NOBCChE Outreach at Marietta High School Science Night

On Thursday, November 1st, the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) at Emory University attended Marietta High School for their annual Science Night. The event, featuring classroom demos and science fair projects, welcomed volunteers from local universities to share about their STEM opportunities.

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.

CCHF and Fusion Science Theater Communicating Science Workshop

At the end of April, the CCHF hosted a Communicating Science Workshop given by playwright, chemist, and educator Holly Walter Kerby. During the workshop, Kerby provided training in the tools and concepts behind story-telling to an audience of enthusiastic students and faculty members. As Founder and Executive Director of Fusion Science Theater (FST), Kerby uses her own scientific story-telling in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) outreach. The idea behind FST is to engage children in learning science by capitalizing on the techniques of theater. Through entertaining and educational demonstrations, FST promotes curiosity in the next generation of scientists.

In the first of two workshops, Kerby’s workshop taught the techniques of FST to graduate students and postdocs with a focus on the techniques of story-telling from scientific question to conclusion. Attendees were encouraged to use their research as a “plot” to develop their own stories. Participants used small graphic visual aids to help move the story along. Kerby helped Emory scientists to see how the ability to design and deliver a story is unquestionably valuable in the scientific community. From giving a presentation at a conference to participating in outreach events, scientists are required to engage and inform a wide audience. Story-telling has been proven to be a more impactful way of sharing information, making it particularly useful in the scientific arena.

In her second workshop, Kerby helped attendees capitalize on their storytelling skills to develop demonstrations to be used at future outreach events. Students put together presentations covering topics from catalysis to C-H functionalization, primarily targeted towards young audiences. The presentations were also designed to encourage audience participation using a show of hands or a vote. Kerby explained that engaging the audience in this way peaks their enthusiasm for the material and provides meaningful feedback regarding the effectiveness of the presentation.  The afternoon was spent developing ideas, building props, and rehearsing.

When the second day of the workshop rolled around, presenters were prepared to show off their demonstrations in front of an audience. The room was filled with guests—including chemistry faculty and staff— who served as the audience for the demos and then provided valuable feedback on how to further refine them for future use. Keep an eye out for some of the unique demonstrations at next year’s Atlanta Science Festival!

Thank you to the CCHF and Holly Walker Kerby for fantastic workshop!

Interested in participating in more CCHF events? Click here!

Interested in learning more about FST? Click here!

Atlanta Science Festival: Chemistry Carnival Recap

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.

One particularly fun event, the Chemistry Carnival, provided children and families with an evening of entertainment and education through a series of hands-on activities. The Atwood Commons was abuzz with enthusiastic young learners playing games, asking questions, and learning about science and technology.

Some highlights of the carnival included Peptide Jenga, where participants learned about attraction and repulsion, Pin the Tail on the Substrate, where guests were blindfolded and tasked with “pinning the polar-head to the [3.3.0] bicycle-octene”, and Electron Transfer Ring Toss, complete with glow-sticks and illuminated Erlenmeyer flasks. On the second floor of the commons, visitors could Build a Bio Material out of clay, play the Bacteria Board Game, or pop balloons with darts in Superbug Pop.

The event wouldn’t have been complete without a few science-y sweets. Guests could enjoy hand-spun cotton candy or Dippin’ Dots made with liquid nitrogen.

A huge “Thank you!” to everyone who helped make the Chemistry Carnival such a successful and fun night! We couldn’t have done it without you!

More: Read postdoc Claire Jarvis’ (Wuest Group) interview with festival organizers Anthony Sementilli and Elaine Liu on the Emory Postdoctoral Association blog!

Pin the Tail on the Substrate
Peptide Jenga
ALEX visited the Science Commons Library
Colorful Ring Toss chemistry props
Bacteria Board Game
Students welcoming guests to the Chemistry Carnival
Build a Bio Material
Superbug Pop
Liquid nitrogen Dippin’ Dots
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis
Laser Maze, Photo by Mallory Theis

CCHF SACNAS and Outreach Events

Along with facilitating conversations about synthetic organic chemistry between professionals across a global platform, the NSF Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF), based at Emory University’s Department of Chemistry, also strives to increase scientific awareness to broader audience. They explain on their website, “A large part of the Centers mission is to bring C–H Functionalization into the mainstream of organic chemistry and one of the key ways we are seeking to do that is informing future generations of scientists by engaging students from K through 12.” By partnering with various organizations in outreach initiatives, the CCHF can connect with the community and share some of their fascinating scientific happenings.

Recently, some members of the Emory Department of Chemistry travelled to Utah to attend the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference. During the event, our representatives, in collaboration with the CCHF, participated in recruiting, dissemination of infomercials, research seminars, and poster judging. Dr. Cora MacBeth gave a presentation in a technical symposium organized by alumni, Omar Villanueva. Emory University even had a booth at the event where Dr. Lloyd Munjanja of the CCHF, Monica Kiewit of the Dyer Group, and Bryant Chica of the Dyer Group could interact with visitors.

During the conference, the Center partnered with the Leonardo Museum of Creativity and Innovation in an outreach event organized through the collaborative effort of the Directors of Education, Outreach, and Diversity from 3 NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation, Dr. Lloyd Munjanja (CCHF), Dr. Danielle Watt (CaSTL), and Christopher Parsons (CCE). CCHF members from the Sigman and Du Bois research labs interacted with over 100 middle school students and their teachers through a series of hands-on chemistry activities and demonstrations. One activity involved the students building molecules from marshmallows and toothpicks!

Some photos from the SACNAS conference and the outreach event at the Leonardo Museum of Creativity and Innovation are shown below.

       

Dr. Widicus Weaver: Outer Space and Outreach

Scientific outreach events give us the opportunity to disseminate our ideas, share our scientific discoveries, present collaboration opportunities, or even inspire the next generation of scientists. On Wednesday, November 8th, Dr. Widicus Weaver shared her passion for astrochemistry, biology, and space with a room full of enthusiastic second graders at Westchester Elementary School. She discussed topics ranging from star formation to molecules in space, drawing from her research on pre-biotic astrochemistry. The children even had the chance to look through hand-held spectroscopes!

Outreach events like this one allow scientists the unique chance to bring awareness to the scientific endeavors taking place here at Emory and provides those in the community the chance to learn a new topic from a true expert. The children who attended Dr. Widicus Weaver’s seminar got an exclusive look into the amazing science happening far beyond our planet.  Some photos from the event are shown below.

2017 National Chemistry Week: Chemistry Rocks!

This week, October 22nd -28th, the American Chemical Society will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of National Chemistry Week. The goal of National Chemistry Week is to promote the value of chemistry in everyday life. ACS members and science enthusiasts are encouraged to spread awareness of chemistry by organizing events for ACS local sections, schools, businesses, and the general community.

In 1987, former ACS President Dr. George Pimentel organized a national event to celebrate the impact of chemistry. This single day of celebrating science evolved into an annual week-longevent where the scientific community engages in education and outreach. The events of the week are accompanied by the publication of Celebrating Chemistry, a booklet designed to engage and educate children in the basic principles of chemistry and to inspire the next generation of future scientists.

The theme of National Chemistry Week for 2017 is “Chemistry Rocks!”, which focuses on geochemistry. Topics include the chemistry of salt, the types of rock within the Earth’s crust, and the difference between a rock, a mineral, and a gemstone. Some activities in Celebrating Chemistry include growing crystals from Epsom salt and testing mud samples for clay content.

Previous topics of National Chemistry Week include “Solving Mysteries Through Chemistry”, “Chemistry Colors Our World”, “The Sweet Side of Chemistry—Candy”, and “Energy: Now and Forever”. Next year, events will focus around outer space in “Chemistry Out of this World”.

To spark widespread interest and appreciation for chemistry is a goal also shared with our graduate student social and service organization, Pi Alpha Chemical Society (PACS). On Thursday, October 26th, PACS and Graduation Generation, a collaborative family-school-university-community partnership, will host an outreach event at Toomer Elementary School involving 20-minute science demonstrations for kids in third through fifth grade. In addition, ChEmory, our undergraduate chemistry club will host a series of events in honor of National Chemistry Week including an alumni career seminar, science demonstrations, and periodic table cupcake baking!

Outreach opportunities like those presented by PACS, ChEmory, and National Chemistry Week give us the chance to share our love of chemistry and science with the community. Through education and outreach, we can cultivate an appreciation for chemistry and inspire the next generation to become as passionate as we are.

Interested in learning more about National Chemistry Week? Check out the ACS website! If you are interested in getting involved with the PACS outreach event, contact Elaine Liu.

 

ChEmory events this week:

Tuesday, October 24th

Demo Show: 6:30-7:30 pm at Memorial Student Center E208

            Wednesday, October 25th

ChEmory at Wonderful: 12-2 pm in Asbury Circle

Periodic Table Cupcake Baking: 7-8 pm in the LSM Kitchen

            Thursday, October 26th

Periodic Table Cupcake Decorating: 7-8 pm in the LSM Kitchen

Elaine Liu Receives ARCS Award

Elaine Liu
Elaine Liu

Elaine Liu (MacBeth Group) has been awarded an Advancing Science in America or ARCS Fellowship. The ARCS Foundation advances science and technology in the United States by providing financial awards to academically outstanding U.S. citizens studying to complete degrees in science, engineering and medical research. The awards are focused on helping researchers at the startup or “seed stage” of their work and discovery.

Elaine’s project is titled “Elucidating the mechanism of cobalt-mediated C-H functionalization.” She will investigate how to make more reliable, less expensive catalysts for sustainable use in chemical and pharmaceutical synthesis, potentially making life-saving drugs more accessible and affordable. 

In her own words, Elaine explains: “Organic chemists have shown the utility of readily available cobalt in catalyzing cross-coupling reactions by providing a relatively fast, simple, and high yield pathway for these reactions. However, the catalytic step has not been well characterized, leading to a trial-and-error approach in its implementation. By studying the cobalt-based reactivity in a step-wise manner, the mechanism and mechanistic requirements of the activation event can be mapped out. Elucidating the activation requirements will, in turn, allow for more targeted and complex carbon cross-coupling reactions.”

Elaine’s research advisor, Cora MacBeth, highlights the way that Elaine’s research takes advantage of the resources of the Emory University Center for X-ray Crystallography.  “Her studies have focused on understanding the step-wise bond forming processes by analyzing stoichiometric transformations using spectroscopy and single molecule X-ray diffraction – in collaboration with the X-ray Crystallography Center at Emory.  Her research has helped identify previously unreported (and un-proposed) intermediates in these catalytic processes.  She will use these findings to aid in the development of new reactions.”

The ARCS Award is an unrestricted $7,500 award given directly to the scientist and may be renewed for up to three years. In addition to advancing her research, Elaine plans to use the ARCS award to expand her outreach efforts in the Atlanta community. Outside the lab, Elaine is the vice President of Outreach and Academic Affairs for Pi Alpha Chemical Society.  The group frequently visits local elementary schools and museums to share science demos. Elaine plans to create a blog that will catalog these chemistry demonstrations and lectures. “[I] would like to keep track of what worked and what concepts were suited to the children as well as make these experiments and their materials accessible for home schooled students and students in underfunded and underprivileged schools.” A blog will also be an opportunity for Elaine to share her experiences as a woman scientist, raising the visibility of women scientists more generally and contributing to diversity in outreach as well as in research.

After Emory, Elaine hopes to teach at a primarily undergraduate institution, sharing her love of chemistry with another generation. 

Congratulations, Elaine!

Third Annual Side by Side Clubhouse and Department of Chemistry Picnic

Chemistry staff making liquid nitrogen ice cream for Side by Side club members
Chemistry staff making liquid nitrogen ice cream for Side by Side club members

On Thursday, April 21st, Department of Chemistry staff hosted the third annual Side by Side Clubhouse Stone Mountain Picnic as our annual service-oriented staff team building activity. Side by Side Clubhouse is a supportive social and rehabilitation community for individuals living with traumatic brain injury. Each year, Side by Side hosts the “Jawbones versus Sawbones” basketball game as a fundraiser for their social activities. The members of the clubhouse use the proceeds of this fundraiser to support special events like the Stone Mountain picnic. Department of Chemistry staff served as volunteers to run the picnic, grilling burgers, playing games, and making chemistry’s own liquid nitrogen ice cream! Thank you to Side by Side for providing our staff with this great team building opportunity and letting us share in your community!