Newman Projections

You probably don't want me designing your house. I can't look at floorplans and 'see' what the finished building will be like. Similarly, when it came to understanding molecules in 3D, I wasn't a natural. I particularly remember being bad at Newman projections! And yet, as a research organic chemist, my specialty was stereochemistry. How does that work?!

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How do you grok* stereochemistry?

It boils down to one thing - practice! I thought stereochemistry was an interesting challenge, and I also made an early investment in a molecular model set. I made models of everything and tried to get my head around how the object in my hand related to the drawings on the page. Slowly the puzzles fit together, and eventually I understood it better than the rest of the class.

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Birth of a new man...

Once you've mastered the art of naming alkanes, sooner or later in organic chemistry, you're going to have to draw Newman projections. And not just draw them, but convert between them and line-bond (aka bond-line or zig-zag) structures. In the video below, I've distilled the process for doing this, and I guide you through two examples.

"But model sets are expensive!"

Or, "I've lost mine", or "they take too long to use", or "damn atoms and bonds are too hard to pull apart", or... There's a lot reasons why a model set might not be for you. I totally get it. But, you still need practice. What's a chemist to do?

Technology to the rescue!

I feel your pain, so I created some interactive models for you, below. Grab a pen and some paper, and use the model to draw Newman projections for each of these from the point of view indicated by the beady little eye. You can check your answers by expanding the tab below each question!

Practice Question 1

Answer

Practice Question 2

Answer

Are you now a Newman Ninja?

Are you feeling confident with these? Like a Newman ninja? Let me know in the comments below, and please tell me what you think of having practice questions with interactive molecules like this!


Notes

*I learnt the word 'grok' from an American podcast and I love it! But whenever I use it here in Australia, no-one understands. If you haven't heard it before, it means to "understand (something) intuitively or by empathy."

If you'd like to use the hexagonal template from the video in your own studies, complete and submit the form below to get it as a free PDF.

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  • Victor says:

    I dunno who uses grok in ‘Murica either haha learned it from you!

    • Mark Coster says:

      OK, must be just the weird podcasts I listen to then! Apparently it comes from the scifi book Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. I’ve never read it, though.

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