UGA professor, high school student team up to create organic chemistry app
November 11, 2013Print
Athens, Ga. - The second organic chemistry course a college student takes is often referred to as the "gateway to medical school" because students must learn, synthesize and use knowledge in a rapid fashion to make decisions, much like a doctor.
Jason Locklin, an associate professor of chemistry in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, knows the subject matter of his class is difficult to master. Despite ample resources—books, notes, lectures and further readings—provided for students, he hears consistent and continued requests from students for more accompanying learning materials.
Now, thanks to the help of recent UGA Young Dawgs summer research program participant Chuanbo Pan, who is a neighbor of Locklin and an 11th-grader at North Oconee High School, organic chemistry students at the university and nationwide will have yet another resource at their fingertips—an iPhone and iPad app.
Known as the "Organic Chemistry II Survival Guide," the application provides easy-to-navigate notes for organic chemistry students and is based on three binders full of Locklin's teaching materials and notes.
"When I was looking at the available apps, I realized that there are a lot of apps out there for organic chemistry. The problem with those apps is that I don't know where the materials come from or the technical background of the people that are making them. Are they experts in organic chemistry?" Locklin said.
"I wanted to create an app using my notes that I could verify and have confidence in, so that the students could have the material with them at all times, like when they're on the bus or waiting to take the test. I wanted to have some new technology at their fingertips to make it easier to access and, hopefully, increase how easy it is to study."
Locklin read about Pan's "LatinHelper" app in the Oconee County newspapers and also knew Pan's father, Zhengwei Pan, an associate professor of physics and engineering at UGA. Given the high school student's interest in computer programming, Locklin approached him with the idea of collaborating to create an "Organic Chemistry II" app for students at UGA.
The two worked together, meeting on the weekends over the summer. Pan took hundreds of pages of notes and meticulously diagrammed more than 200 chemical reactions into a format that could be used in the application.
"In the end, we've got a product that we're both really proud of," Locklin said. "It contains a tremendous amount of information, and it's very user-friendly, and, most importantly, I know that the information is accurate."
Pan included a feature that allows students to draw out chemical reactions themselves, like they would on a sheet of paper, giving them another way to better learn the information. Students can also flag reactions for further review and add text notes.
"You can take notes either using the text editor or you can write with your fingertip, which allows you to draw a reaction out and take notes on it," Pan said.
"This is really important for organic chemistry because you have to draw molecular structures," Locklin said. "I think that functionality is really what makes this app unique."
The resulting application will afford students the opportunity to learn organic chemistry without carrying around large binders of notes and large textbooks.
"Instead of a notebook, or several, you've now got almost everything you need to learn with you on your phone or your iPad at all times," he said. "It is not a substitute for your textbook or lectures, but it has all the reactions and arrow-pushing mechanisms."
Many of his students are already using iPads and iPhones to take notes in class, Locklin added. "Our goal is to reach you any way possible. Anything that helps you do better in the course or learn the material, I think that it is my job as a professor to be an effective communicator of the material. And I think that's something that this app allows us to do."
The "Organic Chemistry II Survival Guide" is $3.99 for the iPhone app and $4.99 for the iPad app. To learn more or download the iPhone version, see https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ochem-ii-survival-guide/id697843357?Is=1&mt=8. To download the iPad version, see https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ochem-ii-survival-guide-hd/id697849518?Is=1&mt=8.
A video of Locklin and the app in action is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me0sBvDmX1w.