Behind The Scenes At MIT


Scientist Using Instrument


“Behind the Scenes at MIT” is a collection of short videos that feature current and former MIT researchers explaining how a textbook chemistry topic is essential to their research and to an inspiring real-world application. There are currently twelve science videos, which can be searched by chemistry topic (i.e. atomic theory, bonding, acid-base equilibrium) or by research application.

A set of accompanying personal videos, one for each scientist featured, illustrates their journeys to becoming scientists. Some of these videos highlight challenges that have been overcome, such as dealing with learning disabilities, growing up gay and intellectual in a conservative small town, and having to learn English in order to understand science class.

Our goals in creating these videos were to bring the excitement of MIT research into the chemistry classroom and to illuminate both the why and the who of chemistry. These videos are intended to help motivate students to learn chemistry, inspire students to tackle important scientific problems in their future careers, and expose students to the many faces of chemistry.

The videos can be viewed online or downloaded for use in the classroom. Each science video is under three minutes, and the personal videos are three to five minutes in length. Teachers are welcome to use any or all of our videos in their classrooms. Video creation was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) through an HHMI Professors Grant to Professor Cathy Drennan and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Unported License.

Like Us On
Related Links
  • Executive Producer Catherine L. Drennan

    MIT/HHMI Professor and Investigator

  • Editor and Producer George Zaidan

    MIT Course 5 ’08 and Free Energy Productions

  • Producers Elizabeth Taylor

    MIT PH.D. Course 5 ’07 and HHMI Education Lab

    Anique Olivier-Mason

    Ph.D. Biology and HHMI Education Lab

  • Graphic Artist/Animator Dr. Mary O'Reilly

    MIT Ph.D. Course 5 ’06 and O’Reilly Science Art

  • Special Thanks AMPS MIT Video Production Lawrence D. Gallagher
  • Production Coordinators Clayton D. Hainsworth Joanne Flood
  • Camera/Lighting/Sound Craig Milanesi Barry Pugatch Thomas P. White Jared Drewniak
  • Thumbnail Photographers Justin Knight Photography James Kegley Photography Ahmed Al Harethi Rebekah Bjork George Zaidan
  • Thumbnail Images Elizabeth Vogel Taylor Catherine L. Drennan

Each video was inspired by Professor Drennan’s 14+ years teaching freshman chemistry at MIT


Scientist Analyzing Data

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the “Behind the Scenes at MIT” resource?

“Behind the Scenes at MIT” is a collection of two-minute science videos and a collection of three- to five-minute personal videos featuring MIT scientists. In each science video, an MIT undergraduate, graduate student, postdoc, or professor discusses her/his research in the context of a textbook chemistry topic and a real-world application. In each personal video, an MIT researcher shares stories about why or how s/he became a scientist.

Who created these videos? Why were they made?

The videos were produced by the Drennan Education Laboratory as part of an HHMI Professors grant to Professor Cathy Drennan at MIT. The videos were created for our own general chemistry course, MIT course 5.111, and for other educators to bring the why and the who of chemistry research into introductory classes.

Who is the intended audience for the videos?

The science videos are intended for use in introductory college classes and high school chemistry classes. The personal videos are appropriate for all ages and require no chemistry or science background for viewing.

I’m a teacher. Can I use these videos in my class?

Yes! You can access one or all of the videos directly from MIT ODL Video Service and use them in any way that fits with your curriculum. The science videos assume that the viewer has already been introduced to the chemistry topic discussed, so the video on pH and pKa, for example, is best shown after students begin to learn about pH in class.

Are the videos copyrighted?

The videos are protected under a creative commons license with the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike option. This means that users must attribute the work in the manner we specify (but not in any way that suggests that we endorse you or your use of the work). It also means that users may not use this work for commercial purposes.

Why are the videos so short?

The videos are extremely short so that they can fit into any curriculum without requiring that other material be removed from a course. The videos are not intended to completely explain the research introduced, but rather to illuminate the connection between what students are learning in introductory chemistry and how those basic principles are essential for cutting edge research.

Has any assessment been done on the impact of showing these videos in class?

The videos were piloted in the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 semesters of MIT general chemistry course 5.111. Assessment was done in collaboration with the MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory.

Will additional videos be created?

As funding allows, we plan to create additional videos to cover other basic topics in chemistry and/or biology.

Are there other educator resources available from the Drennan Education Laboratory?

Yes. Please visit our group website for links to other resources, including biology- and medicine-related examples for general chemistry and Teaching Assistant (TA) and diversity training materials.

Like Us On