The Catholic University of America

June 16, 2010

CUA Chemistry Professor to Inspire Love of Chemistry in Local Students

  Diane Bunce, professor of chemistry, lectures on the chemistry of hangovers during her annual St. Patrick's Day lecture.

Award-winning chemistry Professor Diane Bunce has been selected as one of 50 engineers and scientists who will visit middle and high school students in Washington, D.C., this October with the aim of inspiring in them a passion for the sciences.

The “Nifty Fifty” — as the scientists and engineers are being called — are part of the inaugural USA Science and Engineering Festival to take place in the nation’s capital Oct. 10-24, 2010. The festival, which is being sponsored by Lockheed Martin, will feature several events in the metropolitan area, culminating in a two-day expo of more than 500 science and engineering organizations.

“Being named one of the ‘Nifty Fifty’ is a privilege and an opportunity to interact with students who are still deciding what they will study in life,” Bunce says. “Sometimes such encounters turn out to be pivotal points in a young person’s career when they see how their interests or hobbies can be turned into a career in engineering or other sciences. For instance, a natural interest in cars can lead to a university major in mechanical engineering and a career in developing more efficient engines. An interest in cooking can lead to a career in the chemistry of nutrition or food preservation. An interest in art might result in pursuit of printmaking and other chemically based art forms. Students don’t often see the science underpinnings to the things they are interested in.”

Bunce will explain the chemistry of Thanksgiving dinner to local students as a way to connect chemistry to their lives. She gave a similar lecture on CUA’s campus last November that was videotaped and distributed by the American Chemical Society.

“Science is just a different filter for looking at why things happen,” Bunce says. “Once science is seen as a natural way to investigate questions, it doesn’t seem so foreign and more students can picture themselves pursuing it.”

Bunce’s creative approach to teaching has included an annual masquerade party of elements at Halloween, a special Christmas-themed lab and St. Patrick’s Day lectures on the chemistry of hangovers. In 2007, she was awarded the James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry from the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society. In 2009 she received the Advancement of Teaching Award from CUA. She is an associate editor for the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Chemical Education.

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