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Molecules at your fingertips

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Chemists learn about chemical and biological reactions by studying the interactions between molecular structures. A molecule's shape and its fit with other structures offer clues to its purpose and suggest ways it can be modified to create new reactions. Molecular modeling software lets chemical engineers view 3D models of these structures on screen. But it still can be difficult to grasp the shapes of a complex model this way. And now try to imagine: what would a blind chemist do? A team in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, and Environmental Science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) in Newark decided to apply the rapid prototyping process of stereolithography to produce highly accurate 3D plastic models of molecular structures. One of the team members, William J. Skawinski, a postdoctoral research associate, started to go blind from a degenerative condition while still in college. Skawinski and his research partner, chemistry professor Carol Venanzi, received a $360,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate the technique of creating molecular models for blind students. But like other innovations originally developed for disabled persons (curb cuts for wheel chair users come to mind), many more people will benefit from the project than the visually disabled population

Published in:

IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications  (Volume:15 ,  Issue: 6 )