The Metabolic Marvel of Hibernating Bears

Millions of years of evolution has endowed brown (Ursus arctos) and black (Ursus americanus) bears with the enviable metabolic capacity to starve themselves for a long period of time and still survive. Truly, bears are chemist extraordinaires and their hibernation chemistry overall is arguably without equal in the mammalian world. Let's take an introductory look at what's going on.  

First Day Chemistry Engineering Activity

I just finished my first week of school, like many teachers in the Midwest. I work hard to get my Honors Chemistry students in a lab setting as soon as possible. It is difficult to find a perfect lab to do on the first or second day of school. In my mind, the ideal first chemistry lab would require no prior chemistry knowledge, involve interesting chemistry, address an NGSS standard, be relatively safe, not require expensive glassware or lab tools, and reinforce positive class norms. I have found engineering labs fit the bill! I don't know if I have found the "perfect" lab, but I have found something close I want to share!

Immobilization of Lactase Enzyme on Alginate Beads - A Quick Test

I came across an interesting Journal of Chemical Education article that explains how it is possible to crosslink sodium alginate, leading to the formation of calcium alginate beads. Calcium alginate beads are hydrogels and one of their uses is to immobilize enzymes in their structure. I thought it would be cool to immobilize some lactase enzyme onto calcium alginate beads and investigate its ability to hydrolyze lactose. 

How Chemistry Helped Batman: Kevlar - A short review

I’ve always been fascinated by advanced polymeric materials; it’s amazing how materials that are generally considered “plastics” have such stunning properties. I recently watched a couple of movies about Batman and it came out that some of his devices and protections are made of advanced polymers. In particular, the suit is almost entirely made of Kevlar.

Soap Making

My first year teaching chemistry, I was looking for a soap-making lab or activity that I could run in my chemistry class with 25-30 students working at the same time. I usually do this activity right before spring break, as it provides enough time for the soap to harden and cure (high school students are impatient to use their soaps right away, which you should not do with cold process soap). I have used the activity at different points in the curriculum: during intermolecular forces, during acids and bases, and during stoichiometry. Although I know teachers who use soap making as a project during their stoichiometry unit, I chose to not emphasize the calculations as it would require more time than I have available. Simply making the soap easily fits in a 45-minute period.