Holiday festivities and chemistry combine in contest

Zoe Deno
Staff Writer

PHOTO BY ZOE DENO | The Hudsonian Student Newspaper

Environmental science student Ben Duell won with his ornament designed as a book which read, “The 12 days of Chemistry.”

Chemistry students are invited to showcase their creative side and celebrate the holidays in the Chemistry Club’s annual ornament contest.

“I’m glad I can be a judge each year students bring such creative spins on chemistry,” said Danica Nowosielski, professor of chemistry at Hudson Valley and co-host to the contest. “It always amazes me is that each year we always get very unique submissions.”

The only rules of the contest are that ornaments must be chemistry-themed and non-perishable. One year, a student made a felt mad scientist tree topper holding a Santa Claus hat full of calculators for his students. Another year a student submitted a cubed-shaped ornament made of Holmium’s atomic symbol, ‘Ho,’ so the cube reads, “Ho, Ho, Ho,” Nowosielski stated.

“Even if the students have the same sort of idea for an ornament in terms of the chemistry, I am always surprised at how they execute it in a different way,” Nowosielski said.

This year Ben Duell, an environmental science major won. He submitted an ornament that looked like a small booklet. Its pages were open and they read, “The 12 days of Chemistry.”

The idea for the contest came about when Hudson Valley chemistry professor and co-host Dr. Elena Keesee saw another school hosting a similar contest. Both Keesee and Nowosielski wanted to bring something new to the Chemistry Club, so Keesee made the suggestion to start the ornament contest. Nowosielski liked the idea, so the first contest was held in 2013.

Participation in the contest varies dramatically from year-to-year. The first year the contest was hosted, there were only two participants. Last year, there were 10 entries. This year, only six people chose to submit ornaments.

Originally, the winner was decided by a popular vote at the last Chemistry Club meeting of the semester. It was more of a popularity contest that depended heavily on who showed up, so the club decided to start using judges three years ago.

“Each judge has some kind of background in chemistry, and they all bring their own perspective to the contest,” Nowosielski said.

Current chemistry professors are not allowed to be judges because all of their students are eligible to enter the contest, which is open to any student who is taking a chemistry class that fall. It doesn’t matter who the professor is or what level class students take, so both Nowoselski and Keesee worried about the risk of bias.

The club decided to have five judges to avoid ties. The chair of the Biology, Chemistry and Physics department, Peter Schaefer, Ph.D., will be judging this year’s contest, along with Beth Ernest, a professor of engineering and Sue Genier of Technical Services who supplies chemicals for the chemistry labs.

The hosts also reached out to two retired chemists to be judges: Rose Dorr, who used to be a professor of chemistry at Hudson Valley, and Farid Khouri, who is a retired General Electric chemist. Both accepted the invitation.

When the rankings are submitted, Nowoselski and Keesee tally them up to see which ornament has the most points, and will then announce the winner on the last Monday of the semester at a Chemistry Club meeting. As would be expected, the prizes are chemistry-themed. The first place winner receives a periodic table blanket and the second place winner gets a beaker mug.

The ornament contest is a great way for chemistry students to have some fun during a stressful part of the semester while testing their creativity and knowledge of chemistry.

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