The Computational Chemistry Laboratory (CCLab) members below are involved in the MedChemBlog project at the Università "Magna Graecia" di Catanzaro (UMG).
Stefano Alcaro has spent a postdoctoral period at Columbia University in the Chemistry lab of Prof. Clark Still and visited Prof. Robert S. Coleman’s lab at the Ohio-State University. From 2011 he is full professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Università "Magna Graecia" di Catanzaro (UMG), where he also coordinated the Life Science PhD programme for ten years. He has co-founded the Net4Science academic spinoff at UMG. His scientific interests are related to the development of new molecular modeling tools useful in the drug discovery process and to the application of in silico methods mainly in the rational design of anticancer and antiviral agents or nutraceuticals, endowed with multi-targeting mechanisms of action. During the pandemic he has proposed a new didactic teaching approach ending up with the creation of the MedChemBlog at UMG.
Isabella Romeo is a post-doc researcher in the medicinal chemistry field. Her experiences in international laboratories, such as the Department of Chemistry at Yale and UAM universities, have allowed her to acquire new skills in the drug discovery process. She is active within the Division of Medicinal Chemistry of the Italian Chemical Society, with a very hands-on approach and a positive outlook for strengthening networks in the young scientific community. Isabella can be found on X here (@IsabellaRomeo9).
Giulia Panzarella is a PhD candidate in Life Science at the Università "Magna Graecia" di Catanzaro and visiting PhD student at the University of Bonn's Life Science Informatics laboratory. Her research focuses on scientometrics and AI technologies, particularly text mining. Giulia is also a journalist and contributes to the OPEN newsletter of the National Federation of Young Italian Pharmacists. You can find her at @panzarellagiuli.
Gianmarco Gualtieri is a Life Science PhD student with a strong focus on computational chemistry. Passionate about exploring innovative solutions in medicinal chemistry, Gianmarco's research revolves around anticancer and antiviral treatments, as well as natural products, applying classical computational techniques. Let's reach Gianmarco on X (@gmgualti).
The COVID-19 pandemic brought significant challenges to traditional teaching methods, particularly in the field of Medicinal Chemistry. The importance of student interaction and a stimulating learning environment was disrupted.
In response, we introduced "MedChemBlog" at the Università "Magna Graecia" di Catanzaro, an innovative approach to distance learning (Fig.1, 2). The benefits of this approach were so strong that MedChemBlog has continued through the return to in-person teaching into the 2023-2024 academic year.
MedChemBlog harnessed the power of scientific resources such as the Protein Data Bank, DrugBank, and PubChem (Fig.3). Through this platform, students collaboratively developed a multimedia tool (Fig.4). A key aspect was the voluntary participation of students, who explored a variety of Medicinal Chemistry topics, acquiring knowledge on the three-dimensionality of compounds and on aspects related to the interactions between drugs and receptors. Their participation in the project also included artistic representations (“MedChemART”) relevant to Medicinal Chemistry (Fig.5).
Feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive, as MedChemBlog significantly increased engagement in General Medicinal Chemistry and Medicinal and Toxicological Chemistry 1 courses. Despite the distance learning format, the blog nurtured a strong sense of community among pharmacy students. Our lessons were complemented by multimedia presentations, and students who actively engaged in MedChemBlog activities achieved better scores in final exams.
At the end of each course, each student, even those who did not participate in MedChemBlog activities, provided feedback via a survey that improved the quality of impressions collected by the instructor. The survey form was linked from the course calendar (i.e., e-learning platform) and could be completed whenever the student’s schedule allowed. An available data summary reported that students would recommend the course, and 74 out of 86 students rated it of high quality.
This study underscores the enduring effectiveness of digital tools like MedChemBlog in enhancing learning and motivation, even in a post-pandemic landscape.
For the complete details, see “MedChemBlog: An Innovative Distance Learning Experience for Teaching Medicinal Chemistry” J. Chem. Educ. (2023) 100: 232–242 doi: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.2c00663
We advocate for the continued adoption of such approaches to strengthen collaboration and community-building in virtual classrooms. The success of this experiment has inspired other educators at our university to explore similar innovative teaching methods. MedChemBlog exemplifies how innovative distance learning can revolutionise Medicinal Chemistry education. It not only addresses the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic but also provides a sustainable solution for boosting student engagement and achieving better learning outcomes.