Category Archives: teaching

ChemMatters: Demystifying Everyday Chemistry for high school students

ChemMatters is a magazine for high school students and high school teachers published by the Education Division of the American Chemical Society.

The magazine, which appears four times a year, contains articles that feature real-world applications of chemistry concepts introduced in the classroom. Latest issues cover themes such as the application of nanotechnology, great discoveries in chemistry, and the science behind weather folklore.

The site provides a Teacher’s guide, videos, material for the classroom and more.

Check out the ChemMatters web site for the latest issue!

View the lastest Episode on ChemMatters: “Episode 10: Graphene: The Next Wonder Material?” on carbon allotropes and the applications of graphene.

What are we really made of?

Watch this!! – I just found this amazing video that offers a very entertaining introduction into the particles and forces that make up me, you, the earth, the universe. Featuring Morgan Freeman, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, Brian Cox, Richard Feynman, and Frank Close, this video offers a cursory introduction to quantum chemistry – the science that governs the interactions of subatomic particles, atoms, and even molecules.

Basically, in 3 and a half minutes, the video tries to explain that:

[Morgan Freeman]

Dig deep inside the atom
and you’ll find tiny particles
Held together by invisible forces

[Frank Close]

The atoms that we’re made of have
Negatively charged electrons
Whirling around a big bulky nucleus

[Brian Cox]

The universe is made of
Twelve particles of matter
Four forces of nature

[Richard Feynman]

The world is a dynamic mess
Of jiggling things
In the quantum world electrons behave as waves and as particles

For the ultimate triumph of science

[Stephen Hawking]

We need a theory of everything
Which is still just beyond our grasp

The theory of everything is the Holy Grail of Physics: A theory that will explain through a single model everything from Creation, to supernovas, to atoms and molecules, perhaps even DNA, people, and love. (The four yet unified forces of nature are: gravitation, electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces that keep together elementary particles.)

If we ever create this theory, we might answer questions such as:

  • What happened before the big bang?
  • Is it possible to build a time machine?
  • Can we punch a hole in space?

“The Quantum World” music video is the eleventh installment in the ongoing Symphony of Science music video series. Materials used in the creation of this video are from: for downloads & more videos!

George Whitesides on Entrepreneurship + Innovation = Jobs

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is the world’s largest scientific society with more than 161,000 members at all degree-levels and in all fields of chemistry, chemical engineering, and related fields. ACS provides a wealth of educational activities, which are mostly free and open to the public. Most importantly, they are interesting even for those who are not chemists! One of those activities is the “Virtual Career Fair”, where you can find webinars such as “Navigating the Global Industrial Job Market” and “Networking 101 — Making Your Contacts Count”. One of today’s webinars, entitled “Entrepreneurship + Innovation = Jobs” is given by Professor George Whitesides (Harvard University), a legendary innovator and pioneer, who has pioneered microfabrication and nanoscale self-assembly. One of his achievements is the “soft robot”, which is capable of gripping and lifting a raw egg without cracking its delicate shell (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., DOI: 10.1002/anie.201006464). The challenge was to find the right material that could be soft enough to treat delicate surfaces, such as an egg. You can read the full article from C& E News here.

EGG LIFT: A soft robotic gripper lifts a raw egg without damaging its shell. (Source: C&E News)

George Whitesides is the co-founder of a dozen companies and holds 50-plus patents. Definitely worth hearing from him about converting a great idea into a business.

From the American Chemical Society website on today’s webinar:

A recent ACS Task Force on Innovation report documented that most new jobs today and in the near future will be created by entrepreneurial start ups and small companies. Do you have an idea for a new product, service, or technology, but need help converting it into a business? Do you have a desire and the right stuff to be an entrepreneur? Plan to attend this webinar and receive valuable advice and direction from successful serial entrepreneur and Harvard University Professor George Whitesides. Whitesides recently chaired the ACS Task Force on Innovation, which was appointed by Joseph Francisco, 2010 ACS President and Professor of Chemistry at Purdue University. Whitesides and Francisco will provide valuable career advice for chemists at all stages in their careers, whether they are graduate students, postdocs, or seasoned professionals making a transition in this challenging economic job market. At this webinar, you will learn how ACS is working with U.S. policymakers, industry, academia, and its membership to support entrepreneurs and innovation to create jobs. You will learn about new ACS programs in entrepreneurship as well as specific steps that you can take now to develop the skills and find the resources needed to convert your innovative ideas into successful entrepreneurial ventures.


Chemistry never sounded this good!

I just heard from a professor friend at UCLA about a fabulous approach to teaching by her colleague, organic chemistry Professor Neil Garg. According to a UCLA press release:

Undergraduates in Neil Garg’s organic chemistry course produce clever, creative music videos as an extra-credit assignment. The bigger secret may be just how much chemistry they learn by doing so, as none of them are chemistry majors and most admit they didn’t like chemistry when the class started.

Basically, students are asked to produce a music video with a theme from organic chemistry. Sounds geeky? Ha. You will be amazed by how cool it is:

Others used the Beatles as an inspiration. One of their verses in “Let it be” is:
SN2 electrophiles: primary carbon not tertiary
Lone pairs show nucleophilicity
Use polar aprotic solvent
Tosylates and halides, they will leave
Inversion of stereochemistry

So students are able to learn chemistry in a fun way. You can read the full article and get some more videos here and in Garg’s website, including a Lady Gaga-ish gig called “Bond this way“.

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