Chemistry is Important
This past week in my chemistry lab, we had a class dedicated to the significance of chemistry in the world around us. Each person in my class presented their own topic demonstrating the importance of chemistry. Before hearing my classmates’ presentations, I had no idea the amount of chemistry involved in foods, technology, arts, or even our bodies. After hearing all the presentations, I had developed some favorite topics. Surprisingly, “Sniffing Land-Mines” was my favored presentation. And, to little surprise – my two other favorites involved chemistry in food, (“Hot Pepper” and “Chocolate – the New Health Food”). Since these were my favorite presentations I felt as if I learned the most from them – whether that be in chemistry, or in presentation technique.
Though I’m not particularly interested in war zone devices, “Sniffing Land-Mines” caught my attention, and was my favorite topic presentation. My classmate explained the chemistry involved in how these explosive devices actually work, and how chemistry helps people remove them safely. Beforehand, all I had known about the mines was what I’d gathered from war movies. Land mines are dangers left over in a war zone that still create problems once war has subsided. Small children can trigger these explosions and cause disastrous shock waves. Recently, dogs and rats have been used to track these mines so they can be safely removed. The DNT in mines is something that dogs and rats can smell if they are trained to do so. I also found it very interesting that elephants could also sense the DNT in the mines – though they wouldn’t be used considering their population is at an all-time low. My favorite thing that this presenter did was to explain all aspects of the topic with detail, as to help the audience understand something not many people are seriously familiar with.
My second favorite topic was “Hot Peppers”. The presentation answered many questions that I personally had concerning peppers’ spiciness (I have no pain tolerance when it comes to spicy food). When I was 10, my cousin gave me a little red pepper and told me it was “the sweetest pepper he had ever tasted” . . . and, as you probably guessed, he was lying and I spent the next 20 minutes with my mouth under a faucet. The extreme spiciness of chili peppers can be explained by one compound – capsaicin. The presenter explained that when eating chili peppers, pain receptors come in contact with capsaicin to give people the impression that their mouth is on fire. The presenter actually gave some helpful tips on what to eat to “tame the flame” as she put it – such as milk or bread. I enjoyed finding out why certain foods react certain ways with our bodies. This presenter was energetic, and knew the topic inside and out, passing along her interest in the topic to the audience.
My third ranked favorite presentation was “Chocolate – the New Health Food”. This presentation interested me; possibly because chocolate is my favorite type of sweet, or maybe because it defended my love for chocolate as “healthy”. Another portion of the topic I was interested in was why chocolate tasted different from different places. I traveled to Ecuador in eighth grade, and the chocolate I bought from the market was the best I’d ever had. This presentation explained that bugs from different regions will change the way cocoa beans taste, which sounds gross, but if you’d tasted chocolate from Ecuador, you wouldn’t care either. We have all also heard that chocolate can literally make you happy, which was explained by the compound Anandamide in chocolate. It was also stated that chocolate contains antioxidants and polyphenols that provide serious health benefits to consumers, making chocolate even more irresistible. I was already interested in this topic before I had heard the full presentation, but I was impressed by the way the presenter laid out the facts laid, while keeping the audience intrigued.
I ranked these presentations this way because of, not only my interest in their subjects, but also the presentations themselves. These three presentations were the most appealing to me as an audience member. I found that the most interesting presentations were given by people who were excited to present their topic. Also, that little things are very important to a presentation. Eye contact, smiling, energy, rhetorical questions, the style of the power point, and really knowing your topic are all major components of a good presentation. The point of these presentations was to show us how chemistry is important, but I learned more than that. I could now come up with a list of factors useful for a good scientific presentation, which will help me in the long run.