Dean Johnston

20 September 2017

Otterbein University


About Otterbein

  • Otterbein University is a small, private, liberal arts university founded in 1847
  • Approximately 3000 students enrolled
  • Only undergraduate programs in most areas
  • The Department of Chemistry has six full-time faculty and four part-time faculty

Where is Otterbein?


A Brief History of Symmetry@Otterbein


The First Version

  • "Version 1.0" of the Otterbein symmetry website appeared in 2000 and utilized the Chime plug-in for the Netscape Navigator browser. It included illustrations of symmetry elements and animations of symmetry operations.


Chime to Jmol

  • In 2006, the website was updated from Chime to Jmol, the new Java-based molecular viewer that brought many more features.
  • With support from the National Science Foundation from 2006-08, the website was expanded to include the Symmetry Gallery and Symmetry Challenge.


Tracking Visitors


  • About 60% of the users come from outside the US.
  • Currently, about 25% are using a mobile device.

Current and Future Work


Current Materials

  • Three central pages
    • Symmetry Tutorial - a short introduction to molecular symmetry
    • Symmetry Gallery - a collection of over 100 molecules and models with interactive display of symmetry elements and operations
    • Symmetry Challenge - an interactive, guided flowchart for point group determination

Current Materials

  • Related pages (some at Crystals@Otterbein)
    • Symmetry@Otterbein: Space Groups - example space groups with interactive representations and animations of symmetry operations
    • Representations of the Crystallographic Point Groups - a "decorated solid" version using geometric shapes with colored faces to illustrate the 32 crystallographic point groups
    • Crystal Packing - an illustration of the layers and packing simple metallic and ionic solids

Motivations (for new pages)

  • Current pages are not mobile-friendly
    • they have small controls that are difficult to navigate
    • the design does not adapt well to small or skinny (portrait) screens
  • Code base is difficult to maintain
    • combination of Jmol scripting language and JavaScript
    • separate but overlapping code for each project

New Development

  • All new pages are being developed using the Angular framework
  • ⇒ modular development of components (controls and views) and services (io, drawing, animation)
  • ⇒ development using a single code base
  • Material Design components for consistent and mobile-friendly controls




Thanks to all who have provided support, encouragement, and suggestions over the years.

  • Steve Koch (SUNY Stony Brook) for discovering my website and encouraging further development
  • Bob Hanson (St. Olaf) for his amazing work on Jmol (and JSmol)
  • Tobin Marks (Northwestern) for introducing me to the beauty of symmetry and group theory
  • And the CCDC for providing an endless source of unique and interesting examples