Ideas for UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry undergraduates sheltering at home

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Vice Chair of Undergraduate Education Professor Anastassia Alexandrova offers some ideas of how our undergraduate students can stay productive at home. 

A chemistry undergraduate student recently asked the department for suggestions of what she can do to keep learning while sheltering at home. Here some great ideas from Professor Alexandrova:

Throw your efforts into learning computation chemistry and coding in python:

Python is tremendously useful whatever you do. You can compute or plot/replot anything in real time, and use it as a tool when talking with your advisor about experimental work. You can do more serious coding projects if you want. Click here to read the first lab manual from Professor Alexandrova’s class, where students learn to code in python from level zero.  

Eventually it gets all the way to machine learning. If you are interested in taking your python coding skills all the way to machine learning, please contact Prof. Alexandrova for additional information. Computational chemistry can help you with any experiment as well. You can always generate your own computational insight without calling a theory friend, if you know some basics. Note that this might require understanding some quantum mechanics. 

Learn about what computational chemistry can do:

Listen to a great selection of lectures from the annual Virtual School in Theoretical Chemistry:

For students who have taken CHEM 113A – Physical Chemistry: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics:

Teach yourself by doing these short computational labs:

If you are already familiar with basic concepts of quantum chemistry and want to get hands-on experience, teach yourself by doing these short computational labs: To get going, you only need to install free IQmol software (see instructions in the page linked above). 

Learn Gaussian 16:

UCLA also holds a cite license for Gaussian16, which is a great program to learn, with many options for mechanisms, spectroscopy, etc.

For students who have not taken 113A:

Play with the University of California, San Francisco (USCF) Chimera program:

If you are interested in biochemistry, you can play with the UCSF Chimera program, which is a free and powerful tool for visualisation and manipulation of biomolecules:  

It has a nice manual with examples, and the visual effects that you would get are exciting. In Chimera, you can learn some skills for illustrations in your future published articles.

Engage in theoretical and computational research!

Undergraduates – how are you staying productive and continuing your chemistry and biochemistry learning during this challenging time? Let us know at

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,