A Virtual Chemistry Flashcard App
Jun26

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...

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More Chemistry Apps
Apr03

More Chemistry Apps

A recent edition of Newscripts featured several chemistry-related iPhone apps. Two more I'd like to throw in the mix are the Experimenter and Chemical Touch apps. The Experimenter is a fun little how-to app for home-based chemistry experiments and includes demonstration videos. Iliya Yordanov and his wife, Maria, are the masterminds behind the app, though Iliya credits Maria with the initial idea. "She was in chemistry nationals back at high school," he says, "and one day she proposed that it'd be so much fun to make an app teaching people funny and easy-to-do chemistry experiments. And that's how it all started." Iliya and Maria hired a more experienced chemist to help them construct and safely demonstrate the experiments before spending four months shooting the videos. The Experimentor app is available on iTunes for $1.99. The Chemical Touch, created by biophysics postdoc Christopher Fennell, is bot a touch sensitive periodic table and  an amino acid companion. He wanted to use his knowledge to make something fun and useful, so he evolved the Periodic Table widget he developed as a grad student into a version for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Users can not only view atomic mass, density, melting point, boiling point, atomic radius, and electronegativity, but they can also recolor the periodic table to display trends in these properties. Elements and amino acids are linked to their respective Wikipedia page. The Chemical Touch is available on iTunes for a mere 99 cents. Fennell deliberately chose the minimum amount he could charge for the app. "I treat it as an incentive to keep me developing and improving the application in my spare time," he says. A free "lite" version of the app is also available for those who are averse to paying for apps but could still get some benefit out of Fennell's work. He says the free version is downloaded 10 times more than the paid version. "Kind of makes you reflect on the relative value of your effort," Fennell says. "When writing a scientific paper, I would be thrilled to get 100 citations over its lifetime. When I wrote this fun, little application, I accrued nearly half a million direct users over a year-and-a-half...

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