Mastering Chemistry Symposium

So often times in life we are told to learn from the mistakes of others which is a great bit of advice, but there is also much to be said from learning from the success’ of others. Being able to learn from the success of others applies to the recent assignment given to the Chemistry 131 students at Centre College. For the assignment each student selected a different article about real life scenarios that involve the chemistry being studied in class to present to their peers. Listening to my peers present on their subjects allowed me to think critically about how I would change the way I present in the future and what I would keep the same. Being able to see how others engage their audience and apply what was learned in class to their presentation will allow me to become a better presenter.

One of the presentations during the chemistry symposium was on the sciene behind hot peppers by Adam Clark. The reason that peppers seem to be hot and give off a burning sensation is due to something called capsaicin which attaches to neurotransmitters which makes one’s mouth feel hot, even though the mouth is not actually hot. Peppers can have many health benefits such as relieving pain, but can also have negative effects if taken in excess. The reason I enjoyed this presentation was due to how detailed Adam was in covering his topic. I knew nothing about peppers before going into the presentation, but felt I had a solid general understanding of peppers after the presentation was over. In addition, he had good eye contact with the audience with is often something I struggle with and would like to improve on in the future. The presentation given by Adam allowed me not only to learn about subject matter but to learn about what I would change about my own presentation if I were to do it again.


Being a big dog person, another presentation that stood out to me was Allysson’s. Her topic was ‘Sniffing Land Mines’. Since metal detectors are no longer reliable in detecting bombs, dogs are used in their place. Dogs have a much better sense of smell than humans (10^-3 compared to 10^-6 for dogs) meaning that they can smell the deadly landmines that we cannot. Allysson thoroughly described the training these dogs go through, as well as how dogs are able to smell both TNT and DNT (an impurity of TNT). Her presentation stood out to be because she spoke slowly, and confidently. Many times when I am presenting on a topic I tend to get nervous and rush. Hearing Allysson reminded me that I have nothing to be nervous about and reinforced the fact that the audience understands and enjoys the presentation much better when the presenter can be understood fully.


The final presentation that interested me was the one on ‘Stars and Starstuff’ by Luke. Throughout his presentation he discussed naturally occurring elements and man made elements as well as the possibility of many more elements on the periodic table. Luke started and ended his presentation with quotes that tied into his subject. Using the quotes was a great way to hook the audience at the beginning of the presentation and then leave them with something to think about after the presentation ended. In my future presentations I will definitely try to incorporate quotes in the way that Luke did. Another thing that I enjoyed from his presentation was his pure passion he had for the subject he was speaking about. When a speaker comes off as passionate about what they are talking about (whether they truly are passionate or not) they get the audience excited as well. On my next presentation I am going to bring the same enthusiasm Luke brought to his throughout the duration of his presentation.

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Learning from others is one of the best and easiest ways to learn. Most of the time students don’t recognize how resourceful and helpful a peer can be in aiding in the process of learning; so this chemistry symposium was a great way to reinforce how important a lesson from a fellow peer can be in furthering our education.


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