A Virtual Chemistry Flashcard App
We love chemistry iPhone apps here at C&EN-- and we've received word that a new one is arriving soon. So we're giving you a sneak peek at that app, Chemistry by Design, the brainchild of University of Arizona associate professor Jon T. Njardarson.Chemistry by Design is essentially a virtual flashcard system, designed to help students and full-fledged chemists alike learn the graphical language of organic synthesis by studying the step-by-step blueprint chemists used to arrive at complex natural products, and even some small-molecule drugs. Right now there are 202 total syntheses included in the app, adapted from publications dating as far back as 1956. Call it "Classics in Total Synthesis" for the iPod set. While the app lacks the prose that guided chemists through that well-known series of books, it intends to make up the difference with interactivity. A user can "hide" reagents, starting materials, or product structures in each step of each total synthesis in the app. "That generates different kinds of questions," Njardarson says. Chemists can quiz themselves on different parts of a total synthesis, or they can simply browse. Njardarson and his students developed the app in about four months, with programming support from the University of Arizona's Office of Instruction and Assessment (OIA). "I had the idea four years ago," but the support from the OIA was was really made the program possible, he adds. He hopes that chemists will be willing to contribute their own syntheses to the app, and has provided instructions for submissions. This blog post is not technically a sneak peek, since Njardarson launched Chemistry by Design on the web just this weekend. You can check it out right now if your heart so desires. But the web version won't work on the browser on your favorite iDevice, because it uses Flash. You'll have to wait for the app's premiere at the Apple App Store in a few weeks to do that. Njardarson says the app will be available free of charge. Find prior chem app coverage here, here, and here.