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Skutt Catholic Students Take on Chemistry Day

Juniors and seniors spend the day exploring UNL’s chemistry department

UNL+Professor+Dr.+Martha+Morton+explaining+spectrophotometry.
UNL Professor Dr. Martha Morton explaining spectrophotometry.

UNL Professor Dr. Martha Morton explaining spectrophotometry.

Photo by Zoe Clark

Photo by Zoe Clark

UNL Professor Dr. Martha Morton explaining spectrophotometry.

Zoe Clark, Copy Editor

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“Why is chemistry important? Perhaps, it is best to answer that with a question,” said UNL Professor of Chemistry Dr. James Takacs. “What in the world around you does NOT involve atoms, ions, molecules and their interactions?”

Photo by Zoe Clark
From left to right: juniors PJ Slattery, Aiden Gnuse, Hank Medlock, Frank Lonie, and Louis Sully tie-dying t-shirts

Every year, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln hosts Chemistry Day, which exposes students to the University’s chemistry programs and allows students to further explore the field. This year’s theme was “Chemistry Rocks!,” and the event focused on rocks and minerals in chemistry.

Upon entering UNL’s chemistry department, students and teachers were greeted with a warm welcome and an even warmer breakfast. Then a literal bang started the festivities as UNL put on a chemistry demonstration: pure hydrogen exploded at the front of the room.

Students remained gathered in the lecture hall while a chemistry professor presented a powerpoint about the chemistry in rocks and how it pertained to the real world. “I enjoyed the sort of ‘mini-lecture’ in which one of UNL’s chemistry professors incorporated the very broad theme of rocks into a simple, yet very educational presentation,” said junior Louis Sully. “I personally found what he said about the various allotropes of carbon and their uses very interesting,” Sully said.

From there, students were whisked away to the different levels of the building for lab tours. At each laboratory, they explained what they were working on and how it pertained to the outside world. “The labs presented at this year’s annual Chemistry Day furthered my growing inclination to actually study research science,” said junior PJ Slattery.

After the tours, high schoolers had the chance to have a personal Q & A session with current chemistry majors to ask questions about college life and their chosen field of study. Students also got to walk through the Undergraduate Instrumentation Center(UIC) and view equipment that is capable of using and detecting all the wave types on the electromagnetic spectrum. “I especially enjoyed touring through the different methods used in the various fields of chemistry such as the NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) system that maps proteins and the molecules which they attach to,” junior Aiden Gnuse said.

After lunch, the students split into three groups and participated in a series of three labs. The labs used light frequencies to determine fluorescence, precipitate reactions to determine an unknown substance, and created concrete magnets.

Photo by Zoe Clark
Testing a rock for fluorescence

“My favorite part was the labs that we did,” said science teacher Mrs. Kathy Wawers. “It is enjoyable to do labs, which I don’t often get to do because I have to supervise my students in lab instead,” Wawers continued.

Photo by Zoe Clark
Materials for making concrete magnets

The day concluded with a quiz bowl and an award ceremony. Normally a quiz bowl would be an event to dread and full of worry about failure, but this was not the case here; it was a fun, lighthearted game, with the answers collected via electronic remotes. Afterwards, prizes were awarded for quiz bowl scores and participation.

Chemistry Day was also a scholarship opportunity for seniors. All Skutt Catholic seniors in attendance on Saturday won scholarships based on their school transcripts and letter of recommendation. Skutt students ended up winning approximately half of all scholarships awarded at the event.

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Clark - Copy Editor

Zoe became a member of The Flightline in August of 2017. She is a junior this year involved in robotics, academic decathlon, and many other electives, and spends what little free time she has reading. You can email her at [email protected]

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