Chemistry for Biologists

Chemistry for Biologists: About

Welcome to the Chemistry for Biologists website supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Biochemical Society. The aim of the site is to help you understand the chemistry and chemical principles that underlie a good deal of biology. It assumes that you have studied some chemistry (either as a separate subject or as part of a balanced science course to GCSE level or equivalent). The site is aimed at post-16 students taking Biology (or related subjects) to AS-, A2- Scottish Higher or similar level. It will also be of use to first year undergraduates studying biology.

Go straight to the contents

How to use the site

The material is organised into 17 topics. You may study these in any order, although it might be a good idea to tackle Some basic chemistry first. There are hyperlinks between chapters that will lead you through the material via a route that is appropriate to your needs. Each chapter has short multiple choice test accompanying it that you can take at any time and which will be scored for you. You can use these tests in a number of ways:

  • before tackling each chapter to help you decide whether or not you need to work through the chapter or not;

  • after studying a chapter to check your understanding; or

  • before and after studying a chapter to see how much you have improved.

Most chapters include:

  • text;
  • diagrams;
  • animations;
  • rotatable 3-D representations of molecules; and
  • links to other websites.

The rotatable molecules are important because a great deal of biochemistry depends on the three-dimensional shapes of molecules - how substrates fit the active sites of enzymes, how drug molecules fit receptors in cells, for example. It is worth looking at the Help section to find out how to use all the features of Chime, the plug in that lets you explore the rotatable molecules. As well as rotating the molecules, you can zoom in our out, resize the window, display them in different ways - space filling, ball and stick, skeletal and with hydrogen atoms omitted for example.

What you will need to use the site

There is full technical information in the Help section but essentially you will need:

  • A computer with a web browser and an internet connection. The site has been designed for use with Internet Explorer™ and its features will work best with this browser.

  • Microsoft Powerpoint ™ installed on your computer. This is included with many versions of Microsoft Office™ but if you do not have it, Powerpoint Viewer™ may be downloaded and installed free of charge. This will enable you to view the animations.

  • The MDL Chime plug in for your browser. This will enable you to view and manipulate the rotatable molecules. It is also available for free download.

Some of the external websites may require other software - Flash™, or Shockwave™, for example. You may well have this installed already. If not, the site will normally detect this and give you instructions as to how to download and install it. None of these downloads should take more than a few minutes with a 56 k modem and will be even quicker with a broadband connection.

If you are using this site with a dial-up internet connection, please make sure that you have the permission of whoever pays the phone bills.

Good luck with your biology - we hope that using this site will help your understanding and enjoyment of both the biology and the underlying chemistry.

This site was launched in June 2004.