What originated as a group of five aspiring scientists referred to as, “TCU Chemistry Club,” is now a community outreach group, bringing science and a momentum of higher education to the Fort Worth-Dallas area for more than a decade. This tight-knit group works together to motivate each other in their majors, in addition to sharing science experiences and educating the local community.
The TCU Chemistry Club, gives back to the Fort Worth community through a variety of programs to teach youth about chemistry. Throughout the semester, Chem Club visits local schools, such as O.D Wyatt High School and Burton Hill Elementary, to work with them on science projects and help facilitate their school’s chemistry clubs.
One important aspect of these visits is to interact with the students and model green chemistry. President of TCU Chemistry Club, Rob Underdal, says, “We teach [green chemistry] to others through seminars and guest presentations about our research in green chemistry. We also try to act as role models when we work with younger students, making sure we dispose of waste properly.”
Green chemistry is a necessary factor of experimentation to develop early on and to carry with an individual as they pursue chemistry. Each year the organization strives to hold community, elementary school, and university events, educating the public on tangible green lifestyle principles.
Last year the organization and Rich Adickes, TCU’s Hazardous Materials Safety Manager, helped O.D Wyatt High School implement the Green Chemistry Cleanup program, cleaning and disposing of the chemicals their department had remaining. Burton Hill Elementary science club is assisted by TCU Chem Club, as they spend time with the students and instruct them on chemistry in an engaging way. Underdal states, “The most memorable moment I have had working with the students at Burton Hill Elementary was for Halloween my freshman year, we all dressed up. I went as Bill Nye and had a really fun time with the kids.”
Students in Chem Club enhance their communication and public speaking skills as they teach material to younger students with different educational backgrounds. Many students they interact with are discouraged or unequipped to apply to colleges or attain high academic achievement. The TCU students work with the high school students through a program called College Bound, founded by a former club member, to tutor weekly and review college applications. Some College Bound mentors meet consistently one-to-one with high schoolers, continuing to build relationships and motivating them to achieve beyond what is expected of them. Kayla Green, associate professor and one of the three TCU Chemistry Club sponsors, says, “the way that we think we can most serve this population is through mentorship.”
TCU’s Chem Club is the 2020 recipient of the Green Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society, recognizing their dedication to eliminate the use and production of hazardous materials while working on experiments. This group of students has earned the national award multiple times, as they work diligently to be as resourceful as possible. TCU Chemistry Club stands out amongst the nation and continues to provide fun and educational activities for the Fort Worth community and students.
Each year, new programs must be initiated in a university’s chemistry club in order to qualify to be recognized, making it difficult to receive the award more than once. Green said, “having creative ways of teaching your community about green chemistry and sustainability is actually a real challenge, and I think our group does a really good job with that.”
TCU Chemistry Club continuously gives back and is influencing the youth of today to carry on safe and productive habits involving chemistry; in addition, Chem Club is giving students an example to follow as they consider the options for their future.