Chemistry is truly the central science and underpins much of the efforts of scientists and engineers to improve life for humankind. TheMIT Department of Chemistryis taking a leading role in discovering new chemical synthesis, catalysis, creating sustainable energy, theoretical and experimental understanding of chemistry, improving the environment, detecting and curing disease, developing materials new properties, and nanoscience.
The Chemistry Education Office staff is responsible for administering the educational programs in the Department of Chemistry. Students can find answers to many questions about the undergraduate and graduate programs on the department website, and they are encouraged to stop by and see the staff in the office located in 6-205.
The student-run outreach programs in the Department of Chemistry aim to bring the excitement of chemical sciences to the community through lively demonstrations designed to illustrate a broad range of chemical principles. Graduate students visit science classes in high schools and middle schools in the Greater Boston area with a view to demystifying chemistry through hands-on experiments. ClubChem, an undergraduate chemistry organization, conducts Chemistry Magic Shows for elementary schools and youth programs in the Greater Boston area.
Chemistry is truly the central science and underpins much of the efforts of scientists and engineers to improve life for humankind. MIT Chemistry is taking a leading role in discovering new chemical synthesis, catalysis, creating sustainable energy, theoretical and experimental understanding of chemistry at its most fundamental level, unraveling the biochemical complexities of natural systems, improving the environment, detecting and curing disease, developing materials new properties, and nanoscience.
MIT Women in Chemistry host second annual Scientist for a Day camp
September 8, 2017
Photos courtesy of Women in Chemistry | Top left to right: Amanda Stubbs, Allena Goren, Krysta Dummit, Carly Schissel, Lexie McIsaac, Jessica Lamb | Bottom left to right: Jessica Carr, Sophie Bertram, Nicole Moody, Kristin Zuromski, Michelle MacLeod, Anna Ponomarenko Not pictured: Patti Christie, Grace Kimball, Katie Shulenberger, Alyssa Antropow, and Kaitlyn Dwelle
The well-attended event provided participants with a sampling of hands-on science activities led by female graduate students in MIT's Department of Chemistry. Over the course of the three and a half hour experience, the girls experimented with polymers used in every-day materials, extracted DNA from strawberries and fluorescent molecules from spinach, simulated the greenhouse effect and its origin in our environment, made ice cream using liquid nitrogen, and more. "It was quite clear that all had a great time," said Department Head and Robert R. Taylor Professor Timothy F. Jamison. "I would be very surprised if [the Women In Chemistry volunteers) have not inspired many or all of these girls to start or to continue on their paths in science."
WIC member Nicole Moody decants carbon dioxide into a bottle, which was later exposed to light to demonstrate how carbon dioxide retains heat in a small-scale version of the greenhouse effect.
The afternoon of scientific exploration proved to be rewarding not just for the middle-school girls, but also for the women who organized the event. "I really liked being reminded of what I must have been like before I knew as much about science as I do now," said Graduate Student and WIC Outreach Chair Krysta Dummit. "[I also] liked thinking about all the science they had yet to discover."
The girls blow bubbles into red cabbage juice (a home-made pH indicator) to investigate the effect of increased carbon dioxide levels on the pH of the ocean at the Environmental Science Experiment Station.
Graduate Student voluteer Amanda Stubbs regards the event as an opportunity to pay it forward, remembering a defining moment in her own middle school experience that ultimately led her to where she is today. "When I was in middle school I went to a camp that was directed at girls to encourage them to go into STEM fields by talking about different possible careers; this experience was a helpful influence when I was eventually selecting my major as an undergraduate," Stubbs recalled. "I want to do everything I can to encourage more women to pursue chemistry; seeing them achieve the tasks we laid out for them and being excited about what they had accomplished was very rewarding."
WIC member Carly Schissel helps one girl to make her borax slime at the Chemistry in Materials Experiment Station.
The volunteers succeeded in orchestrating a wonderful event that truly got its participants excited about Chemistry by putting the experiments right into their hands. "My favorite moment was watching the girls thoroughly smash a bunch of strawberries," said Dummit. "They were so enthusiastic about it. I think it's really important to let kids play with science, rather than just reading about it." Liquid nitrogen ice cream also proved to be a hit among the crowd. "My favorite moment was making liquid nitrogen ice cream with the girls," said Stubbs. "They were excited and it brought together two of my favorite things - science and ice cream!"
By orchestrating this event and others like it, MIT Women in Chemistry continue to take their role as influencers of the next generation of female STEM students with a significant amount of gravitas. This fulfilling, educational, and, most importantly, fun experience succeded in raising awareness as to just how magnificent the pursuit of Chemistry can be.