« Return to AACT homepage

AACT Member-Only Content

You have to be an AACT member to access this content, but good news: anyone can join!

Need Help?

Organic Chemistry Mark as Favorite (15 Favorites)

PROJECT in Pharmaceuticals, Molecular Structure . Last updated March 25, 2020.


In this research project, students will demonstrate their knowledge of stereochemistry and present its role in well-known pharmaceutical compounds. Specific compounds include those that may be enantiopure.

Grade Level

High school

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


By the end of this lesson, students will

  • better understand pharmaceutical drugs and their components.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of

  • Organic chemistry
  • Pharmaceuticals


Teacher Preparation: 15–45 minutes

Lesson: 1 week


  • Projecting technology for presentations


No safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • This resource could be used as a post-AP Chemistry exam activity.
  • This activity is a good way to break up instruction between the introductory portion of organic chemistry and organic reactions. It also worked out that the week many students were missing class for AP and/or IB exams, groups were able to work collaboratively in and out of class using Google Docs and Google Slides to prepare their presentations.

For the Student

Organic Chemistry Presentation



  • With your group, you will research one of the provided pharmaceutical agents.
  • Your presentation will be given on ______________, and you must be in proper business attire (men: dress slacks, dress shirt, tie, and dress shoes; women: business suit, appropriate skirt and blouse, or dress pants with blouse). You must act and dress professionally if you want to be taken professionally.
  • Your presentation will be 10 minutes in length and will be timed. You should have a visual component. For example, PowerPoint slides.
  • Each group member will have a speaking part in the presentation and should be near equal in length.
  • In addition to researching and presenting, each group member must turn in a one-page essay that outlines their contributions to the project, what they learned in the process of the research, and an honest evaluation of their group members’ contributions. This essay must be turned in at the start of class on ____________.

Questions to answer in the presentation

  • What is the full chemical name and common name of the compound?
  • Provide a legible structural drawing of the compound (hand drawn or a cited drawing from a reputable internet source).
  • Who (scientist or company) was responsible for the development of the compound?
  • When did the compound become available to the public?
  • Discuss any relevant business topics that come with the compound. For example, was it the reason for any pharmaceutical company acquisitions?
  • How does the drug work in vivo (in the body)? Discuss how the drug is metabolized and where it binds in the body.
    • Finding images that supplement your discussion would be very helpful.
  • Discuss the chemistry required to synthesize the drug. Provide a synthetic route if able and/or provide examples of the different chemical reactions necessary to synthesize the compound. **This may prove difficult with our limited resources to chemistry journals but try to find what you can and discuss this with your teacher.
  • Is there stereochemistry in the molecule? If so, which enantiomer is the usable drug based on?
    • Research “enantiopure compounds” and determine whether or not your compound is best used as the enantiopure substance or if it is manufactured as a racemic mixture of the two enantiomers. Why might this matter? Is there any advantage to developing enantiopure pharmaceutical agents?
  • Is your compound optically active? What does this mean?
  • You must provide works cited.

Pharmaceuticals to choose from

Crestor, Cymbalta, Singulair, Plavix, Methylphenidate, Citalopram, Thalidomide, Abiraterone Acetate, Fluoxetine, or Lyrica.