On the evening of April 18th, 2019, USask-WiC opened the doors of our Chemistry Department at the University of Saskatchewan to a Pathfinder Girl Guide unit. Sixteen girls aged from 13 to 15, and their chaperones, spent two hours learning the who, what, and why of chemistry!
After a welcome and introduction to our celebration of the 150th anniversary of the periodic table by Dr. Elaheh and Moralba, it was time for a lab tour. We went to the Saskatchewan Structural Sciences Centre (SSSC) to see some of the equipment that chemists routinely use to identify and analyze the properties of various materials. Paul expertly explained the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technique and its link to hospital MRI scans. Dr. Amy took them deep into the basement to show them the laser lab, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and atomic force microscopy (AFM). We got some great probing questions along the way!
Then we went back upstairs and stationed the troop in undergraduate lab S110. After putting on the appropriate chemistry lab attire, Paul and Miranda enthused the girls with their personal testimonials. They explained why they chose chemistry, what life as an undergraduate and graduate chemistry student is like, and where a chemistry degree can take you.
Then it was all hands on deck as we got stuck into the hands-on demonstrations and the ensuing chaos! We extracted DNA from bananas, explored the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide by making elephant toothpase, and used blended red cabbage to indicate the acid-base properties of household products, some of which the girls themselves provided. We also made coloured fireballs with methanol solutions of metal salts, and froze some flowers with liquid nitrogen.
Elaheh finished the visit with a strong message of encouragement and the achievability of equality in STEM fields.
Thanks to everyone who supports Women in Chemistry!
Written by Dr. Amy Stevens