The double replacement reaction —
one of the classic types of chemical
reactions — involves combining two
ionic compounds in solution. The aqueous ions float around like atoms promenading at a square dance. Eventually,
the two cations do-si-do and replace
one another, making a solid, insoluble
salt in the process. In this case, we see
silver chloride solid “bow out” of solution, too insoluble and pooped to keep
dancing in aqueous solution.
These benefits alone are a great reason for students and scientists everywhere to begin communicating outside of their field.
Comics are my second language, but yours might be music, video,
or creative writing. It’s the process that matters, finding the most
important thread of the work and translating academic jargon —
which is certainly handy when speaking with peers! — into a different language that the general public can understand.
The final benefit of my work on the comic book was the
unexpectedly kind outpouring of support during my Kickstarter
campaign. I did a crowdfunding drive to introduce the comic
book to the world, and over 500 people funded the first printing
in exchange for one of the first copies. The messages and e-mails
from fans were moving; many backers are parents who want
to read the book with their STEM-inclined daughter, and some
are children of engineers who never really could talk with Mom
about what she does all day. I’m thrilled that the comic is becom-
ing a way to start a conversation between people who already
want to talk about science but don’t know how to start. In addi-
tion, during the 2015–2016 academic year, each issue of inChem-
istry magazine is featuring “Mind Over Matter”, a cartoon I’ve
drawn exclusively for the magazine.
The big picture
Ultimately, Atomic Size Matters
emphasizes the joy of doing
science for discovery’s sake. My
graduate studies aren’t going
to build any high-capacity cell
phone batteries, or much-needed
solar panels. Even so, I get excited
about fundamental science
because it opens the door to
these possibilities and more
future technologies that haven’t
been imagined yet.
Over the past five years, I’ve
learned that uncovering new truths
about the universe is its own reward.
As chemists, we already know the
value of doing great science, but
we have a long way to go to get the
public as excited about chemistry
as we are.
Veronica Berns earned
her Ph.D. at the
University of Wisconsin –
Madison in 2014, and
now works as an
at Honeywell UOP. When she’s not in the
lab, she’s drawing comics that connect
non-scientists to current topics in