Spectroscopy at Home

Hello again from the secret ACS demonstration laboratory! Today, we have a demo video for you to help explain one of the mainstays of analytical chemistry: spectroscopy. Use this demonstration to show how we scientists know if a substance is present in a sample, and how much of that substance is present.

From: metryq.deviantart.com/art/fluorescing-tonic-water-416559283

From: metryq.deviantart.com/art/fluorescing-tonic-water-416559283

To perform this demonstration, you will need:

  • a highlighter (we used the bright yellow Sharpie brand)
  • A bottle of tonic water
  • a purple laser (do NOT point this at anyone’s face!) (We bought ours here)
  • a small glass vial (plastic will do)
  • 3 clear plastic cups
  • water (tap water will do)
  • goggles

Safety Notes:

Although you’re only using household items, you’ll be performing this as a part of a demo show, so you should be wearing your safety goggles. Even if you’re performing this demo by itself, wear your goggles anyway- its a science thing, and we only do science things if safety is addressed.

Also, don’t shine the laser in anyone’s face.

Procedure:

spectroscopy from ACS Undergraduate Programs on Vimeo.

To perform this demo, start by explaining that scientists often need to know what is present in our samples. One of the ways we do this is through the interaction of light and and radiated energy, through a process called spectroscopy.

Experiment 1: Light can show us if a substance is present in a material.

Demonstrate that a laser, shined through a vial of tap water, leaves no trail.  This is because nothing in the tap water fluoresces when hit by the laser.

Take your highlighter, and dip the tip of the highlighter into the water. Demonstrate that now the laser now fluoresces the liquid due to the addition of material from the highlighter.  Explain how, just as the laser reveals the presence of the highlighter, scientists can use other forms of radiant energy to detect certain chemical compounds.

Experiment 2: Light can show us how much of a substance is present in a material.

Start by filling one of the plastic cups with water, one with tonic water, and one with a 1:4 ratio of tonic water to water. Ask your audience to predict which glass will glow the brightest when the laser is shined through it. Show the laser shining in each glass, and explain that the more tonic water is present, the brighter the laser will fluoresce the liquid.  Explain that, using similar techniques, analytical chemists can determine the amount of substances present, such as the amount of chlorine in tap water or the amount of sugar in cola.

Take a look at our video for our take on this. Feel free to comment about how you think it could be done better!

NCW Pictures from Our ACS Student Chapters

National Chemistry Week has come and gone, but we’ll always have the memories, right?  Oh, we’ll also have these great pictures you said we could use!  Got other pictures for us?  Email us and let us know!  We’ll add to this post as we receive your pictures.

Nick L Mole, the CSU-Fresno ACS Student Chapter Mascot, celebrates his 3rd birthday.

Nick L Mole, the CSU-Fresno ACS Student Chapter Mascot, celebrates his 3rd birthday.

There was a pinata at Nick's birthday.  I think our invitation got lost in the mail....

There was a pinata at Nick’s birthday. I think our invitation got lost in the mail….

TCU had a demo show at the Fort Worth Museum of Science.  Also, love the science tank tops.

TCU had a demo show at the Fort Worth Museum of Science. Also, love the science tank tops.

TCU students performing demonstrations.  Nice use of goggles!

TCU students performing demonstrations. Nice use of goggles!

We Want to See Your National Chemistry Week Pictures!

Hi ACS Student Chapters.  You know what time it is: National Chemistry Week!  And we want to see your pictures!  We know you’ve got neat things planned, like Various Periodic Tables:

Or fun demo shows:

NCW pictureOr…other things (we’re not 100% sure what’s happening in some of these pictures, but it looks like fun!):

 

So email us your NCW pictures, and we’ll post our favorites!  Happy National Chemistry Week, and Happy Mole Day!

Sharing Chemistry with Plays by Fusion Science Theater

Today’s post comes to us from the ACS Student Chapter at Union University in Jackson, TN.  They were awarded a Community Interaction Grant to share their love of chemistry with underrepresented groups in chemistry, and the project you’re about to read about is the result.  Is your chapter interested in doing the same?  Visit the Community Interactions Grant webpage and learn more, and while you’re there, check out our other grants as well!

The Union University student chapter of the American Chemical Society needed a way to encourage student involvement and simultaneously interact with the Jackson, Tennessee, community. Students had a desire to spread their love of science while also working with children, especially those who are underprivileged. A golden opportunity appeared in 2011 in the form of Fusion Science Theater, a program based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Fusion Science Theater creates plays for children based on fundamental science concepts so that they can experience science in an interactive, fun atmosphere. The length of the plays range from 30 minutes to an hour long, and during that time, actors encourage audience questions and participation in demonstrations, and they use ballots to gauge audience attention and comprehension of subjects covered.

Union University students Spencer Rhodes and Brooklin Byrd perform the play "Will It Light?" on March 7, 2013, for elementary students at Alexander Elementary School.

Union University students Spencer Rhodes and Brooklin Byrd perform the play “Will It Light?” on March 7, 2013, for elementary students at Alexander Elementary School.

“What Makes the Loudest Boom?” centers around two actors, one a show host and the other a guest on the show. Children learn about how things burn, how this process relates to gases, and how balloons filled with different gases explode differently when exposed to heat. “That’s the Way the Ball Bounces” is a science show that teaches children how various materials bounce differently based on their molecular bonding.

“What Makes the Loudest Boom?” centers around two actors, one a show host and the other a guest on the show. Children learn about how things burn, how this process relates to gases, and how balloons filled with different gases explode differently when exposed to heat. “That’s the Way the Ball Bounces” is a science show that teaches children how various materials bounce differently based on their molecular bonding.

Union University student Phillip Kurtzweil performs a demonstration for the “What Makes the Loudest Boom?” play on April 12, 2013 at Lane Elementary School.

Union University student Phillip Kurtzweil performs a demonstration for the “What Makes the Loudest Boom?” play on April 12, 2013 at Lane Elementary School.

Phillip Kurtzweil, a junior at Union University, said that having multiple demonstrations keeps the kids engaged. “The kids say, Oh, wow! That’s cool! Flames! But in between the demos, you explain all the topics to them,” said Kurtzweil.

In September 2012, Dr. Randy Johnston, chair of the chemistry department, and two Union students were invited to a three-day training workshop at the Madison Area Technical College to learn a new play called “Will It Light?”, which involved explanations of electricity and how it is conducted through liquids. Through that experience, the Union students learned new techniques to communicate with younger students, enabling student to more concretely understand science concepts. These new skills were tested at the Madison Children’s Museum on the last day of the trip.

For the 2012–2013 academic year, the play “Will It Light?” was added to the lineup, replacing “That’s the Way the Ball Bounces.” Two actors were needed to perform each play, along with stagehands and people to prepare the liquid nitrogen ice cream. These students prepared rigorously for their performances, using fellow Union students and faculty as mock elementary school students to practice demonstrations. Andrew Stricklin, a junior at Union University, said, “I learned that … when people go and put on these plays … it’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of people willing to give up their time.” Demonstrations were scheduled to fit around Union students’ schedules and were performed at various schools in low-income neighborhoods around Jackson.

Union University student Andrew Stricklin encourages audience interaction during the play "What Makes the Loudest Boom?" at Lincoln Elementary School on April 12, 2013.

Union University student Andrew Stricklin encourages audience interaction during the play “What Makes the Loudest Boom?” at Lincoln Elementary School on April 12, 2013.

Upon visiting these schools, Union students were welcomed with open arms by students and teachers alike. Students eagerly bounced up and down to answer questions and yelled out answers when called upon. Tyler Byrd, a junior at Union University, said, “The teachers enjoyed it very much. They thanked us multiple times [for coming] … and they seemed very interested by most of it themselves.”

Students agreed that exposing kids to this game-show form of teaching and interaction encourages children to be inquisitive about the world around them and about science in general. Evan Lewoczko‎, a sophomore at Union University, said, “I think it was really a humbling experience because we realized that was us ever so long ago, and … some of us may have been thinking back to when we first got interested in chemistry.”

Union University students Andrew Stricklin and Phillip Kurtzweil call on students at Lane Elementary School on April 12, 2013.

Union University students Andrew Stricklin and Phillip Kurtzweil call on students at Lane Elementary School on April 12, 2013.

Fusion Science Theater shows allowed Union students to reach out to underprivileged youth in a unique, interactive way, allowing students who may not have had much exposure before to enjoy a hands-on experience in science. In the future, Union faculty and students hope to work together to create a play oriented toward high school students. Johnston, who is also faculty advisor to the Union University student chapter of the American Chemical Society, said that the plays require a lot of group commitment, work, and a clear purpose. Johnston said, “I think other schools should focus on the goal, which is helping students understand science, the scientific principle, and develop an interest in science.”

Brooklin Byrd is from Memphis, TN, and is a senior biology major/chemistry minor at Union University in Jackson, TN. She is involved with many organizations on campus, including the Union University Student Members of the American Chemical Society, in which she currently serves as the chapter secretary. After graduation from Union, Brooklin plans to attend dental school to become a doctor of dental surgery.

Brooklin Byrd is from Memphis, TN, and is a senior biology major/chemistry minor at Union University in Jackson, TN. She is involved with many organizations on campus, including the Union University Student Members of the American Chemical Society, in which she currently serves as the chapter secretary. After graduation from Union, Brooklin plans to attend dental school to become a doctor of dental surgery.

Nerd Heaven: Day One of the Undergraduate Program at the ACS National Meeting in New Orleans

Welcome to nerd heaven! The first day of Undergraduate Programming at the 245th ACS National Meeting in New Orleans is here!

If at any point you need to relax and grab a snack during the day, the Undergraduate Hospitality Center will be in Section BC of Hall A, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Want to know more?
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Check out the Undergraduate Program Guide

This first event is great to get some pointers on how to spend your time here:

Making the Most of Your First ACS National Meeting
Section C/Hall A
9:00 – 9:45 a.m.

Receive some tips on how to get the most out of an ACS national meeting. You will learn where you should go and different things to do from faculty and students who are pros at ACS national meetings.

Don’t you wish there was something like this for graduate school? OH WAIT! Check out this next event!

Graduate School Reality Check Step I: Getting in
Room 209/210
10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

Do you know what type of graduate degree or school is right for you? Learn about some options at this session in addition to what different places look for in their applications. There will be a panel of graduate students, graduate school faculty, graduate school recruiters, and industry representatives to help answer your questions about applying to graduate schools.

If you didn’t get your questions answered, why not go sit down and talk to a graduate school recruiter one on one?

Networking Social with Graduate School Recruiters
Room Hall A Section B
11:00 a.m.– 4:00 p.m.

This networking social is a great chance to learn about many different schools. This is a great time to get questions answered about different graduate programs and some schools you have never heard about. (After this event I kept in contact with a recruiter I met. Through her, I got connected to an admissions counselor who helped me through the application process: And I got in!)

Here are some tips:

Don’t sell yourself; instead, take this opportunity to learn about the school and programs available.

This is a great event to have business cards for and also to collect business cards. NETWORKING!

There are some things every chemist, at grad school or not, should learn. Get a head start by going to a technical symposium and some workshops.

Technical Symposium: Teaching is Fun – How to Become an Exemplary Teaching Assistant
Rivergate Ballroom
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Most graduate programs require at least two semester of a teaching assistantship. This technical symposium will help you learn what to do and what not to do in order to be the best teaching assistant possible.

Being in graduate school also requires research. What good is research if you cannot communicate the results with other scientists? These two workshops are here to help improve your skills on how scientists communicate.

Workshop Essential Skills for Success
Part I: Oral Presentation of Scientific Results
Part II: Write Like a Chemist
Room 206/207
Part I: 2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Part II: 4:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

This workshop will provide you with helpful tools for successful oral presentations and paper writing, both important parts of graduate school. This is a great chance to learn something that will later impress those you are working for, because for once they won’t have to teach it to you. This is a great skill to learn even if you are not planning on attending graduate school.

If graduate school isn’t on your radar or your club’s demos need some help, you should check out my favorite event.

Chem Demo Exchange
Hall E2/E3
11:00 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.

This is a wonderful event where you can learn demos from other undergraduate clubs. Bring something to collect all the papers in because you won’t be able to remember how to do all the demos. Many of the demos you even get to try out! More than half of the demos my club conducts we got from this event.

But what if you have great demos and you don’t feel like they reach the people you are doing the demos for?

Making Demos Matter Workshop
Rivergate Ballroom
4:00 p.m.- 5:30 p.m.

This workshop will help transform your demos from things your club members enjoy to play with to events your audiences will learn from and enjoy watching.

And since you have a few minutes before the ceremony, why not enjoy a mini-Mardi Gras at…

Opening Night Parade and New Member Networking Bingo
Expo Hall
6 pm

At 6pm just outside the Expo Hall doors you’ll find a brass band, a float, jesters and revelers, and the ACS Mole. Meet us there as we open the Expo Hall in a festive show of New Orleans flavor, in honor of the newest members of the American Chemical Society — YOU!

Follow the parade to the New Member Networking Bingo event behind the ACS Booth. Join fellow new members, ACS governance members, staff, and a few seasoned members as we play ACS bingo, network, and learn more about what the Society offers you.

Now take a little break and get ready for two of the best events:

Student Chapter Awards Ceremony + Undergraduate Social
Room Hall A/Section C
Ceremony: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.  Social: 8:30-11 p.m.

You worked hard all year so head to the ceremony to accept your award. There is no reason to miss out on this many nerds cheering.

Every great awards ceremony has an after-party! Continue your celebration at the undergraduate social.

Now it’s time to sleep, so you can attend even more fun events tomorrow! More helpful information about the meeting can be found in the Undergraduate Program Guide. Also, check back tomorrow for Monday’s event highlights!

Countdown to the 245th ACS National Meeting

Hello Undergrads!

The 245th ACS National Meeting will take place this April 7-11 in New Orleans, LA!  And, of course, we have a robust Undergraduate Program to enrich your National Meeting experience!

Click for a larger version.

If you’re going to the meeting, there are a few things you should do in preparation…really soon.

  1. Register your Chapter for the Chem Demo Exchange! Deadline is Friday, March 22! Only a few stations left!  Register now!
    Univ of toledo, Nat'l Meeting Demo Exchange
  2. Sign up for the Undergraduate Speed Networking Event – meet professional chemists who can help them find their place in the world of chemistry: Sign up here!Want to know more about networking?  Read our tips and tricks.
  3. Read our Guide to Undergraduate Programming at the National Meeting
    There will
    be more on this next week, but for know, find out where to find the best undergraduate events, green chemistry symposia, or free food in our National Meeting Guide.

Want to stay up to date on the meeting?  Follow our blog, Like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, and we’ll keep you up to date on all things National Meeting.  See you in New Orleans!

Reaching the Community with Chemistry – A CIG Grant in Action

The ACS Undergraduate Programs Office offers two grants to help your chapter reach the community: the Community Interactions Grant and the Innovative Activities Grant. Both of these grants are due March 21, so if you’re interested, apply now!

Below is an account of what one school, Texas Christian University, did with their Community Interactions Grant, by Erica Zimmerman, TCU Chemistry Club Outreach Officer.

In the spring of 2011, Sandi Dang, President of the Texas Christian University Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society, had a vision for the ACS Dallas – Fort Worth area to work together to foster the love of chemistry among their local community. The result was a week-long set of hands on activities at the Fort Worth History and Science Museum (FWHSM). That event motivated the chapter to expand its program in 2012 by inviting local elementary schools to visit the TCU campus!

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The 2011 participants at the FWHSM Week of Chemistry from University of Texas at Dallas, Southern Methodist University, University of Dallas, Texas Women’s University, Texas Wesleyan University, Dallas Baptist University, University of North Texas and Texas Christian University.

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Happy kids eating ice cream made using freezing point modification techniques! They were always so impressed it just took milk and some sugar to make ice cream!

In order to serve the Dallas/Fort Worth community, the TCU Chemistry Club created a program called “College Scientist for the Day,” which was funded by an ACS Community Interaction Grant. The goal of this program was to introduce kids to higher education in order to show them what they could achieve upon advancing their education. For many of the students, it was their first time on a college campus, and they were often in awe of the sheer size of the university. Many of the kids were excited at the idea of living at school, away from parents, and eating spaghetti every day, if they wanted.

TCU “College Scientist for a Day” starts when students from local elementary schools arrive at the campus and are greeted by TCU faculty and Chemistry Club Members. Activities begin with a “magic show” by faculty and students. The magic show includes eating a candle made of apple, a dissolving snake race, and the crowd-pleasing Super Frog Toothpaste (you may know it as Elephant’s Toothpaste).

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Eating a candle: A corer is used to obtain a cylinder of apple, and a sliver of almond is inserted in the top to act as a wick. Light the almond, and talk about candles and making observations. State that not everything you see is true, and then eat the candle.  Explain that scientists perform experiments in order to gather observations about the world.  We are constantly revising what we know based on what we observe.

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Dissolving snake race: Make a 3-foot snake and a 6-foot snake out of packing peanuts. Fill a 400-mL beaker half way with water, and another with acetone. Give a demo leader (who’s okay with losing) the shorter snake and the beaker of water. Give the 6-foot snake and the beaker of acetone to another. Have the observers guess which snake will be easier to dissolve. They will observe that the acetone dissolves the snake, while the water doesn’t.

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Student leader Erika Zimmermann showing that sodium polyacrylate absorbs water and thus none will fall out over Lauren’s head, or so she hopes!

After the magic show, students are divided into groups of about 20 and are escorted up to actual TCU teaching labs. In the labs, students don protective eye wear, and TCU Chemistry Ambassadors guide the students through the ACS Jiggle Gel Kits. The group leaders are TCU undergraduate and graduate students from both the chemistry and biology departments. Two TCU student leaders lead each student group through making polymers.

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Students showing off the slime they made!

After the lab session, the remaining time is spent on a question-and-answer session with TCU students about college. Students talk about what it’s like to be in college, what classes they take, what professors are like, where they live, what they do with their free time, and so much more. Then the chapter takes the students on a mini tour of campus, visiting the Monning Meteorite Museum, the library, administrative buildings, and dorms. The kids leave tired and happy – and hopefully knowing a little more about the world of a college student.

Thanks for sharing, TCU!  And remember, apply for a Community Interactions Grant or an Innovative Activities Grant today! Questions? E-mail undergrad@acs.org or leave a comment.