PROVO Brigham Young University chemistry professor Brian Woodfield was selected to receive a 2008 Pirelli International Award, the world's first Internet multimedia award aimed at the diffusion of scientific and technological culture worldwide.
Awards are granted every calendar year to the best multimedia presentations oriented toward physics, chemistry, mathematics, life sciences and science communication conducted on emerging online communication platforms that go beyond a simple Web site.
Woodfield won the award for his innovative online laboratory, Virtual ChemLab. He came up with the concept as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, and used grants from BYU and the Department of Education to fund the project.
Virtual ChemLab contains all the amenities of a real laboratory setting, including limitless supplies of expensive or hazardous substances to which students usually have infrequent access. With the click of a mouse, students can set up, conduct simulations and view the outcome of each chemical combination or experiment.
The simulations, which Woodfield says have increased student performance in BYU organic chemistry labs by 30 percent, have also been implemented in more than 20 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.