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It's National Chemistry Week!

October 2013

Atoms, molecules, elements, Avogadro's Number. Beakers, test tubes, small contained flames in orderly labs.

The stuff of chemistry.

Not so fast, said chemistry major Kialee Bowles.

How about making ice cream using liquid nitrogen? Discovering toxic metals in consumer products? Understanding the very "building blocks" of life?

"Chemistry is all around us, in our everyday lives," said Bowles.

Bowles is a member—and former president—of the SAU Chemistry Club. The past two years have been very busy with guest speakers, chemical demonstrations, and visits to industries that employ chemists. The club has also been working to excite children and teens about chemistry. They've put on demonstrations at a local children's museum, for a father-son breakfast, and during a "CSI Night" for underprivileged children. And of course there are the ever-popular "liquid nitrogen ice cream parties." 

The club has been so successful that its members were invited to give a poster presentation at the American Chemical Society (ACS) national conference, accompanied by Assistant Professor Kelly Gierlus.

Along with the poster session, the students learned more about entry into grad school and science education for children. There were research presentations in toxicology, and organic, medicinal, environmental and analytical chemistry, and an address by the host of PBS' Scientific American Frontiers, actor Alan Alda.

So, Why Chemistry?
Interestingly, Bowles "hated" chemistry in high school. "I came to St. Ambrose as a biology major to prepare for med school," she said. But her exposure to chemistry at SAU (Professor of Chemistry Andy Axup being a "pivotal person" in sparking her interest) helped her decide on criminalistics and chemistry, instead. This summer she participated in the SAU Undergraduate Summer Research Institute, using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to analyze consumer products for toxic metals, "critical to consumers awareness," she said.

Bowles wishes the general public wasn't so intimidated by chemistry. "People ask me, 'What's your major?' When I tell them they say, 'Oh, gosh.'

"But it's really not that scary," said Bowles. "When you break it down, understand the individual processes, chemistry is incredibly interesting and relevant. Literally, there's chemistry in everything." 

Chemistry Fun
Here's a link to the club's Harlem Shake Video.

Some of Bowles' favorite chemistry jokes:
"Never trust an atom, they make up everything."
"Did you hear Oxygen and Magnesium are dating?! OMg...."
"Do you have 11 protons?? Because you are SODIUM fine..."
"Do you know any jokes about Sodium Hypobromite? NaBrO."


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