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2004 Fall ConfChem: Teaching Computing in Chemistry Courses

09/11/04 to 10/10/04
Carl H. Snyder Donald Rosenthal Department of Chemistry Department of Chemistry University of Miami Clarkson University Coral Gables FL 33124 Potsdam NY 13699-5810


This conference will highlight what and how computing is taught in chemistry courses. Questions to consider include:

  • What do chemistry students need to learn about computers and computing?
  • When and how should this information be taught?
  • What should be taught in required courses?
  • What should be taught in elective courses?

The schedule below lists the dates that each paper will be discussed.


Paper 1. "Teaching Computing in Existing Laboratory Courses at CSUSB"
Kimberley R. Cousins (
California State University, San Bernardino, CA 

Paper 2. "Student Projects Using Powerpoint"
Brian Pankuch (
Union County College, Cranford, NJ

Paper 3. "Characteristics of a Dedicated Course on Computing in Chemistry: Form, Content and Audience" 
Carl H. Snyder (
University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL

Paper 4. "Tools for Processing and Interpreting Spectral Data"
Scott E. Van Bramer (
Widener University, Chester, PA

Paper 5. "Empowering Student Learning with Molecular Visualization  
Tools in Discovery-based General Chemistry"
Scott A. Sinex ( and Barbara A. Gage
Prince George's Community College, Largo, MD

Paper 6. "Use and Misuse of Internet Search Engines by High School Chemistry Students" (updated 9/30/04)
Martha Gwen Sibert (
Roanoke Valley Governor's School, Roanoke, VA

Paper 7. "Using Computers in Physical Chemistry - The Role of Symbolic Mathematics
Software and Context Rich Projects in Physical Chemistry Lecture and Laboratory Courses"
Theresa Julia Zielinski (
Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ

Paper 8. "Introduction to molecular modeling. An inexpensive experience using free software"
Julio A. Seijas ( & M. Pilar Vazquez-Tato 
Departamento de Quimica Organica. Facultad de Ciencias. 
Universidad de Santiago de Compostela. Aptdo. 280. 27080-LUGO. Spain

Conference Articles

Abstracts of Papers:

Kimberley R. Cousins (
California State University, San Bernardino, CA


This paper describes the evolution of computing in the chemistry department at a racially diverse comprehensive university, serving a large number of transfer and commuter students. Dissatisfaction with available computing facilities led a core group of faculty in the department to seek funding for establishing a networked departmental computing lab. In the process a rational plan for incorporating computing for mathematical and molecular modeling and communication throughout the curriculum was developed and implemented. By developing materials and providing formal and informal training, we enabled the less technically sophisticated faculty and adjunct instructors to use computing in their teaching. Computer applications are now embedded throughout the laboratory curriculum, including in-service courses such as "Chemistry in the Classroom", which targets pre-K-6 teachers. The computer lab is in high demand, and the department is committed to maintaining and upgrading the facility.

Brian Pankuch
Newsletter: Using Computers in Chemical Education


Past professional leave experiences exposed me to courses that had a group project as a big component of the final grade. My experience working on my own projects has been positive, so I decided to experiment by having my students work on projects. My students choose the topic and check it with me. I usually find they've chosen a very broad topic which needs some focusing.

My students work with partners, who are usually people in their own study group. Study groups are formed during the first week of class. Presentations typically include models, graphics, live chemistry demos, documents used with an Elmo and PowerPoint.

A schedule helps the students keep themselves organized. It is important to get started early enough to do substantial work.

Carl H. Snyder
Chemistry Department
University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL 33124


Beginning in the spring term, 1998, and during each subsequent spring term through 2003, the University of Miami Chemistry Department has offered "Computing in Chemistry", a three-credit course dedicated to teaching computing through the examination of chemical applications.

This paper discusses the origin of the course, its objectives, structure, content, audience, and instructors. The course was designed for science majors who had completed at least the first semester of the two-semester organic chemistry sequence, and was taught by a group of faculty with expertise in a variety of computer-related fields. Syllabi, examinations, course projects, the Web page, and related material are presented and discussed.

Scott Van Bramer
Department of Chemistry
Widener University
Chester PA 1901


Undergraduate students acquire spectroscopic data using a wide range of instrumentation. But what do the students do with this data? If they just print out a spectrum, then the instrument software is probably sufficient. If they need to interpret the data, examine it closely, or learn about data processing they will need additional tools. This paper provides an overview of software tools for off-line data processing and interpretation of spectroscopic data.

Scott A. Sinex and Barbara A. Gage
Prince George's Community College


Look at any college biology textbook and you will see a variety of complicated biochemical structures; yet these structures are minimally presented in most general chemistry textbooks. Computer-based molecular visualization allows us to employ a more molecular approach to general chemistry. How can chemistry educators take advantage of these technology tools and instill the relevance of chemistry to biological systems?

We present an inquiry-based approach developed in a community college. Our approach involves adopting and supporting a common set of tools across courses and instructors. Software for 2D chemical structure drawing (ChemSketch), molecular structure rendering (Chime/RasMol), computation (Spartan), and molecular dynamics (Odyssey) are utilized. Our goal is to give students the ability to deal with multiple representations of molecules and forge connections between microscopic structure and macroscopic behavior. We will illustrate a variety of web-based discovery activities and demonstrate how we integrate the set of tools into our curriculum.

Martha Gwen Sibert
Roanoke Valley Governor's School
Roanoke, VA


This paper examines the use of Internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo by high school chemistry students. Personal experience by the author indicates that too many high school students believe that if something is posted on a website it is true and factual. The paper includes examples of excellent references found using search engines as well as examples of completely erroneous or farfetched information found using these same engines. Some ways of teaching students how to discern "truth" from "fiction" will be presented, as well how they can be taught to tell the difference between information that is simply "opinion" and that which is based on scholarly work. Also, a comparison of the links some of the more popular search engines provide for a variety of chemistry queries are included.

Julio A. Seijas, M. Pilar Vzquez-Tato
Departamento de Qumica Orgnica. Facultad de Ciencias. Universidad de Santiago de Compostela. Aptdo. 280. 27080-Lugo. Spain.


A set of freeware programs is used to teach molecular modeling at the undergraduate level. The programs cover building 2D molecules through 3D conversion, calculation of molecular properties and visualization. All of these manipulations can be done without the use of commercial software. This makes them an inexpensive aid for non-specialized teaching or low budget institutions.

Theresa Julia Zielinski (
Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ


We are currently trying to locate the remainder of this paper.