UCLA researchers launched a VR app called VRChem to make learning organic chemistry more engaging for students.
According to Jason Chari, a graduate student in the lab which created the VR app, organic chemistry classes focus on chemical structures but conceiving 3D view can be challenging for students to visualize. This is where the virtual reality app comes into the picture by presenting 3D models that students can interact with in VR.
Students need to use VR headsets and controllers to interact with the virtual molecules. The app takes students into a virtual space where a 3D molecule structure is accompanied by a slide with data about the function of the molecule.
Students can manipulate and hold molecules in VR just like they would with physical molecular models. VRChem provides an edge in knowing 3D models as it can be used to model complex molecular structures which cannot be built with molecular model kits.
VRChem also helps solve difficulties faced by students in visualizing 3D structures beyond molecular model kits.
“What motivated us is to help students be able to visualize organic molecules in three dimensions and also to allow the students to interact with the molecules in a way that they usually wouldn’t be able to in a regular organic chemistry textbook.” – Francesca Ippoliti, a graduate student.
Melissa Ramirez, a graduate student in the lab which created the VR app, mentioned that she hopes the VR labs being a part of chemistry courses in the future where students can interact with 3D molecular structures as they study them.
“It’s always about that spirit of innovating and doing it in the context of education to ultimately provide what should be the best education we can give to anybody, but especially to UCLA students.” – Neil Garg, Chemistry Professor and Head of the lab developing the app.
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