Molecular Model Kits

One of the signature aspects of Reed’s chemistry curriculum is its emphasis on molecular models. Models are extraordinarily useful tools for discovering, developing, and sharing ideas, and you will work with them frequently in Chem 201.

Physical v. Electronic

Molecular models mostly fall into two categories:

  • Physical models are usually made out of plastic (or wood, or metal). The plastic pieces represent atoms in a particular way and can be connected together to make larger structures. Once upon a time, physical models were the only option available, and they retain some lovely features: they are truly 3D, you can hold them in your hand, and they can be manipulated with your fingers. These three features should not be overlooked; certain things are learned more easily by manual play.
  • Electronic computer-generated models have become standard tools in scientific research. These models are constructed mathematically, that is, the model is produced by having the computer calculate the model’s properties (geometry, energy, polarity, and so on). Although the models are defined mathematically, their geometries can be rendered as 2-D images on the computer screen, and these images can be rotated and moved (and much more besides). This course will not teach you the theory underlying modeling computations, nor will it teach you how to write computer programs for making models, but it will provide practice in using two commercial modeling programs, Spartan and Odyssey. The two programs focus on different types of models. Spartan primarily makes static models that provide a detailed “snapshot” of molecular properties, whereas Odyssey primarily makes models containing many molecules that show how the molecules move and interact over short periods of time (1-100 ps).

Getting Access

Plastic model kits are kept in a bucket (or box) in the computer lab and in the chemistry student lounge, room 401.

Spartan and Odyssey have been installed on each of the computers in the chemistry computer lab, room 203.

You will be permitted to use models (both types) on quizzes and the final exam so we strongly recommend that you practice working with models so that you can take good advantage of them.

Take your models with you

You should never remove the plastic models from the computer lab or the student lounge, but you can buy your own. The Chemistry Stockroom sells a very inexpensive, easy to use kit ($20 cash). The kit is light, backpack-friendly (especially if you pour the pieces into a little bag), and reasonably sturdy. Once you begin carrying it around, you will have a kit handy whenever you need it (including exams). Besides, nothing says to your dormie, “I’m taking o chem. Respect my suffering.” like a plastic molecule hanging from your backpack. (Thinking of buying a used kit? Make sure it contains the pieces you need: parts list + photos.)

Inexpensive electronic model kits are also available. We have a campus site license for both Spartan ’16 and Odyssey Student v.5. This means that you can download both of these programs to your personal computer and use them while you are on campus (you also need to be connected to the internet).

  • Spartan ’16 access. Go to downloads.reed.edu, scroll down to Spartan ’16, and follow the instructions there
  • Odyssey Student v.5 access. Go to Wavefunction’s downloads page, scroll down to the appropriate version of Odyssey STUDENT, and use the link to save the installer program to your computer. Installation is accomplished in the same way you might install any other program. Make sure you select “Network license” and enter the same license server information that was used for Spartan ’16.

Some other Spartan options worth considering: iSpartan ($19.99 for the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) and Spartan Student, a more flexible program for full-fledged computers (Windows/Mac, $50). Neither of these programs are as powerful as Spartan ’16, but once you buy them, they are yours and you can use them anywhere you want.