Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

A curly arrows app for Chemistry?

A curly arrows app for Chemistry?

Team members: Alison Hulme, Peter Kirsop, Stephen Gilmore


The use of curly arrows to indicate the movement of a pair of electrons was first introduced by Sir Robert Robinson in 1922. In the organic chemistry textbook used across all undergraduate years at the University of Edinburgh, it states that, “it is no exaggeration to say that this simple device is one of the most powerful tool chemists have for explaining simply and accurately how reactions work - in other words the mechanisms of reactions”.

Learning to handle this formalism to describe reactions mechanisms is thus a fundamental skill for thinking and practising like a chemist and a crucial Chemistry 1 learning objective. The need to update our teaching support in this area provides us with a unique opportunity to explore a step change in how we get our students to engage with technology to assist with their learning.

This project will employ a small group of students over the summer of 2014 to develop a “Curly arrows” interactive app for use as a teaching tool with a user-friendly, modern interface.

The app will be used alongside the Chemistry 1 courses in 2014-15 with the intention of rolling out its use to the Biological Chemistry 1 and (possibly) higher years Chemistry courses in 2015 onwards.

The project involves collaboration between the School of Chemistry (Hulme/Kirsop) and the School of Informatics (Gilmore) and is innovative in using students, with appropriate skills, to develop tools for use by other students.


Final Project Report

Final Report may be downloaded using link below:

Final Project Report (PDF)