Let’s say you’ve just been elected president of your ACS stu- dent chapter. Member attendance this past year was lower than in previous years, and you’re looking to reinvigorate the chapter. But how? More socials? More outreach? What about more research?!
Educators have long known that research does far more than
simply advance the field of chemistry. Getting involved in research
helps you build and integrate your chemistry knowledge. You have
the chance to develop instrumentation, safety, and critical thinking
skills— the types of skills employers look for when hiring.
Most importantly for chapters, research is a great way to
engage students in science. But how can a student chapter support research?
Here are six ways your chapter can use chemistry research to
fire up its members.
Talk about research
Group discussions about research can give members opportunities to reflect on the skills they
acquired through their coursework, and how those
skills can help them pursue ambitions after college.
You can hold these talks at each chapter meeting,
Invite chemistry faculty or chapter members who are doing
research to discuss their work in brief talks that leave lots of time
for discussion. Invite outside speakers from regional universities or
companies to give longer talks. Such keynote speakers are usually
pleased to be invited by students and will most likely accept the
Chapter members who have not started an active research
project can also give presentations. Working alone or in pairs, these
members can investigate current trends in science and give low-stakes presentations to the chapter.
Chapter members or faculty involved
in research can provide tours of their
lab(s). In addition to areas of chemistry,
tours can emphasize a lab’s scientific
techniques, specific instrumentation, or methods of data analysis.
After a semester’s worth of tours, members can decide which areas
and techniques piqued their interest. Then student- or faculty-led
workshops can be scheduled.
These workshops could help student members develop a
broader and deeper understanding without the need to join mul-
tiple labs for undergraduate research. Hands-on, problem-based
approaches to the workshops can expose students to modern tech-
niques, instrumentation, and data analysis in realistic settings.
Student member workshops can also focus on foundational,
cross-disciplinary skills that all science majors should master.
These workshops provide an opportunity for the chapter to
involve other student groups. Short events led by upper-level
students can focus on freshmen and sophomores practicing basic
skills, such as safe handling of hazardous materials, preparing
solutions, making dilutions, pipetting, using gel electrophoresis,
distilling, and titrating.
Software commonly used in research and data analysis, such
as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, ChemDraw, NVivo, and La TeX can be
learned and practiced outside of assignments and classes. Give
your chapter members opportunities to learn how to use software
packages that challenge their data analysis and communication
skills. For example, they could learn to use Word’s built-in reference and cross-reference tools before they write their next big
paper or undergraduate thesis. Other examples include learning
to use the graphing capabilities and analysis toolpack available in
Excel and other software programs.
Six Ways Research Can Fire
Up Your Chapter B Y JUS TIN D. FAIR AND ANNE E. KONDO