Chemical Information Lectures and Exercises
MUG'03, Dave Weininger, Green Chile Productions
- The education of chemists vs. the practice of chemistry
- Current chemistry education is badly outdated
- Not subtle. Pervasive. Unfortunate.
- What should be done? What can be done?
- The CHILE lecture concept
- CHILE lecture concept, continued
- The CHILE experiment
- Film/TV studios are not well-suited for educational lectures
- The MEDUSA experiment
A disconnect has developed between the
education of chemists
practice of chemistry
Chemistry is largely becoming an information science
- First computer appeared on ACS expo floor < 20 years ago
- Most ACS papers/posters/exhibits now have informatic aspects
Very few undergraduate programs teach chemical information
- Cheminfo is not integrated into normal chemistry coursework
- Chemical information courses are not offered
- There are only a handful of exceptions
- Library/information science departments rather than chemistry
Current chemistry education is badly outdated
Historically good approach: teach the molecular model
- Like "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." (Haeckel's Lie)
In chemistry, it's Bohr, Huckel, LCAO, MO ...
- "Left brain" learns about molecules,
the hands learn to manipulate them
- This approach has has worked well for as long as we can remember
Undergraduate chemistry curriculum selects for four critera:
These are the criteria needed to be a chemist in 1900.
- Good memory - chemistry is an information-rich discipline
- Good spacial perception - molecules are 3-dimensional
- Not afraid of poisons and fire - not too many lab fires
- Environmental insensitivity - some people can't stand the stink
We're teaching the right stuff in the wrong way
- A chemist with great brain power can know perhaps
10K structures, 1K reactions, 5 stereocenters
- A chemist with a computer can know
20M structures, 3.5M reactions, 1000's of stereocenters.
We're selecting the wrong people
- Selecting for human qualities such as
memory, spacial perception
- Selecting against people for whom the computer
is extension of their brain
- In this sense, MUG/RPGs are great training for being a chemist.
Not subtle. Pervasive. Unfortunate.
There's nothing subtle about the current approach
- Regurgitate 100 structures and reactions in a closed book exam.
- Recognize products of an SN2 displacement.
- Demonstrate that you can perform a cookbook experiment in a lab.
- If you can do these things you can be a chemist.
- If not, you should look for a different major.
Secondary and graduate education have similar problems
- High school coursework introduces vocabulary, concepts, labwork
providing good chemistry courses is relatively expensive
- Graduate work is becoming ever more project/goal-oriented
training yesterday's cowboys vs. today's team players
Consequences are already apparent
- Team-oriented chemists with cheminformatics competence
appear to be in short supply.
- Even in today's tight job market, we get lead-queries for
such hires ~weekly.
What should be done? What can be done?
Do nothing, hope for the best
- Leave it to the educators, it's their problem.
- Hope that more resources are dedicated to science education.
- Expect that tomorrow's chemists will appear despite the system.
Positive corporate influence on education
- Communicate needs to professors, schools.
- Research and teaching grants at local universities
- Support traineeships, summer internships
- Donatation of old equipment to high school science labs
- Interact with students directly: guest lecture, counselling
- Chemistry class lab tour with Q/A session
- Write/create/present a CHILE lecture!
The CHILE lecture concept
Produce compelling video lectures covering modern
chemical information topics
for use in real-life
chemical education environments
Real, didactic, useful, for-credit lectures
- 30 x 30 min formal lectures
- Each lecture introduces one idea
- Not "Apted interview movie", not "PBS Special"
To be deployed in real-life education environments
- Lectures as standard DVD-video movies
- Lecture notes
- Labs (via server programs on DVD)
- Lab notes
- Quizzes and test questions
- Useful supplement to normal chemistry coursework.
- With text, forms basis for chemical information course.
CHILE lecture concept, continued
Produce compelling video lectures covering modern chemical information
topics for use in real-life chemical education environments
Designed not only to inform but to also inspire
- Recognize that inspiration is a form of emotional communication
- Emotional content is more important than informational content
- Main Hollywood-developed trick: film presence feels real
- Hands, head, face, mouth, eyes. Molecules too.
- Appeal to both students and professors
The most compelling stories are reality-based
each lecture will be presented by a person who gave their life
to that idea.
- This is not always possible due to logistical factors such as health.
- This creates something of an imperative.
The CHILE experiment
Hollywood's main trick is film presence
- A "film presence" is usually a scripted character played by an actor,
but not always (e.g., documentaries).
- If enough things are done right, audience will emotionally react
to a film presence as if that person were really there.
- Reaction is not intellectual, i.e., "willing suspension of disbelief".
- E.g., when film character is hurt, audience cries;
succeed/rejoice, threatened/fear, fumble/laugh, etc.
- Plenty of things can go wrong and break the spell,
e.g., cinematography, sound, lighting, dialog, acting, boom/props,
- One question:
Can this be extended to the teacher-student inspirational experience?
- Another question:
Can this be part of the transfer of our intellectual resources from
one generation to the next?
The answers to these questions are not known.
- Most educational videos and multimedia learning systems
are low-budget and goal-oriented where test scores are the goal.
Inspiration is not the goal, i.e., they don't even try.
- High-quality science presentations are almost universally oriented
to providing a certain kind of entertainment with wide appeal.
E.g., interviews with famous scientists for a market of viewers who
are generally interested in science.
- Some integrative educational experiments are in progress, e.g.,
USC's Multimedia Literacy program.
- Our stakes are different (higher) than with, e.g., feature films
Film/TV studios are not well-suited for educational lectures
Sound stages are high-stress environments
- Alpha-male heirachy: up to 5 directors, 20 crew
- "Professional" means "produce great work in toxic environment"
- This is a way of saying, "The end justifies the means."
Sound stages are physically challenging environments
- Hour(s) of costume/makeup, hour(s) of waiting around
- 20KW of light in face, "Don't squint, act naturally!"
- Director says, "Now give me your best work."
- Actors can do it, retired chemistry professors probably can't
Massive volume, high production values
- Today's students are incredibly savvy wrt production values
- High resolution 16:9 video, high quality audio is needed
- 30 x 30 min lectures + extras ~ 1000-1200 min of final cut
- Translates to ~10,000 min of raw footage (think 10 feature films)
- Need TV-like production efficiency with film-like postproduction
- Gentle, comfortable and low-stress environment
- Self-paced by presenter using their own words
- Low "ante" for both training and shooting
- The means and the ends are the same thing
- Is modern audio/video technology the silver bullet?
- "Zero crew"
shoot requires novel approaches to movie-making
- New lighting: adjustable, cool, photographically neutral
- Digital audio from the pro-music world
- Broadcast video from the ENG world
- Novel self-paced teleprompting
- Small chromakey stage for lectures, raytraced studio/key
- Saving grace: general-purpose sound stage is not needed
The MEDUSA experiment
Is this stuff accessible to high school students?
- CHILE oriented to "central" undergraduate education
- Suitable also for advanced and postgraduate coursework
- Can/should high school students also be target audience?
- Reality check.
Jonah Wagner, 17, 11th grader
- Interested in chemistry
- Learned SMILES from website at 16
- Required to do 1-month independent project
- "Likes action movies"
What can Jonah do?
- Given iMac, camera, bicycle, CRC, access to research databases
- Tasked to build/test/document annotated chemical database
- Expected to research molecular structures
- Write/perform script for short movie describing project
- Mini-movie will be project report, also possible CHILE DVD "extra"
- How hard can that be?
- Jonah accomplished project, easily.
- Week 1 get situated, 2-3 data entry, 4 report/movie.
is a "toy" database, but the process and workflow was real
- Mini-movie was written
and practiced in 2-3 days, shot and produced in a single day.
- Note information content in the audio (high-def needed)