Chemistry Matters Symposium

I recently had the pleasure of attending this year’s Chemistry Matters Symposium. My own presentation focused on reuse of old tires. However, there were a wide array of topics from dogs sniffing landmines to the chemistry of running a marathon. Out of all of these presentations there were three that really stood out to me. One dealing with the chemistry of coffee, another with kitty litter, and the third with clean drinking water.

The chemistry of coffee presentation discussed the various health benefits of the beverage. I found it particularly interesting how the caffeine from coffee is able to bind with the brain cells’ adenosine receptors because it shares a similar chemical structure with adenosine. The adenosine molecules, which regulate sleepiness, are replaced by the caffeine, which excites the brain cells, and this process helps people stay awake. The presentation then went on to discuss how other chemicals in coffee benefitted the body such as antioxidants protecting against free radicals. In general, I found the presentation very informative. Another reason why it stood out was I thought the presenter seemed particularly enthusiastic. In addition, they seemed well-rehearsed and knowledgeable about the topic. The conclusion was especially well done because it provoked further thought on coffee by questioning whether the beverage really is good for us.

The second presentation I thought stood out was one about kitty litter. This presentation went through a chronological progression of the advancements in cat litter. The graphic of bentonite clay, one common component, was well explained. The clay adsorbs the water and ammonia ions from the waste serving to trap the odor and wetness. The organization of this presentation was one of the things that made it stand out to me. It really flowed quite nicely. Also, I think for the most part they made good use of images. Unlike in some of the other presentations the presenter did a good job a fully explaining their images and tying them into the rest of the presentation.

The third presentation that caught my attention talked about various methods of cleaning drinking water. First, they gave some background information on problems with arsenic poisoning in India. They then discussed three potential solutions. The solution I found particularly interesting was a powder which served to both disinfect and rid the water of arsenic. The reaction with the arsenic and the ferric sulfate in the powder caused the arsenic to precipitate out of the water. This presentation stood out to me largely because its topic seemed so significant. I thought this project did the best job demonstrating why chemistry matters. It showed that chemistry can be used to save lives. Furthermore, I think this project did well explaining the chemistry involved in the various solutions.

Watching all of the presentations really made me think more about my own and what I could have done better. The three that most stood out to me really brought to my attention some of my weaknesses. I definitely could have been more enthusiastic like the chemistry of coffee presenter. My images could have been better tied into my presentation. I also  probably should have gone more in depth into the chemistry involved in my social issue. I think these are areas I will be able to improve upon for future presentations.

In conclusion, I think the symposium was a success. The various projects were able to show that chemistry makes problems, provides solutions, and plays a part in pretty much everything. Chemistry is all around us and even in us. It matters.


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