Re: Teaching organic chemistry the old-fashioned way, “Engrave it on your heart!”
Dear Lab Instructor,
My own chemistry professors were fond of this expression. If a concept was truly important, they tried to make it exciting with just a few choice words. Enthusiasm still works! But Protasis has some new ways to make your teaching experience memorable and boost your student ratings.
Join a historic collaboration with industry. Since 2005, Protasis Corporation has worked with several large pharmaceutical companies and ACD/Labs to develop departmental automation systems for Computer Automated Structure Verification/Elucidation (CASE) using NMR (and MS). More recently, we have deployed these same fluidic, robotic and software systems in the chemistry departments at several major universities. Why? We want to give your students access to the same modern tools that are accelerating discovery research in the real-world. Tools that acquire thousands of spectra per month and allow rapid confirmation so synthesis chemists can answer the age-old questions, “Did I Make What I Thought I Made?”, or, more simply, “What Is This Sample Made Of?” And these answers must be quick. Nobody likes to wait. Especially students.
Departmental automation designed to optimize company workflows. Big pharma needs more information. But, in industry, this search must be particularly time- and cost-effective. Companies like Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, Bristol-Myers and Amgen have automated their Medicinal Chemistry departments with Protasis to support dozens of synthesis chemists making hundreds of molecules each week. Our One-Minute NMR automation systems accept all of these samples in microplates (from libraries) or sealed vials (from walk-up). We automatically load each sample, run multiple experiments and interface seamlessly with ACD/Labs structure verification software. Then information-rich reports are emailed out to each user with hot-links to the match/purity scores and the raw spectra itself. Panoramic viewers allow zooming, panning, integrating and quantifying of your spectral data. These are the best tools for the most important problems in science. Check out our journal papers for some references from these active customers.
Now this same experience is available to your students. Dozens of graduate students at the prestigious BU-CMLD (Boston University Center for Chemical Methodology and Library Development) have used Protasis CapNMR probes and One-Minute NMR automation systems since 2008 to confirm their reactions. They deliberately scale down their syntheses to save money and time. They submit their samples in inexpensive plastic vials and walk away. This system uses a Varian 400 MHz NMR system. The system integrates with ACD/Labs software and everyone gets their results by email at their desk or dorm room as soon as their experiments are complete.
But does this work with undergraduates? We’re doing NMR automation now at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) in the organic chemistry teaching labs. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in the Fall 2010 term, 200 students submitted samples five times during the 2010 fall term in their introductory laboratory course for different teaching experiments. That is a lot more NMR usage than we find in most teaching labs. At each school, the samples are processed in a few hours and the results were circulated to each student.
Illinois “injects” instrument innovation. The UIUC Organic Chemistry Teaching system is based upon a small-footprint (only 24”W x 36”D) Protasis WorkCenter package. It supports a CTC/LEAP HTC PAL Liquid Handler that can store hundreds of sample in plates or vials and load samples with a two minute cycle time. Samples are pushed to a Protasis CapNMR© Probe by a Protasis HTSL pumping module that can support up to four dedicated NMR solvents. Each deuterated solvent is carefully sparged and degassed and protected from moisture by blanketing with pure helium or nitrogen. The system includes its own web server and database to enable efficient sample log-in over your university’s network. A built-in real-time process server talks to the spectrometer, controls the liquid handler robotics and pump fluidics and monitors overall performance. And no need to climb ladders!
The Greensboro Guarantee: Quality Undergraduate Education. In 2010, a One-Minute NMR system was installed at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, specifically to modernize their teaching laboratory and reinforce their already-strong emphasis on a quality undergraduate student experience. An existing Varian 300 MHz NMR system has now found new life and easily keeps up with the expanded workflow from dozens of undergrads. This same system supports Natural Product research. In student work, Franklin Moye, the UNCG NMR Facility Manager, appreciates the "signal-to-noise gain in working with lower sample volumes." He notes that "shimming and tuning are rather simple using the CapNMR probe." But the most important element in daily use may be the simplicity that comes with using a standard liquid handler. Moye points out that "users can quickly learn how to run samples using CapNMR. It is only a four (simple) step procedure to add a sample onto the queue using the One-Minute NMR web-based applicaton."
Boosting Performance from Existing NMR systems. Miniaturization is a powerful driver in chemistry. Microcoils can boost sensitivity ten-fold. By reducing scale, we save sample, solvent and magnet time making the combination perfect for Open-Access High Throughput NMR. We can show you how scaling down will pay for itself. One of our Medicinal Chemistry customers used to process 600 samples per month on three 400 MHz machines. One-Minute NMR let them retire two instruments and more than double their workload to 1400 samples per month. But the biggest cost savings is actually upstream. BU-CMLD scales down their reactions and saves money of reagents. That is real money!
Isn’t NMR too complicated for students?. We can make departmental automation simple. Students can log in samples quickly on a single page using any web browser from anywere on campus. Or use bar codes and import data files from your HPLC or LC-MS system. And bar code. Protasis software manages samples log-in and data acquisition, so students do not need to access the spectrometer console directly. One-Minute NMR is like a firewall—eveyone can see what is going on and access their data without placing extra burdens on the facility manager.
Are the fluidics robust? What about plugging? One-Minute NMR fluidics are comparable to the HPLC tubing and fittings that most chemists are already used to. In fact, the CTC/LEAP liquid handler has long been popular in LC-MS departments. Most fluidic problems are easily diagnosed and tubing and fittings are inexpensive and easily replaced. Protasis systems include pressure monitoring and other sensors to monitor system performance and tell you when filters or rotors need to be replaced. Built-in cleaning protocols maintain the flowpath. Networking even allows remote operation by Protasis to monitor system performance and assist with routine task like probe shimming.
How do I get the samples loaded? Here’s the best part. When you switch from tubes, you open up NMR to the rest of the modern laboratory. Accept HPLC or LC-MS fractions directly. You’ll find you can look more peaks in your chromatogram because you have more magnet time to spend. Start building personal libraries in microplates of your important molecules. Complete your next Natural Product study with the best archival tools available. Or go deeper and look at which molecules show activity. Or study their metabolites. An automation system can expand your research program with another set of hands. It can work overnight and over the weekend leaving you time to design better experimental studies and interpret new results. It will provide the data that you need quickly and that will speed up your next grant application or journal paper.
Do your students still sign up in ten minute blocks for NMR time? Eliminate queues at the door. With One-Minute NMR, students can reserve space on the NMR system from any web browser on campus ahead of time. When they are ready, they simply drop off (and confirm) their sample at the liquid handler and walk-away. No waiting!
Interestingly enough, the BU-CMLD system runs tubes half the time and plates and vials half the time. No need to give up your NMR tube changer, but guess which half-week processes more samples? At many customers, our Open-Access, High Throughput NMR automation systems process more NMR samples than all of their other magnets combined.
Worried about what all of this might cost? What if it saved you money instead? Automation pays for itself. Here is how. You will save money on deuterated solvents by scaling down. Eiminate the cost (and breakage) of tubes. You’ll save magnet time and get more work down with our faster, sensitive microcoils. Your NMR will be working while you sleep.
Short on capital? We can help. If you buy the probe and find the liquid handler, we’ll supply everything else. Our sample loaders are now Internet Appliances that download the latest software, interact with your spectrometer and bill users through your chargeback accounting system. Cost for the probe? About $60K installed. From there, about $3 per sample.
If you factor in all of the costs to purchase and maintain an NMR system, then COST PER SAMPLE should be your priority. Protasis can get more results from any existing NMR.
How’s Your Social Network? Fostering Collaboration for the Long-Term. Nothing teaches students more about working together better than the laboratory course. But are you 'connected' to the future? Some of our customers are using the cability to share information to create novel combinatorial experiments that inspire students to gather molecular clues, that, when put together, can solve one of the small puzzles of nature. Organic chemistry provides the ideal microcosm to illuminate the larger discovery path of science and make your teaching experience stick.
Reaction Products – The Bottom Line. We believe that adding the best structural tools to your organic chemistry lab course will engage your students so they ‘take home the message’ for each teaching module. You will have the confidence that you can keep up with the additional sample volume without bottlenecks. One lab instructor we talked to recently expressed it this way, “If NMR was cheaper, faster and more reliable we would use it more often.” Nuf’ said.
A few years from now, your students might forget the difference between cis and trans. They might need to look up that multi-step synthesis. The facts that we wish to ‘engrave on our hearts’ might fade with time. But the passion each of us learned for making ‘our own molecule’ will burn in our hearts throughout our career. Protasis wants to support the best teaching practices both at the chalkboard and in the lab to the benefit of the next generation of chemists and their teachers and, by so doing, to all.
We at Protasis would love to tell you more about how we can help you get more results in less time and cost with less sample. We’ll be happy to make the trip to your school to tell the story about how better and faster NMR results can make your organic chemistry lab exciting. Or you might attend one of our regualar e-seminars or open houses at a colleague near you.
CEO, Protasis Corp.
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