• Marilia Valli, Gabriela Tormet-Gonzalez

Winning submission of the 2nd annual IYCN Public Outreach Competition

IYCN is pleased to announce that the winning submission of its 2nd annual public outreach competition is entitled “Detection of the production of CO2 by S. cerevisiae during sugar fermentation and preparation of acid-base indicator,” designed by Adalgisa Martínez-Silveira and Soledad Martínez from Universidad de la República, Uruguay (Figure 1). The experiment uses a cabbage dye indicator to help participants see the production of CO2 when yeast is combined with sugar. The experiment contextualizes the reaction with other examples of reactions that produce carbon dioxide. The authors suggest several ways that the experiment can be adapted for participants, including different sources of sugar and different preparations of the cabbage dye indicator.

About the winners

Soledad Martínez is a 27-year-old PhD student born in a city on the east coast of Uruguay. She has always been really curious and creative, and when she was 12 years old she decided she wanted to study chemistry. When she was 17 years old, she participated in the Chemistry Olympics and then moved to the capital city to start a degree in Clinical Biochemistry. Since 2015 she has been working in the Microbiology Area of the Faculty of Chemistry (Universidad de la República), where she carries out research on the quality and safety of drinking water, using molecular and bioinformatics techniques. She also loves painting and drawing, when she is not filtering water.

Adalgisa Martínez-Silveira works as a professor and researcher at the Faculty of Chemistry of Universidad de la República. Earlier this year she finished her PhD in chemistry, in which she studied an alternative raw material for biodiesel production. Recently, she joined a research group on the quality of drinking water. She is 31 years, was born in Brazil but lived all her life in Uruguay. She graduated from Clinical Biochemistry and has worked in microbiology since 2010. She is happily married to a chemist, loves cats and does crossfit as exercise.

Figure 1. The 2020 Winners (from left to right): Soledad Martínez and Adalgisa Martinez-Silveira (both from Universidad de la República, Uruguay).

About the 2020 outreach competition

This is the second year of the event, “Engaging the next generation: an IYCN outreach competition. The 2020 theme of the competition was Earth Chemistry, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, created in 1970 as a unified response to an environmental crisis including oil spills, smog and pollution. Applicants were invited to submit their designed chemistry experiments that could be used for outreach and public engagement under the proposed theme from 28th of January to 22nd of April (Earth Day), which was extended to 6th of May, 2020. The competition is coordinated and managed by the Public Outreach Committee of the International Younger Chemists’ Network (IYCN).

The 2020 panel of judges consisted of five volunteers: Matheus da Silva Souza, a biotechnologist and PhD candidate in Medicinal Chemistry field in the Institute of Physics of Sao Carlos (IFSC), University of Sao Paulo (USP); Dr. Kar Ban Tan, an associate professor at the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia, who is interested on the synthesis and characterization of functional electroceramics, and has published more than 100 scientific papers and conference proceedings; Dr. Deanna Montgomery, who has a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from the University of Michigan, and is currently the Communication Lab manager in the electrical engineering and computer science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Dr. John O’Donoghue, the Education and Public Engagement Coordinator for the school of chemistry at Trinity College in Dublin where he serves as a module coordinator for the unique PhD Chemistry Outreach Module, is project coordinator for the largest secondary school science engagement programme in Ireland, and winner of the 2018 Science Foundation Ireland Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication Award; and Dr. Henry Mwangi, a full time lecturer at Kenyatta University, School of Pure and Applied Sciences, whose research focuses in the area of Natural Organic Chemistry, specifically on the Phytochemistry of medicinal plants and algae. Each judge scored three to four experiments, evaluating their chemistry content, accessibility, creativity, and suitability for the suggested audience. Please refer to Figure 2 for photos of this year’s judges.

Figure 2. The 2020 panel of judges (from top to bottom and left to right): Dr. Henry Mwangi (Kenyatta University, Kenya), Dr. Deanna Montgomery (MIT, USA), Matheus da Silva Souza (IFSC-USP, Brazil), Dr. Kar Ban Tan (Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia) and Dr. John O’Donoghue (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland).

History of the competition

The experiment competition was launched in 2019 as the result of a survey in which IYCN members requested support for early-career chemists to do outreach. The 2019 competition winners were announced during the IYCN program at the 47th IUPAC Congress in Paris, France. All winning experiments will be translated and added to the database of outreach resources available online on IYCN website (https://www.iycnglobal.com/experiments).

The goal is to create an outreach database of experiments for a general audience, that are tailored how-to guides with everyday-language communication tips. In order to effectively support early-career chemists in countries where outreach resources aren’t readily available, we decided that experiments would be translated into multiple languages and made freely available. Because this project has been developed by volunteers with little experience in translation tasks and the Public Outreach volunteers are not expert editors, we chose a method to validate the translation work based on the editorial process of scientific journals. One of the members of the Public Outreach team, Marilia Valli, was assigned as the person-in-charge (editor), who decides the languages the experiments will be translated into and looks for translators in the volunteer translator database. For any language, there are two translators: one in charge of the initial processing of the text (Main Translator) and another in charge of reviewing the initial translation and to correct mistakes (Proofreader), both receiving a certificate of participation. We interacted with more than 100 volunteers to translate the winning experiments in 2019, and we thank our volunteers for making this project possible. In our experiment database there are currently four experiments, two model experiments, uploaded from members within our team and the two winning experiments from the 2019 competition. Each of these experiments has been translated into 20-25 languages, from Albanian to Yoruba, depending on translators’ availability. The experiments follow a fixed format that will help in the standardization of all of our educational resources. If you are interested in serving as a volunteer translator for future experiments, please reach out to us at publicoutreach.iycn@gmail.com and include “volunteer translator” in the subject line.

We plan to run the 3rd outreach competition again in 2021, so stay tuned to design an experiment and enter the next competition!

Article written by Dr. Marilia Valli


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