Monday, September 23, 2013

The Scottie Faire

Every year Gordon College hosts an event called the Scottie Faire where all the student-run clubs and organizations around campus can display what it is they do and recruit new members. The ACS table displayed a poster created last year which depicts just some of the activities that go on in this student chapter of the ACS; which includes attending guest lectures, tutoring, and Chemistry on the Quad to name a few.

It was manned by President Justin Andrews with help from Vice-President Sarah McCarron and Dalton Kinnard.

Sarah McCarron in the red and Dalton Kinnard in the white lab coat
But by far the our most effective method of drawing interest is through chemistry demonstrations. This year we exhibited two different experiments.

Because of the Faire's medieval theme, we decided on a demonstration related to the 'mystic art of alchemy' (from which early chemistry derives its roots). In 1982, the U.S. Mint changed the chemical composition from 95% copper and 5% zinc to 95% zinc and 5% copper by weight (new pennies are nothing more than copper plated zinc. The melting point of the zinc alloy is 419.5 C, well below that of a propane torch. By comparison, copper melts above 1000 C. So, when placed under a flame, the inner zinc alloy melts while the outer casing remains intact. The pennies can be dropped and the casing broken and the zinc alloy (silver) contrasts with the copper (brownish). It is fun and people get to keep the melted pennies. Plus, it feels a bit like alchemy.

Pres. Justin looking very excited about making pennies explode
Elephant toothpaste is an experiment done all over the country in the by teachers, professors and professional chemical demonstrators. It is a simple chemical reaction: Potassium iodide and hydrogen peroxide are mixed (in the presence of soap to create bubbles) and the result is a rising tower of soap suds water and iodine. Kids love the demonstration because we tell them it is what elephants use to brush their teeth (elephants have big mouths and big teeth after all, so they must need a lot of toothpaste). We do this demonstration because college kids like it too and because we get a chance to tell onlookers that this is the kind of demonstration that we do a lot when visiting classrooms.

From all accounts exploding pennies and elephant toothpaste worked! Our first meeting was attended by many freshman, more than a few of them outside the chemistry major. This looks like the beginning of a great year for the ACS!

A special thanks to Pres. Justin Andrews who wrote the explanations for the experiments.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Chemistry, Warm Weather and Beignets at the National American Chemical Society Conference

Back row, left to right: CJ Daly, Justin Andrews, Dr. Joel Boyd, Owen Williams, Sarah McCarron
Front row, left to right: HanByul Chang, Rachael Albury, Bria Pelletier, Lee Andrews, Ben Stewart
Not Pictured: Prof. Irvin Levy, Dr. Dwight Tshudy
This spring, we traveled to the national ACS conference in New Orleans, LA with our largest group ever: 9 students and 3 professors. Eight of the students presented research posters and one student was designated to present the student chapter poster.

Students on their 'site-seeing' day in downtown New Orleans
Left to right: Justin Andrews, Owen Williams, Ben Stewart, Sarah McCarron, Rachael Albury, Lee Andrews, HanByul Chang, CJ Daly, Bria Pelletier

Poster sessions are a strange mix of networking, fun, learning and being packed like sardines in a can. The research poster session where 8 of us presented was a two hour time block during which our posters (just seven posters in hundreds at the session) were hung on walls. We were present during this time to answer any and all questions that our piers (undergraduate chemists our own age, professors, professional chemists, etc.) had about our research. If you have been to a Gordon College symposium day or Undergraduate Research Council reading day poster session, you only have half of an idea of what this is like. It looks the same (on a larger scale), but it feels so different to share ideas with experts in our field of study. Rachael Albury, one Gordon student at the conference, had several professors from other universities approach her poster and proceed to write down the lab procedure she had developed as part of her research. One professor remarked that she had been looking to revamp their lab curriculum, and that Rachael’s procedure was just what she was looking for.

Justin Andrews and Rachael Albury presenting their joint poster at the undergraduate poster session
The student chapter poster session was a time of great celebration. Hundreds of student chapters from across the country gathered to present their posters describing the many events that they had done as a chapter over the past year. We always enjoy this session, because it allows us to brag a little about all of the very wonderful, very involved students at Gordon College and simultaneously hear about the wonderful ideas that other chapters have implemented. If we were biologists, we might call it idea ‘cross-pollination’… but we usually just stick to chemicals.
The second reason we attended the conference was to receive two highly coveted awards.
I hate crowds and am not fond of being on stages, but there I was: nervous and standing in line stage left, waiting to receive an award on behalf of our student chapter. I kept thinking about how I had to walk upright and with a purpose. I had to make certain that my shirt was tucked in and my hair was not too unkempt. And above all else, I reminded myself that I could not blink during the photographs or forget to smile as I often do.

Justin Andrews half-smiling and receiving the Green Chemistry award on behalf of the chapter
I forgot to smile. It was a quirky half smile actually – you've seen them before. I was so nervous and excited to be on stage receiving an award in front of 1500 ACS members that I forgot to smile. I could kick myself (or laugh hysterically… or a combination of the two) – and probably will after I see the pictures from the ceremony. But all that doesn't really matter. What matters is the award we received for our hard work and the publicity that we drum up for our beloved institution.
We received two awards for our work during the 2011-2012 academic year. It was suggested by my peers that I walk across the stage to receive one of the two awards titled the ‘green chapter’ award. This award is given to chapters who make a significant effort to incorporate the principles of green chemistry into the ideals and practices of the chapter. Ben Stewart, the president emeritus of the GCACS, was chosen to receive the ‘outstanding’ chapter award, which is given to those chapters which make the most significant impact on their institutions, communities and on the national ACS organization. Ben Stewart did not forget to smile – how could he? - of the over 1000 student chapters across the country, only 25 were given this, the most prestigious, award. That places the student chapter of the ACS that calls its home Gordon College in the 98th percentile of student chapters. That is a big deal. When a large or well-known school like the University of Florida or Northeastern receives such an award, people don’t pay too much attention. But when a small school of 1600 students from Wenham, MA receives such an award after only being around for three years, heads turn.

And turning heads is just what we plan to do again next year at the national conference in Dallas, TX.
Gordon College Chemistry – Turning Heads Since 2010

Justin Andrews
President of the GCACS

Below is a wonderful testimonial about the conference experience as a whole from the perspective of current junior and GCACS treasurer, Owen Williams:

When I arrived at the Morial Convention Center located on the river in New Orleans, I was handed a program of all the possible events to go to that was as thick as a harry potter book, no joke. Although the main purpose of my attending the conference was to present a poster that illustrates and outlines some pharmaceutical degradation research I have been doing, my research group and I were expected to make the most of our time there. With 3000 lectures going on during the convention week, it was hard not to find really great ways to occupy yourself.
Owen enjoying some world famous ACME fried oysters after a long day of poster presentations and technical lecture attendance
I am interested in environmental chemistry and business and I was able to find lectures that were directly related to my interests. I heard a variety of lectures; from speakers explaining the process of testing the harmful chemicals contained in fish in the Great Lakes to a woman from the FDA explaining how food dyes are regulated.
Halfway through the conference, our research group was slotted to present our research posters. Chemistry professors and scientist that knew a lot about the kind of research I was doing were able to talk to me about my poster. The conference was an incredible gathering of the greatest chemistry minds the world has to offer and being a part of it was such an enriching experience.

Owen Williams
Treasurer of the GCACS

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The ACS Chemistry Achievement Award

All cultures, all demographic groups, have traditions they hold to be sacred and special. The Fore tribe of Papa New Guinea (used to) eat their ancestors, Muslims fast during Ramadan, and New Yorkers drop a ball every year, to name a few.

And sure, those all SEEM weird looking from the outside in - but I'm sure the practitioners think society would be irredeemable if these traditions stopped.

Chemists have traditions too. For instance, American Chemists meet up twice a year in huge conventions to show off their explosions and discoveries.

The usual.

Gordon College Chemists have a few special traditions too - if you wanna learn about them, read the blog!

One tradition, however, holds a particularly special place in our hearts - selling cookies.

Some few years ago, we all decided that it was a good idea to sell cookies for future freshman. Well, sorta. Each year we sell Mason jars of gingerbread, chocolate chip, or oatmeal raisin spice cookie ingredients to friends, family, and a large portion of the Gordon College community - with fun Christmas or Thanksgiving decorations! Each jar makes about 40 cookies of the selected variety. These jars are sold for $10 each, and the profit goes to a scholarship for incoming Chemistry freshmen, given both to next years Chemistry freshmen and to an endowment fund for the long term future of this scholarship. Our goal for the endowed scholarship is $25,000 - of which we (after this year) have $4,800.

One of our favorite parts of this is the cookie packing event.

Ingredients Pre-Packing
The entire GCACS gets together, watches a movie (Avengers this year!), and packs cookie ingredients in jars together.

Sometimes there's more movie watching than packing....
But believe me, we're very on task.
This year, under the leadership of Rachael Albury (who was assisted by Justin Andrews and Ruth Chadwick), our chapter sold 207 jars, with a profit of $1500, all of which went to the scholarship fund for next year and for the endowment.

We got assistance from several sources which I must mention.

  •  The Chemistry faculty for guidance and assistance.
  • The ACS students for going beyond the call of duty.
  • Shaw’s Supermarket in Ipswich, MA for donations.
  • Dawson’s True Value Hardware in Beverly, MA for donating 10 cases of jars (at about 9 jars per case, this is a total of 90 jars).
 The highest sellers were Bria P., Sarah M., and Stacey S. - in that order.

Good work all! Hope ya'll have a happy Ramadan this year!

Aslo a big shoutout to Rachael Albury, who organized the bulk of this! 

Thanks Rachael!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Boston College Lecture Visit!

Every semester, the Gordon College Chapter takes advantage of its proximity to the great city of Boston and attends one of the many public lectures given at the famous schools we neighbor. On October 17, 2012, 14 members of the GCACS attended a talk given by Professor Robert Waymouth of Stanford University on “Catalysis: Enabling Science for a Sustainable Future” at Boston College. We carpooled to the college, and unfortunately encountered some difficulty finding it - GPS directions are much better than Google maps directions! Fortunately, the majority of attendees arrived on time. The lecture was interesting – Professor Waymouth is an organic chemist who’s work focuses on studying the effects of catalysts on different organic reactions, especially ones involved in green fuel production. The group left from Boston College to dine at Esperia Grill , a small, local Greek restaurant. We had a little trouble finding the restaurant, but everyone arrived in good spirits. We split off into two tables and shared a delicious meal together!  From there, we carpooled back to Gordon. It was a really fun experience, one I'm excited to have again next semester! Who knows where we'll go?

Look out! It's a hungry Texan!
American Chemists and Greek food!
Group shot!

Thank you, Esperia employees, for helping us take these pictures!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Need Safety?

Well, if you enjoy your eyes, but still want to do Chemistry, the ACS chapter  at Gordon College is actually willing to sell you safety that you can hold in your hands (or, better yet, on your face)!

For $15 a pop, you can buy Lab Safety Goggles from the GCSACS. The proceeds from these goggles will be used to:
  • Provide Scholarships for Freshmen Chemistry Students
  • Fund ACS activities
  • Send Chemistry students to ACS conferences

And other such wonderful Chemistry things.

The goggles pay for themselves in a short while (especially if you are a member of the GCSACS) , are very comfortable, and are full of chemistry #swag. If you wanna buy a set, see any of the chapter officers.

Or head to Dr. Boyd's office, where he will sell the goggles to "y'all".

 - C.J

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Green Chemistry at the Museum of Science in Boston!

Every year, the Museum of Science in Boston hosts a number of "Green" activities and events for Earth Day (April 22). A major part of these events includes a set of tables set up with "Green Science" activities for children. This year, while Biology and Physics were strangely absent, Chemistry was present en masse.

Get it? Physics wasn't there, but Chemistry had mass(e)? Knee-slapper, I know.
Our Chemistry department has sent volunteers to the Museum for Earth Day every year in what has become a tradition for us. Gordon couldn't possibly pass up an opportunity to be Chemically Green!

Not be Green? What name so?
This year, our ACS chapter organized the activities that our volunteers would perform, and nearly all of the volunteers themselves were chapter members. A few of the better loved and more common Green Chemistry education activities were chosen - the creation of biodiesel (p. 5 in the link),

With handy paper demos for explaining the chemistry of the reaction!
and a local favorite: the M&M activity (p. 9 in the link).

Children seem to like this one for some reason.
In addition, a number of volunteers from Gordon operated a separately organized Beyond Benign activity table.
Beyond Benign volunteers, including Ean M. and Owen W. of Gordon College
We left Gordon early, and arrived at the Museum at around 10:30. We set up our table with what supplies were needed, and then the kids rushed us. What kid doesn't get interested when M&M's are added to the situation?
What child wouldn't be dazzled by that smile?
We had enough volunteers that no one person was stuck doing the same activity all day; volunteers often moved from one activity to the other and could even take short breaks.

Gordon volunteers doing activities with children.
Working with the children was quite fun! They were energetic, and open to the concepts of chemistry and sustainability. They ranged from old toddlers to young high schoolers, and their parents were happy to have us work with them.

The kids seemed to like us too.
After many hours and many more children, we packed up and arrived back at Gordon around 5:30. It was a good event and a good experience that we're excited to repeat next year.

You know - provided they keep the scary stuff in the back...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gustavus John Esselen Lecture

What is the greatest award you could ever receive?

A Nobel Prize?

A Pulitzer Prize?

An Oscer?

A Grammy?

A Green Chapter Award?

Well, while receiving any of these is a great achievement, the prize that should jump to the mind of any Northeastern American Chemist should be the Esselen Award. This award is given annually to chemists whose work has benefited society and given chemistry a good name, and is the highest honor given by the Northeast Section of the American Chemical Society. Each year, the recipient gives a lecture at Harvard University, and then accepts the prize medal and $5000.

Since the revival of the Gordon College Student Chapter of the ACS,  we have attended this event annually. This year, the recipient was Bruce Ganem, gave a talk titled "Lost (Sometimes) In Translation: Advancing Chemical Discoveries Beyond the Laboratory". In this talk, he detailed the work he had done, especially concerning how he helped some of his discoveries in lab to become actual useful consumer products. Among these was an ingenious new method for cleaning donor tissue involving super critical Carbon Dioxide. Prior to attending this event, we had dinner at Border Cafe in Harvard Square. A mixture of students attended, along with Professors Tshudy and Levy.

It's really awesome to be able to see some of the results of dedication to good chemistry. Being as close to Boston as Gordon is opens that opportunity for us.

Thank you to everyone who came!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ninth Anual Green Chemistry Lecture!

Gordon College is a very green school. I'm not just talking about the grass and trees; I'm talking about our clubs and commitments. Every trash can is adjacent to a combined materials recycle bin, and there are many recycle bins that are unaccompanied by trash cans. On top of this, a Gordon club called the Advocates for a Sustainable Future (ASF) offers composting services to students and runs a small vegetable garden on campus.

At Gordon, we drink soda so we can recycle the cans.

Recently, the Gordon College Student Chapter of the American Chemistry Society (SCACS) had the delight of receiving the Green Chapter award from the National American Chemical Society (NACS). This was awarded to us because of the large number of Green Chemistry events organized or supported by our chapter.


One of the events we support and co-organize each year are the lectures of a lecture series on Green Chemistry given by speakers from outside of Gordon. For the past 2 speakers, the SCACS has organized a dinner with the speaker at Su Chang's Restaurant in Peabody, MA. Our most recent speaker was Dr. Michael Cann from the University of Scranton on 3/1/12. He was a very passionate and powerful speaker.

Dr. Cann and Friends prepare for the lecture. Good work team.

His talk was about the basics of Green Chemistry, made understandable to non-scientists. His talk also included some modern examples of Green Chemistry being used in research and industry.

He was a very funny speaker.

He spend a lot of time on the concept of sustainability, and ended his talk with a very emotional point. He showed the audience a picture of his grandchildren, and pointed out to us that sustainability had very little to do with him, but everything to do with these children. It was a very moving declaration; he obviously loves his grandchildren very much, and he's right: sustainability preformed by us isn't for us. It's for our children's children.  

After this, two of our Chemistry faculty, Dr Cann, and a number of ACS members carpooled to Su Chang's restaurant. Among the attending students were myself, Bria P., Ruth C., Stacy S., Sophi W., Ben S., Justin A., Sarah M., and others. We enjoyed wonderful Chinese food and great conversation, discussing everything from Chemistry to farming and even deadly Japanese fish.

These events will be held every year, and the ACS hopes to be able to continue to support them. Thank you to all who came, and we welcome more to come next time!

(Dr.'s Cann, Tshudy, and Levy)



Beyond Benign students being Actively Benign.
What a winning smile!
Cute, Stacey. But revenge is sweet.....
The Official Presidential Stance (TM), pioneered by Obama himself.
Justin imitating the Official Presidential Stance (TM).
Not sure if these are green chemists...or happy undergrads...
They're Both!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

San Diego Blog

Chemists do research! And Chemists like to hang out!

So why not get 20,000+ of them together to do both?

Next week, in San Diego, there will be a national meeting of the ACS. Chemists from all over the country will come to talk about their research and simply connect with each other about the subject they love.

Because GCSA is awesome, they have graciously provided for 7 students to attend this conference. 6 of these students have all been doing Chemistry research for at least a year, and all have posters they will be bringing to the conference in order to present in the Undergraduate poster conference. The remaining student will be presenting our chapter poster as an officer of our local chapter.

These students include Bria P., Ben S., Kristen E., Ariel G., Justin A., Rachael A., and myself.

We will be running a separate blog during this trip where we will document the events and experiences that occur during our trip. Check it often! The web address is, and is open for all 7 of us to post on.

Thanks for looking at that blog!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Organic Catalysis at Harvard

There are many amazing things about the city of Boston.

We have beaches and snow; we have world famous art museums and the American Revolution started in our backyard. But, for budding Chemists, Boston has a precious resource that would be criminal to ignore.

Schools. Really big, really old, really fancy, and extremely respected schools.

I'm talking about those big names: Harvard, Tufts, WPI, BU, Emerson, MIT, Northeastern, Suffolk, the University of Massachusetts, and many more. Because of their prestige, colleges like these are regularly able to invite professors and other important people from across the country and world to speak and lecture at their schools. Even better, most of these lectures are free to attendees and open to the public. Since we're only a half hour from the city, we decided that we should take advantage of this.

So an elite team was formed to conduct an investigation. This team was ordered to peruse the schools of Boston, finding the most epic and interesting speakers and lectures that would be held in the following month.  This team of experts included myself and Stacy S., and we received quite a bit of support from the Chemistry professors and ACS officers. After two rounds of voting, the chapter decided to attend an Organic Chemistry Talk at Harvard on Feb 27th called “Reaction Design and Catalysis with Aromatic Ions”, given by Tristan Lambert of Columbia University.

There were 6 people who ended up being able to go, including two people who had never been to an ACS meeting before: Shanell P. and Alanah P. In addition to them, we were joined by myself, Justin A., Ben S., and Stacy S. We got there in the nick of time and sat down to enjoy a wonderful lecture.

 Heading out to the lecture!

Dr. Lambert spoke about the research he and his research group were conducting back at Columbia. They have been working with aromatic ions (specifically, cyclopropenium ions) and exploring their use in catalyzing common organic reactions. Because we are a chapter that is very focused on green Chemistry, we were excited to hear his concern about the atom economy and general wastefulness of common organic reactions. It was especially exciting to note that he almost never mentioned the word "green" during the lecture; he just considered this to be a common sense concern. In addition, he was able to not only catalyze these reactions with a great atom economy, his group often increased the yield and speed of the reactions they explored. All in all, it was a great and very exciting lecture.

They're on the steps of Harvard's Chemistry building. It's ok to be jealous.

After the lecture, we went to Fire and Ice, which was literally across the street from our parking (what luck!). We enjoyed a wonderfully yummy and well priced dinner, and headed back to Gordon.

 Why are they so happy?

Ahh, there's the reason. You can be jealous again.

Trips like this are slated to occur every quad, so if you know of any talks happening in Boston or would like to come with us, don't hesitate to let me know!

Thanks to the ACS for funding, and to Justin A. for being a gracious driver!