Each year, the Emory University Department of Chemistry participates in the Atlanta Science Festival. This year, we hosted the Chemistry Carnival, an event to share about some of the amazing research taking place in our department through carnival games and fun activities. Children enjoyed playing games like Peptide Jenga and Bacterial Telepathy, while also learning about science from our enthusiastic students.
In addition to the Chemistry Carnival, we had several booths at the Piedmont Park Expo. Dr. Doug Mulford and ChEmory hosted “Pink Ping Pong Big Bang” to teach attendees about The Big Bang through a demonstration involving ping pong balls, liquid nitrogen, and boiling water. Another of our booths, “The BIG World of SMALL Bio-Machines”, was well-attended by children who enjoyed games designed to teach about proteins and their diverse functions. We also hosted “Distance Really Matters” and “Catalyst Carnival” with the CCHF.
The event was a blast for all— attendees and volunteers alike. An event like the Atlanta Science Festival is a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together over a love for science, an enthusiasm for learning, and an ever-present curiosity.
A huge “Thank you!” to everyone who helped make the Atlanta Science festival such a successful and fun event! We couldn’t have done it without you!
We’re continuing our celebration of all the great things our chemists do both inside and outside of the lab! In volume two, meet chemists who compete in roller derby and golf, an animal photography volunteer, and more!
Dr. Jen Heemstra has teamed up with C&EN for the new advice column, “Office Hours.” The monthly column will “engage the STEM community in dialogue on important issues–including prioritizing mental health, finding motivations, and coping with setbacks and failures.” A key feature will be questions or topic ideas from readers that will kick off each column, helping “Office Hours” become a catalyst for broader conversation.
Jen’s is also featured in the latest episode of the C&EN podcast, Stereo Chemistry. The podcast team spent several days in the lab getting to know Jen and her students and “learning how and why she’s helping create the next generation of chemistry’s thought leaders.” You can listen here.
Emory University was recently named as a recipient of a grant from The Association of American Universities for the improvement of undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The grant is part of the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, a project launched in 2011 to encourage STEM departments to maximize student engagement through effective teaching strategies. The AAU explains:
“These strategies include creating learning communities for STEM faculty members involved in reform efforts, establishing programs to train graduate students and undergraduate teaching assistants or peer advisors in active learning practices, renovating classrooms into collaborative learning spaces, and creating inclusive and welcoming learning environments for all students.”
The mission of this initiative aligns perfectly with Chemistry Unbound, our undergraduate curriculum, that has seen great success since its start in Fall 2017.
The Emory NOBCChE representatives who attended the event spent the evening handing out flyers and engaging with enthusiastic students and parents over some particularly exciting carbon dioxide chemistry. With do-it-yourself lava lamps and bouncing soap bubbles, guests were both entertained and inspired to learn more.
ChEmory, our undergraduate ACS club, has won a Green Chemistry Student Chapter Award! This award recognizes student chapters that participate in three or more green chemistry outreach or educational activities throughout the year.
Firstly, ChEmory hosted a liquid nitrogen ice cream booth at the Student Activities Fair. While teaching visitors about the crystallization process of ice cream and recruiting new members to join the club, they made ice cream in reusable bowls and handed out samples in compostable cups. At the Fernbank Museum, ChEmory took their gastronomy a step further, making edible whiskey droplets. The only waste generated from the making of the whiskey droplets were the droppers themselves, which were disposable and recyclable.
At the Atlanta Science Festival, the group made slime from borax and polyvinyl alcohol. Because the slime was made with nontoxic and widely-available reagents, ChEmory members took the opportunity to teach about the concept of biodegradable, low-waste chemistry. Finally, in collaboration with the Artisan guild, club members used biodegradable, all-natural materials to make their own soap. By designing degradable products and utilizing renewable source materials, participants left the event with both a better understanding of green chemistry and a handmade bar of soap to use at home!
Interested in learning more? Check out ChEmory on Facebook!
On Saturday, September 8th, the Emory University Department of Chemistry teamed up with Georgia Tech to host the 2018 Atlanta Mini Symposium on Theoretical and Computational Chemistry. The event, organized by Francesco Evangelista (Emory) and David Sherrill (Georgia Tech) brought together theoretical and computational chemists across metro-Atlanta for connection and collaboration. Attendees heard talks from invited speakers and spent the afternoon sharing ideas with fellow chemists in the field. The group plans to make the conference an annual event for the local theoretical chemistry community.
The Atlanta Science Festival brings STEM out of the lab and into the Atlanta community with two weeks of events culminating in the “Exploration Expo” regularly attended by over 18,000 people. ASF was founded in 2014 by a group of Emory staff and faculty, including former chemistry (now ASF!) staff Meisa Salaita and Sarah Peterson and chemistry faculty member David Lynn. Chemistry has sponsored at least one festival event every year. This blog series covers just some of chemistry’s involvement in the 2018 festival.
As part of the festivities, the Department of Chemistry at Emory welcomed Katie McKissick to learn about her career as author and illustrator of Beatrice the Biologist. Katie’s visit was initiated by chemistry graduate student Anthony Sementilli (Lynn Group) as an outgrowth of the Emory “Chemmy” seminars that seek to bring speakers to campus with student hosts. Anthony felt that Katie’s work would interest other students looking towards a career in outreach or seeking to share their day-to-day work via a social media presence. Anthony received support for Katie’s visit from Emory’s Hightower Fund, AWIS, the ILA, and Biology as well as the Atlanta Science Festival. “Anthony was able to help cover his costs through multiple funding sources, but more importantly, he was successful in engaging a wide community with what Katie has to teach,” says chemistry outreach coordinator Kira Walsh, who provided administrative support for the visit. “It was great to see students from across Emory benefiting from Katie’s perspective. And the Atlanta community also got into the act with the standing room only comics workshop at historic Manuel’s tavern.”
Before Beatrice the Biologist, Katie was a high school biology teacher. During her time as an educator, she found that she was incredibly passionate about the way in which the information was taught. Specifically, she appreciated the process of lesson planning and preparing scientific information in a format that would be more approachable and interesting to her students. “I enjoyed thinking about how people learned more than I liked actually teaching” says Katie. This prompted her to start her blog, Beatrice the Biologist.
During her visit to Emory, Katie gave students the chance to get to know the face behind Beatrice the Biologist. She taught multiple workshops about how to draw science cartoons and how to use blogs to build an online presence. She also gave a career seminar about pursuing scientific outreach. Katie’s love of teaching was apparent in her approach—she gave students a list of action items that she found to be the most valuable during her journey into scientific communication and encouraged them to think in depth about possible audiences, content strategy, platforms, and branding. In the comics workshop, students generated a draft comic on the spot!
“My audience,” says Katie, “are people like my former students who think they don’t like science only to discover that they actually do.” She reaches this audience using short, digestible content in the form of fun comics that focus on commonly misunderstood concepts. She explains that her comics can capture the attention of people who either already know the information and, therefore, appreciate the humor or people who don’t already know the information and can then learn something new.
Of course, effective science communication depends on more than just the quality of the content. Katie also provided the audience at her blogging workshop with insight into how to grow a brand and develop a far-reaching online presence. “We live in an amazing time when people are actually so accessible,” says Katie, emphasizing the importance of social media for disseminating information. She even provided attendees with advice on how to “navigate rough waters” when it comes to social media faux pas. “You never want to assume people have context,” says Katie, “Especially if you are trying to make jokes!” Katie helped students to define their approach by encouraging them to complete a mission statement that could guide the curation of their online presence.
Katie’s visit to Emory gave students and faculty the unique chance to get to know the person behind Beatrice the Biologist and to learn all the best tips and tricks of science communication. She showed us how passion and creativity evolved “nerdy” science comics into a dynamic and entertaining platform for “cultivating curiosity and appreciation for science and nature one giggle at a time.”
To check out more from Beatrice the Biologist, click [here].