

At 6:29 AM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

The pay databases will be covered extensively - they are under the Pay category of the resource page.

Of course your review of databases will be very useful - I added the link.


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