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Molecule of the Week Mark as Favorite (36 Favorites)

ACTIVITY in Physical Properties, Molecular Formula, History, Covalent Bonding, Molecular Structure, Chemical Properties. Last updated March 25, 2020.


In this activity, students research and present a molecule they find relevant to real life, either in the past or present. They must submit notes to the teacher the day before they present their findings in five to 10 minutes to their chemistry class.

Grade Level

High school


By the end of this lesson, students should be able to

  • Relate molecular structure to molecular formula and physical properties of various molecules.
  • Understand the uses and importance of various molecules.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of

  • Molecular structures
  • Molecular formulas
  • Physical properties
  • Relevance of chemistry to the real world


Teacher Preparation: none

Lesson: 5-10 minutes per student


There are no special safety considerations for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • I share a molecule of the week each week of the fall semester, in a similar way to this assignment (see article about this activity in Chemistry Solutions). This introduces to students what I look for in the assignment and exposes them to a variety of interesting molecules.
  • I have one student present per week on Friday as a fun way to finish the week. You could have several students present on the same day, but that takes away from the molecule of the week idea.
  • After students choose their date (I have them draw dates out of a hat), I post the list of presentation dates. I also email each student individually the week before his/her presentation to remind him/her about the date and that they must submit their notes to me the night before.
  • This activity could be turned into a longer individual or group project. You could add a formal written component to the presentation for a longer, more in-depth assignment.
  • Some suggested molecules to get you started (these are some I use, and some creative ones my students have presented).


Real-world use

Ammonia Haber-Bosch process
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)  
Azidothymidine (AZT) HIV drug treatment
Benzo(a)pyrene Carcinogen
Butylated hydroxytolune (BHT) Food additive
Bisphenol A (BPA) Plastic additive
Bryostatin Cancer drug treatment
Captopril Hypertension drug
Chlorpyrifos Insecticide
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) Pesticide
N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) Insect repellent
Dihydroxy acetone (DHA) Self-tanner
Diphenyl oxalate Glow sticks
Ibuprofen Pain-killer drug ingredient
Kevlar Bullet-proof vest
Lutein Carotenoid
Mercury fulminate Explosive
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) Flavor enhancement 
Polystyrene Styrofoam
Testosterone Hormone
Tetrodotoxin (TTX) Pufferfish toxin

For the Student

Each student will present a “Molecule of the Week” to the class. You will draw your presentation date out of a hat. This assignment counts as one homework assignment.


1) Find and research one molecule that you and your classmates would find interesting. It cannot be a repeated molecule of the week, nor one you discussed in the Napoleon’s Buttons writing assignment.

2) The night before your presentation, you must email your teacher a list of the notes you will share with the class. Bullet points are fine. In your presentation, you must include the name of the molecule, its molecular formula, and additional information about the molecule that you think is interesting. The information should cover the properties of the molecule (physical state, functional groups, etc.) and why this molecule is important/relevant. You must use and include at least two sources; Internet sources are fine for this assignment.

3) Present your molecule in five to 10 minutes. You must draw the molecule on the board, have the class determine the molecular formula, and share notes with the class.

Helpful websites for finding molecules:

You will be graded on your submission of notes and references, as well as your presentation and content of the information you present.

   On-time submission of notes (1 point)
   Your presentation matches what you submit (1 point)
   Use of two sources (1 point)
   Organized presentation of information (1 points)
   Presentation time (five to 10 minutes) (1 point)
   Molecular formula, structure (1 point)
   Physical properties of molecule (2 points)
   Importance/relevance of molecule (2 points)
TOTAL: ______/10