teaching machines


In an earlier chapter of my life, I had the opportunity to work with a computational chemist at a Department of Energy laboratory to help build MacMolPlt, an application for generating graphical models of molecules. I was given immense freedom to learn and create. It was that job that taught me the most about computer graphics, linear algebra, stereo rendering, software engineering, and open source development.

The software lets one “paint” atoms around a 3D scene, measuring and constraining angles, computing electron orbitals, and sketching up input for GAMESS.

A benzene model along with the "brush" palette---the periodic table.

A benzene model along with the “brush” palette—the periodic table.

A chemistry student asked me about computational chemistry software the other day, and feeling nostalgic, I decided to download the most recent version of the software I had worked on. To my surprise, I found I had received credit in the about box:

The about box from MacMolPlt.

The about box from MacMolPlt.

Thanks, Brett Bode and the federal government, for investing in me. I’m now a better software developer and teacher thanks to that year and a half of tinkering.


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