Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chemistry Chapter Earns National Recognition

"We are not just about blowing stuff up and making it look cool. We are about making a solar cell out of blackberry juice and glass slides." -Owen Williams '14

This month, Gordon College student chemists received a prestigious honor: two awards at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), of which Gordon College has a very active student chapter. At the group's national meeting in New Orleans this month, nine Gordon students were recognized with the Outstanding Student Chapter Award as well as a Green Chemistry Award. Receiving both awards together is the most elite recognition any chapter can receive, and only 25 other schools (from a pool of over a thousand) have received this honor.

Thousands of college students and professional chemists gathered to present research, hear lectures by distinguished scientists, and network with high-profile chemists. All nine Gordon students presented their research through poster presentations. Chemistry major Owen Williams ’14, treasurer of the Gordon chapter, remarked, “Top academics go to the poster area of their specialty. It was an incredible opportunity to dialogue with these distinguished people, as almost everyone I cited in my paper was there!” The students had over three thousand lectures to choose from at the conference, in fields ranging from agricultural chemistry to chemistry law. 

Gordon’s ACS chapter seeks to serve the local community by promoting chemistry in a way that keeps environmental and human impact in mind. Community outreach also includes tutoring children in Lynn every Friday night in physics, chemistry and biology. 

The Chapter also wants to provide even more access to the study of chemistry at Gordon for future students through an endowed Chemistry scholarship, so the chapter is fundraising with hopes to establish one. This is the first time Gordon students have tried to endow a scholarship while still in college and after three years of offering hosting their "cookie fundraiser," they are well on the way.

The chapter also gains important professional experience in scientific writing and project management through their work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  They work with government officials in the chemical sciences to make experiment overviews more comprehensible for the general public.

But the Gordon chapter never neglects its home community. In an effort to expose more students to the fun of science, the club created Chemistry on the Quad. Over 250 Gordon students gather on the quad to partake in science demonstrations and exhibits.

The ACS chapter at Gordon began in 1990 when Chemistry Professor Irv Levy  encouraged a student to share their research at a national conference. Once accepted, the pair traveled together for the student to present nationally. Over the past decade members of the Gordon chapter have attended the ACS conference nearly every year in cities including Atlanta, Washington D.C., San Diego, New Orleans, Boston and San Francisco. In 2005, a Gordon student presented at the first ACS green chemistry education symposium in San Diego. But it is only in the last two years that Levy and the students have traveled to be recognized as a club, not purely for individual research. Last year, Gordon was recognized as a “commendable”chapter by the undergraduate advisory board, a group of national scholars that evaluates each chapter’s annual report of experiments, findings and activities. This year’s “outstanding” recognition places the Gordon chapter in the 97th percentile of student chapters. Professor Levy says, “Our students do so much outreach, and go beyond just chemistry in the classroom. They are involved in tutoring for children in public schools; help with scholarship opportunities for local youth; and work with organizations to promote sustainable chemistry. They take their own initiative and really are outstanding.” 

The Chemistry Department is a tight-knit community and the faculty often gather with students to share food (a favorite form of chemistry!) and fellowship. Joel Boyd, associate professor of chemistry, serves as the ACS advisor and works closely with the students to assist with their experiments. “Our student chapter of the ACS is an extremely active branch of the largest professional society in the world,” he says. “The secret to their success is their history of having strong, yet decentralized, leadership from many different students over the past three years.”

President Justin Andrews ’14 notes the club would be nothing without the dedication and passion of its scientists: “The leadership and organization of our chapter is spread out to all of our very dedicated members. Leading a group of students passionate about the work we do has made leadership easy. It is a testament to the caliber of student leaders Gordon trains up through its unique leadership-nurturing environment.”

As members of the Gordon chapter of ACS continues to share the important potential of chemistry in today’s world, they recognize the importance of working with the other science departments. Each of the natural science departments at Gordon has its own club, but Andrews has hopes for next year for them to team together. “Next year I hope to see the leaders of the science clubs to meet monthly and share in the planning of and participation of science based events. Together we could make an even larger difference at Gordon.”

Photography--Top: --> Members of the Gordon College ACS Student Chapter- Front Row: HanByul Chang, Bria Pelletier, Rachael Albury, Lee Andrews and Ben Stewart. Back Row:  Clyde (CJ) Daly, Justin Andrews, Faculty Advisor Joel Boyd, Owen Williams and Sarah McCarron
Photo #2: 2011-2012 chapter president Ben Stewart receiving "Outstanding Student Chapter" award in April 2013
Photo #3: Vice president Sarah McCarron and 2012-2013 chapter president Justin Andrews presenting the Gordon chapter's poster.
Link to ACS Blog

Blogger: Mac Gostow ’13. Mac is a communication arts major from California and a student writer in the Office of College Communications at Gordon College. With a double minor in business administration and sociology, Mac has interned for CBS News in New York City, is a founder of ScotRadio, performs with the Sweaty Tooth Madmen improv troupe, and served as a show host for KURadyo in Istanbul, Turkey.

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