Chem department will celebrate National Chemistry Week


Students who drop by the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department this week can take part in various chemical demonstrations — including a demonstration of the edible properties of liquid nitrogen — for the school’s traditional celebration for National Chemistry Week.

Members of YChem, BYU’s student chapter of the American Chemical Society, will be selling ice cream made with liquid nitrogen for $1 in the Benson building, a traditional part of the club’s annual National Chemistry Week fundraiser. The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department will also host several chemistry “magic shows” during the week, allowing BYU chemistry professors to demonstrate chemical principals through the creation of foam cylinders, flashing colors and, of course, explosions.

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Dr. John T. Prince of the biochemistry department performs the annual chemistry magic show to a captivated audience on Monday night in the Benson building.

“Every chemist is a pyromaniac at some level,” said James Patterson, an assistant professor of chemistry.

These “magic shows” are free to the public, but seating is limited so tickets must be reserved in advance online at

BYU’s National Chemistry Week events are intended to entertain, but Patterson said the department’s goal is also to reach out to the community and get students excited about chemistry.

“We want to show people how chemistry benefits their lives,” chemistry professor and National Chemistry Week coordinator David Dearden said.

Along those lines, the department will also host a symposium based on the 2011 National Chemistry Week theme, “Chemistry — Our Health, Our Future,” from 2 to 4 Thursday afternoon in W 111 in the Benson building. The symposium’s speakers will focus on four industries — pharmaceutical, food, cleaners and detergents and cosmetics — that the symposium’s organizers believe would illustrate the role of chemistry in health-related fields.

“A lot of the reason why people live so long is chemistry,” Dearden said. “Chemistry and medicine go hand in hand.”

A poster session detailing chemical research by professors and students from BYU and UVU will be available on Friday and Saturday in the west foyer of the Benson building, and a hands-on educational session geared toward elementary students will be at the Provo City Library on Saturday.

According to Dearden, BYU’s National Chemistry Week celebration is not only popular with students, but also brings in a fair sized crowd from off-campus as well. In recent years, attendance was such that the number of magic shows was doubled from five — one per week day — to 10 to accommodate all those interested in attending, he said.

Chemistry Week is a national event held by the American Chemical Society.

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