5 Engaging Ways to Teach Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy 

Anjaney Kothari

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a powerful analytical technique that elucidates molecular characteristics, whether physical, chemical, or biological. What makes NMR spectroscopy one of the most challenging techniques to master theoretically and practically is that it finds its basis in physics and application in biology and chemistry. This amalgamation of multiple subjects can confuse students and distance them from learning the technique.

There is, therefore, a need to adopt and apply novel teaching techniques for NMR spectroscopy. Here, we list five engaging ways to teach NMR spectroscopy so that the technique is easier to understand and implement.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

It is important to employ interactive models to overcome teaching challenges that regular classroom teaching cannot address. For instance, ensuring that students understand both the theoretical and practical aspects of NMR spectroscopy is a challenge that demands more than conventional teaching. An interactive model can creatively connect theory and practice, offering the students a holistic view of the subject matter.

You can opt for an animated video that takes the students through the theoretical and experimental sides of NMR spectroscopy. Or you could perform a live demonstration of the technique, while going through each component and step involved in it.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Games and activities can immerse the students in a safe yet demanding learning atmosphere while making any topic interesting. They facilitate task-based, stepwise learning in a time-bound fashion, which accelerates learning.

For example, in Labster’s NMR simulation, the students must complete a noble scientific mission. The mission requires the students to understand how a common antibiotic can cause kidney damage as an unwanted side effect. To accomplish the assigned task, the students must learn about:

·   One-, two- and three-dimensional NMR spectroscopy.

·   Using different isotopes of hydrogen or carbon to conduct NMR spectroscopy.

·   Analyzing NMR spectra.

·   How an antibiotic interacts with the kidney by means of a small protein.

NMR machine in a virtual lab.

3. Infuse Technology into the Lesson

Conventional teaching often segregates theory lectures from laboratory experiences. Sophisticated technologies like simulation and virtual reality have done away with this segregation, ushering in an era of holistic education. These technologies help build a deep understanding of the basics while also fully embracing the practical component.

Take Labster’s NMR simulation, for example. In our simulation, it is almost like the students are actually conducting NMR spectroscopy. Only this time, the experiments are going on remotely – in an elaborate, life-like virtual lab. The students learn sample preparation, loading, and running, as well as data analysis – with guidance from a virtual lab assistant!

Patient and medical professional in a hospital room.
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4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

As complex as NMR spectroscopy is, it builds several careers that can potentially change lives. Talking to your students about the professional prospects of NMR spectroscopy can inspire them to intently learn this topic.

Tell your students how some ecologists use NMR spectroscopy to study the molecular structures and characteristics of environmental pollutants. Inform them about how pharmacologists depend on NMR spectra for drug discovery and development. Tell them how food quality control authorities also apply NMR spectroscopy to create a profile of the nutrients found in food products.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

It is always a good idea to ground your study topic in as many real-world applications as possible. To a lot of students, the existence of real-world applications means that they may have a chance to make an impactful difference. Make your students realize that they have a chance to transform the world if they learn how to use NMR.

Tell your students how NMR spectroscopy helps in the diagnosis of diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, and malaria. Talk to them about the crucial role of NMR spectroscopy in identifying environmental pollutants and their impact on living beings.

Final thoughts

NMR spectroscopy is a powerful analytical technique that does not usually receive the same fanfare that some other techniques enjoy. With some little tweaks to their teaching regimen, educators can upgrade the way they teach NMR spectroscopy. The teaching methods we have discussed here can make NMR fun to learn and easier to apply.

a man sitting in front of a computer monitor
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