Adding Dimensions to Oxford Science


Jessica Poole Mather reports from Dr Nick Greeves’ talk, ‘Chemistry: Live and in 3D’ to the Oxford University Science Society

A piece of paper is effectively two dimensional. While many textbooks can seem all too weighty and real, they are limited by the fact that they can only convey 2D images to the reader. “I think nothing beats a really good textbook”, Nick Greeves remarked when he came to talk in the Inorganic Lecture Hall, however he argued that the future of teaching chemistry lies on computers.

Along with colleagues from the University of Liverpool, Greeves has set up a website – Chemtube3D – that is able to display molecules and the motions of their many different reaction mechanisms in chemistry, all in 3D. The images are programmed by summer students at Liverpool, and a dictionary of reactions has been built up, which is available online to the general public.

Greeves was very keen that people gained an awareness of the website and its uses. Already it is used by thousands of people in many different countries. “Oxford is a real hotspot of activity”, he told us, saying that this city had the most students visiting the website, followed by Cambridge and Liverpool.

Before the launch of the website, Greeves was best known for writing the widely used textbook, ‘Organic Chemistry’, which, if the name suggests anything about the quantity of content, certainly could not be considered a two dimensional object. He seemed keen to move on from what he referred to as “that dreadful book”, and into the modern world of computing.

“There is almost no limit”, he said. With computing technology progressing so rapidly, ways of teaching and learning should naturally follow, and Oxford science students are one of the leading groups adopting these methods.


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