The VIRTCHEM Project

Chemistry as you have never seen it before

The second edition of the project VIRtual Immersive Education for CHEMistry and Chemical Engineering (VIRTCHEM) has started with a workshop in Milan, held from 21 to 24 February 2023. This 4EU+ joint course – organized by the University of Milan, Charles University (Prague) and Sorbonne University (Paris) – allows participants to "virtually" dive into the world of chemistry.

What exactly is VIRTCHEM? This is not just a university training in the field of chemistry and industrial chemistry. Thanks to the VIRTCHEM project students have the chance to experience an immersive 3D reality while being part of a stimulating international network. Online preparatory lessons are integrated with virtual exercises thanks to the use of virtual reality (VR) programs, equipped with VR workstations. During the first session of activities held in Milan, students had the chance to investigate the molecule structures thanks to the VEGA ZZ molecular modelling suite. They interacted with a nanometer-scale world through the VR system. By using the chemistry laboratory simulator of inorganic qualitative analyses LabSim, participants took the challenge of practising as in a real laboratory. A Crude Distillation Unit industrial plant, coupled with a simulation plant software (AVEVA XR for Training and DYNSIM programs), has provided a realistic process environment in which students could visit a real plant safely and without physical limitations, and exercise with the different plant parts.

“The VIRTCHEM project is focused on the use of innovative teaching techniques which allow students to interact with typical elements of the chemical world. This brings students closer to modern technologies that are increasingly used to simulate real situations, and it allows forinteractive learning of theoretical and practical notions which can then be effectively transferred to the real world."

 Prof. Alessandro Pedretti, University of Milan

This first training week held in Milan will be followed by two more on-site workshops, hosted by Sorbonne University (from 3 to 7 April 2023) and Charles University (from 9 to 12 May 2023). Through these cumulative experiences, students are expected to complete their learning pathway by collecting data and analysing them with the support of their lecturers.

“The next workshops in Paris and Prague will be unique occasions to further enrich our background and largely go beyond our national bias in the study of chemistry. The combination of different methodological approaches adopted in these three Universities will help us in deepening our knowledge and opening our minds”.

Irene Presti, 4EU+ student, University of Milan

The Virtual Immersive Crude Distillation Unit industrial plant (AVEVA XR for Training and DYNSIM softwares), at the University of Milan

“In my opinion, the VIRTCHEM project fits perfectly into the 4EU+ Flagship 3 as it is a computer-based project that made the setup of real environments, such as an industrial plant, a chemistry laboratory or a molecule seen and manipulated at atomic level, possible. These tools allowed us to offer a highly innovative learning experience to the participants from the 3 universities of Milan, Charles (Prague) and Sorbonne (Paris).”                                                        

 Prof. Carlo Pirola, University of Milan

In the conclusive step of the VIRTCHEM project (26 May 2023), participants will meet in an online final workshop, where they will discuss the results of their learning experience, a unique occasion to share their acquired knowledge on chemistry through virtual simulations.

“Thanks to this experience, I am now gaining wider and more practical knowledge about what chemistry and industrial chemistry really are. This is of great help to find my way into the world of work."

Ondřej Holas, 4EU+ student, Charles University

“I think this experience gives us chance to take a look to the world of tomorrow, where virtual reality will be steadily used in the field of chemistry.”

Salah-Eddine Ikaridene, 4EU+ student, Sorbonne University