“Behind the Scenes at MIT” is a series of short videos starring 12 MIT chemists, ranging from undergraduates to professors. Intended for use in high school chemistry classes and introductory college courses, the videos were created for MIT’s own general chemistry course “and for other educators to bring the why and the who of chemistry research into introductory classes,” according to the project’s FAQ. The series highlights the diversity among chemists and illustrates how chemistry impacts everyday life.

Each chemist is featured in two separate videos. In one, they discuss their personal research and its real-world applications, with a nod to specific chemical concepts, such as pH. The idea is “to illuminate the connection between what students are learning in introductory chemistry and how those basic principles are essential for cutting-edge research,” according to the FAQ.

In a second video, the researchers explain how or why they became a chemist, sometimes sharing stories of challenges they’ve overcome along the way. In her video, MIT professor of chemistry and biology Cathy Drennan, who is also the executive producer of the “Behind the Scenes” series, recalls being told she would never graduate from high school due to her severe dyslexia. Instead, Drennan says, her dyslexia has given her a special talent for understanding protein shapes.

“Behind the Scenes at MIT” was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) through an HHMI Professors Grant to Drennan. The HHMI Professors Program recognizes accomplished research scientists who are deeply committed to making science more engaging for undergraduates. Drennan also holds a prestigious HHMI Investigator award for her excellence and innovation in research.

Read more about the video project (“The New Faces of Chemistry”) in the Fall 2014 HHMI Bulletin.

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