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Benchtop NMR Insights from Janet Marshall, Ph.D., Miami University - Middletown
Interview conducted by Dean Antic, Senior NMR Applications Scientist at Thermo Fisher Scientific
Thermo Scientific™ picoSpin™ NMR lesson plans have proven to be a very popular and valuable resource for chemistry educators to obtain, collaborate, and share ideas on how benchtop NMR is being incorporated into teaching curriculum. One of our early contributors is Janet Marshall, Ph.D., from the Miami University Middletown, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Since posting her lesson plan, the page has generated over 275 views and downloads! Given the positive reception and interest in her lesson plan, I reached out to Dr. Marshall to get additional perspectives and insights on the growing influence of benchtop NMR spectroscopy in chemical education, and to learn more about how benchtop NMR is being used at Miami University Middletown.
Question: When did you first learn about benchtop NMR?
Dr. Marshall: I first learned about benchtop NMR approximately 2 years ago when picoSpin introduced the instrument to the market (via an email announcement). At the time, I contacted the company and spoke with a representative about the capabilities and cost of the 45 MHz instrument.
Question: Prior to purchasing your benchtop NMR, were you doing any type of NMR spectroscopy? Was it being integrated into your chemistry teaching curriculum?
Dr. Marshall: Prior to purchasing our picoSpin instrument, we were not doing any experimental NMR at Miami Middletown. The subject was being taught in the organic laboratory course using spectra from the literature/textbooks/etc.
Question: What decision criteria did you have when you decided to acquire a benchtop NMR?
Dr. Marshall: Since learning of the availability and affordability of the picoSpin NMR, I had an interest in acquiring one for our teaching labs. Last summer, the Dean's office at Miami Middletown provided funds for us to upgrade our chemistry lab instrumentation, and we purchased our picoSpin 45MHz instrument with some of those funds.
Question: How is benchtop NMR currently being utilized/integrated into your chemistry curriculum?
Dr. Marshall: We are in the beginning stages of integrating our picoSpin 45 MHz instrument into our chemistry curriculum. We've utilized it in our second semester organic chemistry laboratory course in an Introduction to Experimental NMR lab.
Over the summer, I'll be working on incorporating the instrument into several other lab experiments for use next year. These include the Isomerization of Carvone experiment (from the literature) where I currently give the students a copy of the literature NMR (1H and 13C) spectra of the isomerized product (carvacrol). In the future, students will acquire the 1H NMR spectrum of their actual product. I'm also planning to work out an esterification experiment where students will react an unknown alcohol with acetic acid (or another known acid). They will have to determine the identity of their alcohol and structure of the resulting ester product via 1H NMR analysis of both. I'd also like to explore using the instrument for 19F NMR.
In addition, the regional campuses of Miami University have recently received approval from the state of Ohio for a new bachelor's degree in Forensic Science and Investigation. The degree has two majors – one in Forensic Science and one in Forensic Investigation. The coursework for the Forensic Science major requires a number of courses in chemistry, including a full year of organic chemistry and several upper-level analytical courses. We plan to integrate the picoSpin NMR into the analytical courses. Since students will have already been introduced to the instrument in the organic chemistry lab, the continued use of the instrument with a forensic science focus naturally fits.
Question: What are your initial impressions of benchtop NMR capabilities and impact on chemistry education?
Dr. Marshall: The affordability of the picoSpin 45MHz NMR, low operating costs, and ease of use of the instrument have made experimental NMR possible at Miami Middletown. In our experience, the instrument is most suited for the analysis of liquid samples (vs. solids) so our focus is on incorporating its use into labs where liquid reactants are used or liquid products are obtained. My students really enjoy figuring out if their experiment worked by analyzing their products, and the picoSpin NMR has allowed us to incorporate an additional (and powerful) method of analysis into our teaching labs.
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Interview date: May 1, 2014