An App For The Organikers Out There
There’s no question that organic chemists like to look at lists of named reactions. If you’re like most chemists, you do that on a website, or (gasp!) a paperback or hardcover book.
Well, to steal the words of a catchy campaign, there’s an app for that.
On Wednesday I spoke over the phone with Stanford graduate students David Thaisrivongs and Conrad Shultz, who have developed a “Named Reactions” app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. They released a free version, “Named Reactions Lite” and “Named Reactions Pro”, which costs $9.99, at the App Store less than two weeks ago.
Their timing couldn’t have been better as far as I was concerned. I’m in the final stages of preparing a story about named reactions for the print edition of C&EN (watch for it this May!), and I was positively giddy when I learned that apps for named reactions existed.
The pair met in the Trost group at Stanford University. Astute blog-readers will remember this lab as the home of legendary Tenderbutton blogger Dylan Stiles- I wonder what it is about Trost lab students that has them on the cutting edge of chemistry and technology?
Maybe it’s the fact that the Trost lab seems to always have a small but active subgroup who are avid Apple-watchers. Thaisrivongs and Shultz realized they had common interests in using technology as a tool to change how people think about and do chemistry. They started their own company, Synthetiq Solutions, to create the apps, working on them about 1 night a week. Shultz has also made a molecular formula and weight calculator app called ChemFormula, and the pair have other as-yet-unnamed projects in the works.
Here’s the description of their Named Reactions app from the Apple Store:
Named Reactions Pro contains details on over 250 organic reactions, from Aldol condensation to Yamaguchi esterification. Reactions are fully indexed and searchable, and can be visually browsed through an intuitive “reaction card” view.
Each reaction includes a description, tags, related reactions, reaction scheme, and carefully depicted mechanism. No Internet connection is required!
If you would like to try out all of these features for free, download Named Reactions Lite, which contains a subset of the reactions available in this Pro version. Be sure to also check out ChemFormula, the world’s most advanced molecular weight calculator and chemical search tool.
Asked about the pluses and minuses of apps, Shultz says: “Books have the virtue of permanence. You don’t have to worry about file formats changing. But apps are easily update-able, and let you have richer content. The reactions on the app are all tagged, so it’s easy to move between related reactions.” Books are a bit more limited in terms of browsing and searching capabilities, he explains.
The pair told me that there is another named reactions app out there: It’s called Organic Chemistry Express, and it’s from a company that makes test prep applications. But while they learned a lot from that app, they feel that as working chemists they can do better.
“We’re very much practicing organic chemists using these reactions every day, reading the literature. We approached this as people who would use this app every day,” Thaisrivongs says.
They’re certainly doing their homework. To think about what reactions they might want to include in an update, Thaisrivongs and Shultz sat in on sessions at the San Francisco ACS meeting, listening for mentions of named reactions that chemists were using in their work. They came up with about 60 more reactions. They’re also taking requests at support(at)synthetiqsolutions(dot)com.
At the end of the day, they are excited about getting their app out to new audiences. Since it was released less than two weeks ago, Named Reactions has been downloaded over 700 times in 43 countries.
“We definitely think students learning about organic chemistry will find this useful,” Thaisrivongs says. Shultz adds that they’ve placed a high premium on the app looking good and functioning smoothly, and they’re happy to respond to feedback.
(Many thanks to University of Sydney professor Mat Todd for the tip!)