Grant catalyzes chemist outreach initiatives

Kennesaw State student organization Alliance of Graduate Inorganic Chemists received a grant, Aug. 4, 2019, from the Georgia Section of the American Chemical Society that has bolstered their outreach efforts to educate the community on chemistry.

AGIC president Alvaro Calderon said three grants are given to applicants every year who prove they can educate the public on science, as well as foster an appreciation for science within the community. The AGIC’s proposal to the American Chemical Society consisted of going to Title I schools and teaching chemistry to underrepresented children.

The grant was mostly dedicated to buying chemicals and equipment to complete their lessons independently, Calderon said. This significantly lightens the financial burden on the schools that they visit. The AGIC plans to visit four different schools, reaching 200 children in total. Calderon said they perform science experiments to foster a love and interest for science among the kids, and hand out KSU stickers as well.

“That’s the primary objective, to tell these little kids that there are plenty of opportunities — especially in science — for you to do something great in life,” Calderon said.

The AGIC also participated in the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society in 2019, an event where members presented their research. Four members, including Dalton Boutwell, Kristi Moncja, Zane Bertolli and Calderon, participated. Boutwell presented research in the area of physical chemistry, Moncja presented biochemistry, and Bertolli and Calderon presented research in organic and inorganic chemistry respectively.

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Students spent time introducing themselves at during the outreach program. Photo credit: Photo Courtesy of Connor O’Dea

“The most important thing we get to do at SERMACS is communicate current chemistry research from KSU to the broader chemistry community,” Calderon said. “Our members highly value attending SERMACS because we can see top chemistry research from other institutions, receive advice and professional help with our future career goals, and network with other chemists from the U.S.”

Calderon said the AGIC is not stopping at their current level of community outreach. They convinced four other organizations to join their cause, forming an alliance dubbed the STEM Coalition.

“It’s sort of like an informal agreement between the five organizations where we help each other in activities that all of our students have,” Calderon said. “So if they have an event, we can help with them. If we have an event, they can come out and help us.”

One of the paramount goals of the AGIC is giving members real-life experiences so they can thrive in their later careers in the field of chemistry. Calderon said the club was as founded in April 2019 to ensure these opportunities as the graduate student organization stopped funding travel to conferences after policy changes.

“What we’re really trying to do is at least get KSU to notice what we’re doing,” Calderon said. “Because we have a large number of students that are participating, and we want to give them some sort of recognition so they can be motivated to continue.”

Despite only being a year old, the AGIC has already made a significant impact on the community and shows no signs of stopping.

The AGIC will be participating in the Atlanta Science Festival on March 21, representing KSU’s College of Science and Mathematics.

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