Chem Demo Team celebrates National Chemistry Week

Author: Casey O'Donnell

National Chemistry Week

Exploding gummy bears

In celebration of this year’s National Chemistry Week, Jordan Hall of Science turned into a veritable sweet shop of marshmallows, ice cream, and M&Ms -- all in the name of science.

Chemistry has never sounded so sweet.

On Saturday, October 11, campus visitors explored “The Sweet Side of Chemistry,” this year’s theme for National Chemistry Week. Through a number of interactive exhibits, visitors learned about the structure and reactivity of sugars, as well as the food chemistry behind some of their favorite sweets. They built sugar molecules using pretzels and marshmallows, removed the trademark “m” from M&M candies, and enjoyed ice cream cooled by liquid nitrogen. Visitors also had the option to attend more formal demonstrations every hour and to listen to talks given by Notre Dame researchers.

Saturday’s saccharine events were organized by members of Notre Dame’s Chem Demo team, a group of chemistry Ph.D. candidates who seek to make chemistry accessible to younger students. A number of the team members, including fourth year graduate student Kasey Clear, are considering careers in academia after graduate school. For Clear, the Chem Demo Team serves as preparation for a career focused on generating interest in chemistry.

“The Chem Demo team hosts several outreach events at Notre Dame and in the South Bend community over the course of the year,” Clear said. “We’re trying to get kids interested in chemistry through fun, hands-on activities like these.”

Campus visitors, young and old, as well as Notre Dame students, certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves at the event. Morgan Palladino, a freshman chemical engineering student at Notre Dame appreciated the interactive and approachable displays of chemistry that the Chem Demo team promotes. “It was really fun to see chemistry outside of a lab or tutorial setting,” she said. “I think that if more people saw chemistry like this, they’d enjoy learning it a lot more.”

Ice cream                               M&Ms
Interactive presentations show the sweet side of chemistry to campus visitors before the Notre Dame vs. North Carolina game on Saturday, October 11.