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Benchtop NMR Insights from Jessica L. Bonjour, PhD, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater
While the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater has a high-field spectrometer available for teaching and research, Dr. Bonjour has begun to implement use of the Thermo Scientific™ picoSpin™ 45 benchtop NMR spectrometer due to its portability, ease of use, and low cost—including training in NMR for high school chemistry teachers.
Question: When did you first learn about benchtop NMR?
Dr. Bonjour: I was first exposed to the picoSpin 45 NMR spectrometer when John Frost gave a presentation at UW-Rock County. Kristen Plessel, a friend from graduate school, invited me to join in the presentation and demonstration. John Frost also came to UW–Whitewater for several of our events to further our interest in the 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. Bonjour: The chemistry department is privileged to have a 300 MHz NMR Spectrometer accessible by our teaching and research labs. Students and faculty have full access and run samples for both purposes. We continue to do so. The picoSpin 45 spectrometer has become a complement to our 300 MHz instrument.
Question: What decision criteria did you have when you decided to acquire a benchtop NMR?
Dr. Bonjour: Our project has a significant outreach component, so we were looking primarily for portability. Low cost was another factor as we were able to purchase the instrument through funds provided by a Strategic Initiatives Grant through UWW. Because of the portability and ease of use, we are allowing local high school chemistry teachers to bring their instrument into their classrooms. We provided a one-day teacher workshop last fall to train the teachers on the instrument as well as refresh their memory on NMR spectroscopy theory and interpretation. Once they completed the workshop they were eligible to use the instrument in their classroom. We plan to have another workshop this fall due to continued interest.
Question: How is benchtop NMR currently being utilized/integrated into your chemistry curriculum?
Dr. Bonjour: We currently use the picoSpin 45 NMR spectrometer in our organic chemistry teaching labs. It is used for both unknown analysis as well as a structural confirmation after a synthesis.
Question: What are your initial impressions of benchtop NMR capabilities and impact on chemistry education?
Dr. Bonjour: Exposing our students to a new technology mirrored with the standard NMR technology has allowed them to see the benefits of each instrument as well as the flexibility in the technology. It has been even more significant to get NMR spectroscopy into the high school classrooms. This is a topic that is rarely taught, but now that they have the ability to obtain data themselves, it is giving teachers additional resources and opportunities to provide to their students.
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Interview date: June, 2014