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The Coolest and Clearest Chemistry Visualizations on the Web

The study of how chemicals interact, combine and change is fascinating. Chemists, who get do it for a living, also help us understand aspects of how our world works. Their manipulation of chemical processes to form new substances is one of the more vital contributions to our society today.

Chemists are the minds behind innovations such as biodiesel fuel, and less harmful cleaning products for the home, and much more. Perhaps most importantly are their contributions to the development of new medicines and identification of illnesses. So kudos to you for your interest in chemistry!

One of the perks of studying chemistry is that you get use interactive and multimedia resources to learn about chemical compounds. This guide was created to help chemistry teachers and students to take advantage of the resources available online.


The Chemistry and Biology Connection

You will notice that the images cited below fall under the umbrella of biochemistry studies, a branch of science involved with how chemical and physiochemical processes occur within living organisms. These molecular visualizations are not irrelevant to your studies.

Studying chemistry after his undergraduate biology studies was crucial to University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute Dr. Gestwicki who currently researches cures for illnesses like Alzheimer’s. And chemical visualizations are tool such scientists like Dr. Gestwicki use to see what happens if changes are made to highly complex chemical processes.


Great Chemistry Visualizations

  • POLYVIEW 3D is a web-based tool for macromolecular structure visualization and analysis. This crystal structure of the yeast ‘nuclesome core particle’ demonstrates differences in inter-nucleosome interactions. The PyMol program was used in this rendering.
  • ConSurf Server is an advanced bioinformatics tool for determining the evolutionary preservation of amino and nucleic acid positions in certain molecules. Check out the gallery to view some high resolution images.
  • Molecular Visualization Resources (UMASS) is a free resource with interactive tutorials to assist in presentations or for self-exploration. Check out this image of the DNA molucule, the double helix. Uses Jmol and Chime.
  • RCSB Protein Databank is a cache of protein molecule renderings. Here, you can see ABO blood type glycosyltransferases. These are depictions of blood type carbohydrates. Requires Jmol.
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information’s The PubChem Project is a free database of chemical structures of small organic molecules, and information on their biological activities. If you go to PubChem Compound, for example, and query “sebacic acid”, you can view the structure in both 2D and 3D. This cite is used for chemists and biochemists working toward developing new medications.

You’ve probably noticed that it’s necessary to download one or more of the following programs to view or design your own chemical illustrations.

Additional Resources for Learning Chemistry Online:

You have probably looked at an organism under a microscope in science class. Suddenly a piece of leaf or drop of water transform into a new world. While identifying the structures that make up the image you see through the lens, you gain a perspective on the material that you could never get from a textbook.

In the same way, chemistry and biochemistry images help us to better see and understand complex processes. And this is just a beginning. The field of interactive scientific modeling is constantly evolving. Besides, it’s a lot of fun.