How I grew to love Chemistry

As this year is slowly at an end (you may say it’s February now, but with the blink of an eye, we’ll be in April, knee deep with exams and stress), some of you might be declaring your major. So I’d like to share my journey with Chemistry.

I was never that interested in Chemistry in high school — I was more of a Biology kind of gal. My Biology teacher was extremely intense. we had to create life-sized organs out of model magic, making cell walls out of anything you can find in Michael’s craft supply store, and learning everything out of a giant textbook (which I later learned in university that it is just a normal sized textbook). Going into McGill, I had every intention to pursue biological sciences, but I stumbled upon Professor Ariel Fenster and Joe Schwarcz’s World of Chemistry: Drugs. I was strongly advised by a McGill graduate to take this class because of its accessibility. Furthermore, it is an extremely interesting introductory course on Chemistry’s impact in day-to-day life.

At the very first class, I remembered Professor Schwarcz’s three rope magic trick. He basically retold his childhood story of a magician who sprinkled this special chemical on three ropes that were knotted together. Then, he pushed the knots towards the ends of the ropes and the three ropes became one long rope. He kept emphasizing magic and Chemistry. The fact that he connected magic with Chemistry blew my mind. In a way, it makes sense. I’m currently working in the lab, trying to determine why certain reactions behave a certain way. Even though we were taught in classes of those reactions, anything can happen in a lab. Reaction conditions change, and the results differ from trial to trial. The whole process can seem, at times, not that far off from magic.

Because of World of Chem, I was introduced to the idea that Chemistry is fun and very much applicable to life. We often separate classroom knowledge with real life knowledge, but they are in fact very much related and dependent on each other. For example, salt helps raise the boiling point of water, which is why you put it in the water when boiling pasta. If you don’t know where you’re heading in the future, it’s okay. In the end, all it takes is one little thing to guide you to the right direction.

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