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!