This page was originally written for a specific course. It is now shown here to serve as a model for possible projects in other courses. What is important here is the general plan for the project; specifics can be adjusted as appropriate. For example, this project was originally written for an intro org/biochem course, but might be adapted to an intro chem course if someone is interested. Textbook references are to an old book, and have no particular significance at this point, except to indicate how the project is spread out over the term.

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The general idea is that you will become an "expert" on one interesting molecule as the semester proceeds. You choose a molecule, and carry out a variety of little projects about it. Each part is a distinct small project, and has its own due date.

The general nature of the project is described below. I will consider variations that seem appropriate to a particular project; see me in advance if you want to arrange something different.

The project will have four major phases. After phase 1, you may well work on the other three in parallel, to some extent.

The project must be checked at each step. Due dates (for phases or sub-phases) will be announced as we proceed; some are indicated below.

1. Choose a molecule. As a guide, it should be of some reasonable size (molar mass >100) with multiple functional groups. Briefly tell why it interests you (1-2 sentences is plenty).

DUE: Try to define the project by the time we finish Ch 10. (Caution: As with many parts of this project, this may go through drafts or repeated attempts. Be sure to allow time.)

2. Collect some basic information. (15 pts.; out of 50 total for the project)

DUE. This part should be completely finished, including necessary upgrading, as we finish Ch 15. You should do it in small pieces, and have each piece checked as you go.

Molecular formula; structural formula. (2 pts.)

Molar mass. (1 pt.)

Label all functional groups in your molecule. Identify any acidic or basic groups. (If the molecule contains structural features that we have not discussed, see me.) (4 pts.)

Describe some chemical and physical properties of your chemical. Try to explain some of them, based on the structure. (4 pts.)

In doing the above parts, you should use both the Merck Index and the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. Indicate which specific edition you use.

Look up your chemical in the PubMed (Medline) database. Get abstracts for a couple of recent articles (within last year), and tell what is interesting about them. (2 pts.)

Try to find an MSDS for your chemical. Report some important safety information. (2 pts.)

Links for Internet access to PubMed and MSDS are available at my web site. (The PubMed link is on my Library Matters page, and MSDS sources are listed on my Internet - Chemistry Miscellaneous page, under Safety, MSDS. Both of these pages are also available from my List of pages of Internet resources.)

3. Make models of your molecule. (10 pts.)

DUE: as we finish Ch 16.

Make a model using the ball-and-stick molecular models. As part of this, determine the stereocenters in the molecule. Show them to me in the model, and mark them on your written structure. (4 pts.)

Draw your molecule, using one of the computer programs for drawing organic structures. Then convert the drawing to a 3D model. Save both the 2D drawing and 3D model (as appropriate for the particular programs you use). Information about making such 3D models for the computer is on my RasMol page. (6 pts.)

4. Prepare a report on something interesting about your molecule. (25 pts.)

DUE: The final, upgraded version must be turned in by ... Allow yourself enough time to turn in at least two drafts before then, get feedback, discuss them with me, and do further work.

Do some research on your molecule. As you do this, there are two general things to keep in mind.

Your goal. The goal is to become something of an expert on your chosen molecule. What this means will depend on the specific case. A good start for most will be to explain what it is, what it is used for, and how it is made. Information about its medical role will often be proper: what does it do, both good and bad. This may include basic toxicity information. If there are current controversies about this chemical, that would be an excellent topic to include.

Sources. I want you to use a variety of sources -- both printed and Internet. Be sure to list all sources you use. For Internet sources give the exact URL. You may use materials at public libraries and college libraries. You are encouraged to use the library at UC Berkeley. The Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology and other reference sources are available online from UC Berkeley computer terminals; see my Library Matters page.

Prepare a brief discussion of what you have learned about your molecule. As you write this, think about writing it so that it would be interesting to your classmates. (I hope that some will be presented to the class.)

As a guide, I suggest that the reports be 1-2 pages (typed, single-spaced, including your references and maybe some figures; also attach all the stuff from the earlier parts). Quality is the key issue, not length per se.

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Last update: January 25, 2011