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Making Molecules

At the level we can see them, medicines look like tablets, pills or liquids. At a much smaller level, tinier than we can see, they have a much wider variety of shapes. They’re often so tiny that we must use special lab equipment to know what they look like. Each type of medicine has its own shape. They can have rings, lines, all sorts of shapes. They work in three dimensions!

Meet the Scientist!

Amy is a medicinal chemist. A chemist is someone who mixes chemicals to make new things and a medicinal chemist is doing the same, but they want the new things to become medicines! Her job is to go into labs and make desired molecules to be tested as a medicine. Her job is to be in a lab using different types of tiny building blocks called atoms which are joined together to make bigger things called molecules. For example, a carbon atom and two oxygen atoms joined together makes carbon dioxide, CO2, which is a gas which makes fizzy drinks fizzy! Medicines are just big molecules with lots of different atoms.

We can model the 3D structures of medicines to see what they look like. There are modelling kits that you can buy, but it’s also easy enough to do it with things you might find around the house. Fruit can be a surprisingly useful tool for science! Try out this molecule making activity using pieces of fruit as different atoms.

Also see our other Galleries.

Amy McIntosh (Women In STEM)
Amy McIntosh works in the Drug Discovery Unit at the University of Dundee. Learn more about her job and career journey in her career profile.
Molecule Making
Molecule Making (PDF)

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