Pursuant to understanding how benchtop NMR is being used in chemical education, I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing one of Thermo Scientific picoSpin customers, Dr. Mike Haaf, Ithaca College. The benchtop NMR story is still being written, and it’s the collection of stories like the one below from Dr. Haaf that provide valuable insight and perspective on how benchtop NMR is being utilized in a real-life chemical education setting.
In the case of Ithaca College, the picoSpin NMR is in the early stages of being integrated into the chemistry program and curriculum, but Dr. Haaf’s responses on applications and early discoveries are of great interest and value to those considering future benchtop NMR investments.
Question: When did you first learn about benchtop NMR?
Dr. Haaf: We learned about it at the 2012 PittCon meeting in Orlando, and we were immediately excited about the prospect of acquiring this new 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. Haaf: Yes, we do quite a bit of NMR spectroscopy here, and it is heavily integrated in our teaching curriculum, beginning in the first year of our program. NMR theory and practice is emphasized repeatedly throughout our curriculum in various laboratory courses, and we also offer an upper level elective dedicated to the practical interpretation of NMR spectra.
Question: What decision criteria did you have when you decided to acquire a benchtop NMR?
Dr. Haaf: Small footprint and price.
Question: How is benchtop NMR currently being utilized/integrated into your chemistry curriculum?
Dr. Haaf: We wanted something that could do NMR spectra on simple organic liquids in our teaching labs. In part, the hope was to show students how to use a simple NMR spectrometer (before graduating to the superconducting NMR). We also hoped that this instrument might help to decrease traffic on our larger instrument, freeing it up for more research students. It has somewhat helped us to achieve these goals, though I think we could find other, more meaningful ways to incorporate the benchtop unit. We had also tried to use the benchtop instrument to monitor a reaction “in flow” by attaching it to a microfluidic reactor. However, we are still exploring how best to approach this problem. We also plan on bringing the instrument right into the classroom for live demonstrations during our units on NMR. This will certainly help to bring the material to life and take some of the mystery out of the process.
Question: What are your initial impressions of benchtop NMR capabilities and impact on chemistry education?
Dr. Haaf: It’s a pretty nice instrument, given its size and price. I am hoping the picoSpin instrument will further improve their instruments to give spectra with better peak resolution.
Interview date: May 15, 2014
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