ACS Club Combining Chemistry and Community

(Photo Courtesy of the U's Chapter of American Chemical Society)

(Photo Courtesy of the U’s Chapter of American Chemical Society)

 

There’s only one place at the U where someone can put liquid nitrogen into a trash can full of 1,000 ping pong balls and watch it explode: The American Chemical Society.

Started by transfer students who participated in an American Chemical Society chapter at Salt Lake Community College, the U chapter has grown a consistent 30 to 50 members per event.

Holly Sebahar, one of three advisors for the organization, said the main goal is incorporating chemistry into the community “in a way that can be fun, exciting, useful and applicable in everyone’s lives.”

This organization is active in outreach to community elementary schools, encouraging kids to embrace science and think about the possibilities of science as a career.

“Not only are our members getting great volunteer experience out of what they do, they truly enjoy working with young minds,” Sebahar said. “Younger students hold true fascination, curiosity and love for this kind of stuff.”

When ACS started, it focused on reaching a younger demographic, mainly those K-5, Sebahar added. Nowadays, Sebahar said ACS is expanding outreach by hosting events at places such as City Creek and the public library to interact with more of the public.

The main focus of ACS is currently middle school students, Sebahar added.

“[Middle school is] when we noticed children really start to lose interest in science,” Sebahar said. “We’re trying to sort of stay relevant to them and show them that it can be fun.”

Within the U itself, Sebahar said ACS aims to expand membership beyond the chemistry department. Recruitment for ACS typically happens within chemistry classes. And, Sebahar said, surprisingly, a number of ACS members aren’t chemistry majors, but biology majors.

Casey White, the president of ACS, joined as a sophomore and said his experience led to a greater understanding of his major and improved his leadership skills.

“I met some of my great friends in ACS and built a community within the community,” White said.

White said the club mainly does demonstrations to showcase the real life application of science. He said his favorite demonstration is one where different metal salts are burnt to produce bright lights and colors, which is the foundation of how fireworks are made.

Beyond demonstrations, the club also participates in community outreach beyond local elementary schools.

Sebahar said ACS regularly tutors at Bryant Middle School and will be engaging in an environmental awareness and sustainability project later this year.

The club will be doing more university outreach this semester by participating in Officer’s Hallow in Officer’s Circle as well as participating in National Chemistry Week, White added.

Hillary Hansen, a senior in biology, has been a club member for two years and said the club has provided her with useful skills both within her major and for her own personal growth.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience as a member of ACS and would recommend it to anyone who is the least bit interested in science,” Hansen said. “ACS is a lot more than your stereotypical chemistry club.”

c.luu@chronicle.utah.edu

@cynthia_luu

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