Behind the Scenes: How Cochranes Creates Custom Molecular Models

Posted 11th Dec 2019

Behind the Scenes

We asked Cochranes of Oxford MD, Tom Cochrane, how he goes about creating a bespoke molecular model for a customer...

Qu 1: When a custom set query comes in, what do you do first?

Tom: I aim to reply quickly to the customer giving the best indication of how we can help and what further information we may need to gather. Some enquirers are already familiar with our molecular models and know what they want from us, whilst others who are new to us may want to know if it’s possible to make a model of their chosen substance with our parts. The answer is always 'yes, it is possible', but sometimes this comes with caveats of expected complexity.

Qu 2: What is the process for starting to plan a bespoke molecular model set?

Tom: It’s about understanding what the customer wants. Sometimes it’s clear, but it always requires some dialogue between us to establish what the exact requirement is and what their expectations and preferences are. 

There are a number of choices to make, including which of our three different ranges (sizes) of molecular modelling systems is most suitable, how they would like the bonds between atoms or ions to be represented, the number of parts, packaging and instructions etc.  I will guide the enquirer on these based on their general requirements of: what the set is for, who it’s for (e.g. high school or university; teacher, researcher or student), how many they would like us to make, where they need them delivered and budgetary considerations.

Qu 3: Can you tell us what the most recent model request was, as an example?

Tom: The last individual model request was for parts to make a model of the compound Bi2Se3. The enquirer wanted to be able to visualise a particular 3D rhomboid within the structure.  I wasn’t familiar with the compound, but was able to determine the structure from various sources and provided two options of how to make it from which the enquirer chose one. At almost the same time I was creating a custom set selection for a tender for multiple sets for an educational authority in Spain!

Every enquiry is different.  It’s part of what I enjoy about my work – the investigation and creation of new things for people.