Mole Day Celebrates Sixth Year
The Department of Chemistry and the American Chemical Society Club celebrated Mole Day in front of a record number of young school students. Here are Dr. John Hansen’s thoughts on the event.
John Hansen, associate professor of chemistry
If a mole of dimes were evenly distributed among the entire population of the world, which is 6 billion people, each person would have a sum of money equivalent to our national debt, which is 10 trillion dollars.
A mole is a quantity used by chemists much like a chef uses the quantity “a dozen." Whereas it makes sense to talk of a dozen eggs, atoms and molecules are way too small for this quantity to be practical. Instead, chemists use the quantity called a mole, which is an amount equal to the number 6.02 x 1023, i.e.; the digit 6 followed by 23 zeros, an incomprehensibly large number.
As October 23 approaches each year, students of the chemistry department are preoccupied with their preparations to celebrate Mole Day. No, this is not some arcane Druitt holiday to placate those subterranean rodents. Rather it is a day that the American Chemical Society (ACS) has set aside to focus on the chemical education of our nation’s youth.
Mole Day begins at 6:02 am and ends 6:02 pm on the 23rd day of the 10th month of each year, celebrating this all-important number to chemists, 6.02 x 1023.
The ACS Club, comprised of students from the Department of Chemistry and me, their advisor, has celebrated Mole Day for the last six years.
Each year, we invite students and teachers from local schools to UWG and entertain them with explosions, assorted bangs and pops, dramatic color changes, and other fascinating chemical demonstrations. Students are drawn to the explosions and noises and come away with a deeper interest in chemistry and science.
In 2003, during the first Mole Day celebration at UWG only 20 students showed up, which was quite disappointing. Each year that number has steadily increased. In the last couple of years, we have attracted about 120 students. This year we were taken aback with over 500 students attend our demonstrations!
It required a great deal of work by the ACS Club to organize and coordinate the event. Two other faculty members that have been quite helpful over the years in assisting with this event are Dr. Spencer Slattery and Dr. Farooq Khan. Dr. Slattery has a real knack in coming up with some very effective demonstrations.
This year we were helped with materials provided to us by Dr. Sharmistha Basu-Dutt through the IMPACT Grant. Jill Stallings, administrative assistant for the chemistry department, was indispensible in helping to organize this year’s event.
When I first started the Mole Day celebration, my intent was to attract local high school students to consider studying chemistry at UWG. However, it has also become an opportunity for our students to learn good citizenship within the scientific community and develop professional responsibility. They are helping to foster scientific interests in younger students – our future scientists, a vital component to our national economic growth.
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