On Drawing Chemical Structures

What are some of your chemical drawing frustrations?

Those who know me well know that I have obsessively neat handwriting. This has presented an interesting conundrum in the context of chemistry classes, many of which are somewhat rapid-fire expositions of reactions, transition-state structures, and tables of substrates. Anyone who has to jot down 100+ structures in fifty minutes develops certain, shall we say, quirks of chemical drawing. I personally often fall victim to my tendency to start drawing structures on the far left of the page, only to get frustrated by having to draw the left half of a molecule in the margin. Just this Friday, the left half of (DHQD)2PHAL, the Sharpless asymmetric dihydroxylation catalyst, ended up scrunched in the margin of my organic synthesis notes. Talk about annoying!

Why do professors start in the middle?! Grr!

Other personal annoyances include “tipped” benzenes and cyclohexanes (I hate that “sad face” resonance structure of benzene), left-handed chairs, and hashed bonds (it bugs me if the spacing between the lines isn’t just right). As weird as that sounds, I think as chemists we all have our drawing pet peeves. What are some of yours?



  1. Physical organic was a crash course in drawing 3D structures rapidly, though I still struggle with properly drawing norbornenes (correct bond angles, reasonable bond lengths, etc.)


  2. I kept all my notes from undergrad; I should dig up the organic ones and see just how terrible my structures were. I have never quite got the hang of the perfect structure, although one thing that helped me quite a bit was color-coding with three different colored pens.

    My pet peeve is drawing structures on a whiteboard/chalk board. I have serious problems drawing legible structures on paper, let alone on on a surface 90° normal to what I’m used to! Not that it’s cool to be lazy about drawing structures, but I wish I could get a little slack in that area.


  3. I guess I just feel like WordPress is a cleaner, more complete blogging service overall. I’m not much of a web coder, so limited options for CSS don’t bother me, and to make up for that I think they provide a lot of customizability built into their interface. Getting to know it was a somewhat steep learning curve (as steep as the learning curve for a blogging site can be…), but now that I’m comfortable with it, I like it more than Blogger. It’s also quite a bit less buggy in terms of the posting interface…layouts of posts are much more WSIWYG.


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