Honors 2005 finalist: University of Michigan

Von Mary K.

Mustapha Beleh saw limits in standard teaching tools like blackboards, overhead projections and PowerPoint presentations. They give only two-dimensional glimpses to concepts that deserve 3-D explanations. So Beleh developed the Medicinal Chemistry Virtual Library, a Web-based teaching tool designed to give more-detailed information to students at the University of Michigan"s College of Pharmacy.

The site has lecture notes with an interactive component that allows students to move with just a click from a concept mentioned in one course to the in-depth explanation that happened in another.

Other features include tutorials given in Flash format and online practice quizzes that determine the question sequence based on student answers. It also has libraries that detail the chemical structures of all clinically available drugs along with their generic and trade names, and links to sound bites to correct pronunciations.

Beleh is adding virtual labs to the site so students can see what happens inside an experiment - something they can"t always see in a real lab.

Beleh, who is a lecturer at the university and a pharmacist, started to work on the Medicinal Chemistry Virtual Library when he first arrived at the University of Michigan in 1999. He did much of the technical work himself. And while Beleh relied on university-developed tools, he says he frequently asked developers to modify the tools so they"d do what he wanted.

Beleh plans to add material from classes beyond the four-course medicinal chemistry sequence. He also wants to develop modular applications so faculty members who aren"t technically skilled can easily work with an interface to get their information online. And he wants to expand the concept beyond the University of Michigan. "I haven"t seen anything close to this," he says, "so I think it would be a very useful tool to others."