Club spotlight: mules master chemistry

Last year, the Chemistry Club just disseminated information to all chemistry majors and minors. In fact, the club was effectively just an extension of the chemistry department. This year however — under the leadership of student advisors Grace Uwase ’18 and Danielle Smith ’18—the club is reexamining and reinvigorating its role within the Colby community.   

Recently, the Chemistry Club hosted a “Night of Opportunities” during which students spoke about their research experiences both on and off campus. The event was a huge success; nearly 80 students showed up. The club also hosted a paint night during which students painted a mule holding a test tube. In addition, the club hosts lunches in a private room in Bobs. Sometimes, the club will have nights where students can hang out, do homework together, and eat some snacks.

The club does more than just host events; it also offers support to students taking chemistry classes. As Smith explained, “A lot of people find chemistry really daunting so we want to make it a little less so.” Uwase added, “We do a lot of complaining together. It helps students know that other people are going through the same things. Chemistry is a hard major. We can’t downplay that.”

The club regularly receives e-mails from students who need help or resources, which Uwase and Smith happily provide. According to Uwase, “it’s easier to ask a peer a question than go to a teacher’s office. Especially with Gen-Chem—a class of 70 people—many students are afraid of going to office hours.” Smith agrees; with the Chem club, “you don’t have to be afraid to ask a stupid question.” Sometimes the club will redirect struggling students to the chemistry help center. Although the center is not run by the club, Smith explains, “We all hang out together to help however we can.”

The co-advisors—who are both seniors—became interested in running the organization for similar reasons. Smith finds it important to “form strong connections between peers within the chemistry department. Sometimes when you are doing work, it can feel isolating. Chemistry is a small department so it’s really important to get to know kids who are interested in the same thing you are.”

Uwase became interested when she realized last year that most of her friends in the chemistry department had graduated. She wanted to find a way to forge stronger bonds with her fellow classmates. So, Uwase and Smith banded together and found that there was a surprising amount of interest in the club from both professors and students alike. They also took advantage of the funding provided from the Student Government Association which was secured by last year’s presidents.

Uwase and Smith have big plans for the club’s future. Uwase explained that “we’re still in the baby stages.” Right now, they are trying to get the club certified by the American Chemical Society. They want to create a mentoring program in which proficient chemistry students help underclassmen with their work. In addition, they are also interested in co-hosting events with the Biology and Women in Physics Clubs as well as creating a community outreach program with local schools. At the end of this year, the Club is hosting a barbeque outside—an annual tradition. The night will feature trivia and liquid nitrogen ice cream.

The co-advisors think that many different departments could benefit from having a student-run club. Uwase thinks this model would work particularly well for other departments that seem daunting, such as the math department. The model could also work well for bigger departments in which professors are less familiar with their students.

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