LSU Chemistry Receives Student Technology Fee Award for a VR Facility


LSU Chemistry | May 12, 2021

Screenshot of VR student presentations using NanomeBATON ROUGE, LA- The LSU Department of Chemistry is pleased to announce the funding of a 2020-2021 LSU Student Technology Fee (STF) Award. The award, titled “LSU CHEM VR: Virtual Reality for Chemistry Education” by Principal Implementer and Project Author Semin Lee, will utilize virtual reality (VR) technology to reinforce spatial learning in chemistry undergraduate and graduate courses. 

For many years, students have utilized 2D media or molecular model kits to learn molecular structures and functional groups.  However, many students have difficulty translating 2D images into 3D objects.  Molecular model kits and computer-aided visualization programs provide more hands-on or advanced learning, but many students still struggle with spatial skills on molecules. 

“VR technology allows students to directly interact with molecules as if they are in front of them,” said Assistant Professor Semin Lee. “It will provide spatial ability training for students and let them gain confidence in understanding 3D molecular structures.”

VR is an innovative 3D technology that helps students understand and learn the spatial relations among objects or space.  Through VR technology, students can easily change the size and orientation of the molecules with their hands, move freely around, observe molecules closely, and even walk inside them. Students can also interact with fellow classmates as if they were nearby. 

“It provides a totally different perspective to looking at molecules compared to traditional visualization tools. VR gives visual and spatial experience of molecules, which no other media can. As a result, students will enhance their spatial abilities to translate 2D chemical drawings into 3D molecular structures better,” Lee said.

The award of $35,747 will establish a VR learning facility in Choppin Hall equipped with 30 Oculus Quest 2 VR devices. The facility, which Lee will manage, will foster discovery-based learning experiences for students enrolled in both undergraduate and graduate-level courses. The equipment will also be utilized at community engagement activities to spark interest in chemistry and other areas in STEM.

Lee has been using VR in his graduate and undergraduate classes and several outreach activities since he joined the LSU faculty in 2017. His active learning pedagogy and the use of VR technology have benefitted students in learning organic chemistry and earned him a 2020 LSU College of Science Undergraduate Teaching Award.  Once the facility is established, Lee will provide training workshops for LSU faculty interested in incorporating VR into their lectures.

 

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Media Contact:
Gretchen Schneider
LSU Chemistry 
gschne2@lsu.edu