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Chemistry and Physics Community Outreach

Forest Park High School AP Chemistry Class Visits Clayton State for Day of Chemical Synthesis

February 22, 2016

by John Meyers

On Friday, February 12, 2016, approximately 25 AP Chemistry students from Forest Park High School visited Clayton State University. These AP Chemistry students, led by chemistry professors Dr. Aubrey Dyer and Dr. John Meyers of the Department of Chemistry and Physics, participated in a hands-on experiment synthesizing (or making) aspirin.

Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, is one of the most widely used medicines in the world and is used to treat a plethora of issues ranging from pain to acne to heart problems. The AP Chemistry students of Forest Park High School had the opportunity to synthesize and test the quality of their own product. Before jumping in, the students began their session by reviewing and comparing the molecular structures of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) and salicylic acid (the starting material used to make aspirin). The students identified the differences between these two molecules to create a plan as would any synthetic chemist. Next, the students broke off into groups and began their experiments by mixing the chemicals necessary to break unwanted chemical bonds and make desired bonds with their molecules. Their synthesized product was then purified with a technique called recrystallization, in which the property of solubility is taken advantage of to isolate pure aspirin.

Once the groups finished their purification step, they each subjected their (hopefully) aspirin product, as well as salicylic acid and commercial aspirin, to a colorimetric test. This colorimetric test serves to test the quality of the product that each group made. The group correctly identified a structural motif that is present in the starting material, but not in the product, that produces a vibrant purple color when mixed with iron(III) chloride. They could see first hand how pure their product was based on the deepness of purple that they saw - the lighter (or lack) of purple color means that their product contained a larger amount of aspirin. They also learned that commercial aspirin is not made entirely of acetylsalicylic acid, but contains a small amount of salicylic acid as an impurity based on this colorimetric test.

The students combined their knowledge of chemical structure and bonding from the classroom with the laboratory techniques shown during their visit to make and test the quality of aspirin. Everyone seemed to enjoy working in a wet laboratory to make a molecule via a chemical synthesis and then testing their success with a colorimetric test.

Ola High School AP Biology Class Visits Clayton State University for a Day of Biochemistry

January 30, 2016

by Rich Singiser

On January 29, 2016, Dr. Singiser in the Department of Chemistry and Physics hosted 17 students from Ola High School in Henry County. The students were a part of the AP Biology class taught by Dr. Katrina Pandya. This year marked the third consecutive year that students from Ola High School Biology class have come to Clayton State for a day learning biochemistry.

The students had the opportunity to do lab activities not possible at the high school do to the limited resources. Each of the students had the chance to isolate their own DNA and determine if their genotype matched their phenotype for one specific "super taster" gene. This gene allows people who are dominant for the trait to distinctly taste a VERY bitter flavor. Those people who do not possess the dominant trait cannot even tell that the test strip has a taste.

In the process of learning about "super taster" genes, the AP Biology students were able to perform a variety of laboratory techniques that were previously discussed during their normal AP class sessions at Ola High School. Some of those techniques were DNA extraction, PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), and Agarose Gel Electrophoresis.

The students spent the majority of the day on campus conducting their experiments, but still had enough time to take a stroll around the lake on campus and enjoy lunch at the dining hall. The ice cream was a popular choice after enjoying the main course.

Students at Ola High School have become quite aware of the field trip opportunities in the AP Biology Class and insist that Dr. Pandya keep this event as an annual activity. The benefits of collaboration go well beyond just the students learning about the biochemistry. Here are a few of the comments from the students.

"The experience was worth everything! The experiment gave us an opportunity to work with professional equipment and experience it in a college setting. This was an unforgettable experience and I'm truly blessed to have been a part of it."- Alicia Williams

Check back for an update on the activities that next year's AP Biology class will have at Clayton State.

Are you looking for an opportunity to collaborate with chemistry, physics, or biochemistry at Clayton State? Contact the Chemistry and Physics Department for more details. Contact information can be found using the menus to the left.