Reporter's notebook: Organic chemistry for fourth graders.
Many students have trouble with organic chemistry in high school and beyond. But maybe things would be different if they were introduced to it earlier, like in elementary school. That may sound ridiculous, but it's exactly what Daniel Fried is doing. Fried, an assistant professor at Saint Peter's University, teaches topics from college-level organic chemistry to elementary students as part of extracurricular programs. As he told an audience during a session in the Division of Chemical Education on Tuesday, his end goal is teaching the third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students biochemical concepts. He uses hands-on modeling, written activities, computer modeling, and group activities. For example, the students assemble models of amino acids and combine them to make peptides. And he takes some of the activities he designs for the kids back to his students at Saint Peter's to reinforce their own learning. With the kids, he touches only briefly on reactions and reaction mechanisms, but by the end of the program, which can run for 10 or 20 sessions, depending on the school, the students understand enzymes and active sites. He's been doing the program on his own, but he's eager for collaborators, especially in chemical education, who can help design studies of the program or replicate it in other places. You can learn more by watching a documentary on YouTube called Biochemistry Literacy for Kids.—Celia Arnaud
Have your cake and eat it too with AI.
The rule in computational chemistry is you can be fast or accurate but not both. Researchers say their machine-learning method can predict energies and forces in some molecules as accurately as the best quantum mechanical techniques, and it does so in microseconds compared with hours for those other methods. Read more
Phages flag contaminated water.
Researchers engineered bacteriophage viruses to glow when they find E. coli in water. This simple and sensitive technique offers a detection method that's faster than standard tests and may help catch contaminated water before farmers use it to irrigate their fields. Read more