Where Learning and Deliciousness Collide
Terrific things happen when learning, sociability and deliciousness collide. This was certainly true on Oct. 21, when the Chemistry Club celebrated National Chemistry Week with liquid-nitrogen ice cream, periodic-table brownies, giveaways and much more than a nanoparticle of fun.
The ice-cream social celebrated Mole Day, an unofficial holiday promoted by the American Chemical Society to foster interest in the field. A part of National Chemistry Week, Mole Day commemorates a basic unit of measurement in chemistry, 6.02x1023, and is traditionally celebrated between 6:02 a.m. and 6:02 p.m. on October 23rd.
The gathering fog ...
The social's most theatrical moments arrived when the department’s newest faculty member, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Rebecca Connor, created vanilla and chocolate ice cream—and a mass of witches’ brew-like fog, made of gas—on the spot by adding liquid nitrogen to a bowl of cream, sugar and flavoring. [Article continues below]
“Liquid nitrogen freezes the mixture very quickly,” said Connor, noting that the liquid nitrogen evaporates, and is not found in the end product. “The ice crystals are very small, so the ice cream is very creamy.”
Alice Duchon ’11’s periodic-table brownies were also a smash hit.
Duchon’s baking talents were first revealed at a faculty-student meeting last summer. Duchon—a biochemistry & molecular-biology double major who was on campus to perform cancer-related research with Professor Kristi Humphreys—had been attending near-weekly status meetings throughout the summer with professors and fellow student-researchers. One week, she and a friend created small cakes, decorated them with periodic-table designs and brought them to a meeting.
“We made cakes for each of the professors and students based on compounds dealing with their research,” Duchon explained. “For example, Erica Hartz [‘11] and Professor St. Angelo’s research involved gold nanoparticles, so we made both of them a cake that looked like the element Au.”
For the ice-cream social, Duchon baked brownies and iced them with colored chocolate, using various colors to differentiate between periodic-table groupings. “It took roughly two days to make, but it was worth it. People were excited to see their favorite element,” she said.
The event was a success, attracting both chemistry majors and non-majors alike, St. Angelo reported. “The students enjoyed it,” she said. “We wanted to demonstrate that chemistry can be fun and exciting—and I think we succeeded.”
By MaryAlice Bitts
Photos by A. Pierce Bounds '72