Zoom Background Competition

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To earn bonus points, undergraduate students in Teacher Scholar Instructor Dr Daniel Nasrallah’s Fall Chem 30BL class created clever Zoom background images.

The students who created the six winning images below received five bonus points on the final exam for their imaginative creations. “We did not award 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes because we thought everyone did so well!” said Nasrallah, who joined the department last Fall as the 2020-21 Donald J. Cram Teacher-Scholar.  Nasrallah%2BDaniel 1“As the students have shared below, teaching and taking a lab course through a virtual format has been challenging,” Nasrallah, pictured right, said. “However, it is clear from many of the designs submitted that students learned about the chemical processes we explored and the techniques we used to investigate these molecules. I am really pleased with all of the submissions we received and over 70% of the class participated so we had a bunch of great options to choose from.”  In addition to teaching Chem 30BL – Organic Chemistry Laboratory I, Nasrallah conducts research in Professor Neil Garg’s laboratory. “My inspiration for this contest came from a project my advisor Prof. Garg uses when teaching Chem 14D Organic Reactions and Pharmaceuticals where he encourages students to make music videos about chemistry topics,” he explained. “I wondered how I could apply a similar idea to incorporate creativity, art, and entertainment into my organic chemistry laboratory class online and naturally, Zoom background designs were the way to go. I was totally blown away when I saw the students’ submissions, the artwork and talent that went into these is great. I also really appreciated the comedy and humor aspects of the backgrounds. It is important to me that students not see organic chemistry as an old or rigid course but as a growing field that they can join and contribute to. This quarter, I am teaching 30BL again and using the Zoom backgrounds during my lectures to catch the attention of my students. My hope is that when new students see these designs they will no longer think of organic chemistry as a tough or scary course but as a course that applies to our everyday lives in a way that is interesting and beautiful. This, I hope, will inspire them to pursue future opportunities in STEM fields.”
Zoom background by Nicole Lin (Bioengineering) and Julissa Li (Biology)

Nicole Lin (Bioengineering) and Julissa Li (Biology)

We enjoyed taking classes in the actual laboratories on the UCLA campus so we thought it’d be fun to recreate the look of our chem labs to bring the memories into the virtual classroom. We found photos of the undergraduate chem lab rooms online and based the background off of those and then included little drawings that had to do with our assignments, like the carrot lab and a TLC plate being run. And the bears are for extra cute-ness.

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Briauna Archer (Psychobiology), Anton Mañada (Biochemistry), Vinh Nguyen (Biology),

Matt Prasetyo (Bioengineering) and Andres Guadron (Biochemistry)

Our Zoom background was an amalgamation of all ideas brought to the table by each groupmate. We combined the lab experiments that were performed in Chemistry 30BL with an anthropomorphic take on nanoputians, using pictures of our professor’s head which resulted in what we hoped would be a Zoom background that’s both humorous and educational.

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Hayk Mirzoyan (Psychobiology)

Since this was my final course at UCLA, I thought about the many interesting aspects of chemistry and integrated them to make a synchronized piece to capture my gratitude for UCLA and for chemistry.

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Neha Iyer (Bioengineering), Tanushree Pal (Math/Applied Science & Biochemistry), and Tejas Patel (Biochemistry)

When we heard about the Zoom background contest, we wanted to create something that encapsulated the most important concepts we learned in Chem 30BL, which led us to include the H-NMR and IR spectra of isoamyl acetate (the major compound present in banana oil, which we studied in one of the experiments) and to use the peaks from both of these graphs to draw lab equipment that played a central role in the course. Once we decided on this format, we wanted to add a “fun” element to the background to mirror Professor Nasrallah’s lectures. We studied experiments involving the production of banana oil and the ketoreductase enzymatic activity of carrots, so we decided to include a minion reaching for a banana and Bugs Bunny digging for a carrot to allude to these labs, and the compounds in the soil represented core compounds that were essential reactant and product molecules involved in the reactions covered in this lab class.


Madeline Trotter


Being completely honest, I prepared this Zoom background shortly before it was due, but I’m very happy with how it turned out. Some of my close friends and I are always sending each other chemistry related memes and jokes, so I knew I wanted to make a background incorporating a few of my favorites. The quarter was a bit insane, trying to learn chemistry techniques in an online lab setting, not to mention the number of other challenges being thrown at everyone, so I hope that my amalgamation of memes was able to bring our teaching staff a little lighthearted comedy.

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Biayna Ghahramanians (Sociology, pre-dental)  For my Zoom background, I decided to draw some of the lab equipment that we unfortunately weren’t able to experiment with hands-on this quarter. Nevertheless, Dr. Nasrallah still managed to make our virtual labs as productive as possible, and we were able to have a great quarter given the circumstances!

Due to the Covid19 pandemic, all courses have been taught online via Zoom since March 2020. Zoom has a feature that allows participants to add a virtual background to their image when they are on a video conference.  

Penny Jennings, UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.