Bradley experiment

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May 4, 2011

Hundreds of top students from some 20 area high schools were on campus May 4, testing their chemistry chops and getting an inside look at Bradley. The students gathered in the Renaissance Coliseum in the morning to take one of two chemistry exams written by Bradley chemistry faculty.

Afterwards, the Department of Chemistry presented laboratory demonstrations in Olin Hall, and Bradley student guides showed the visitors around campus.

“This is where we get talented high school students who are really good in their classes onto campus to see the exciting things going on here,” said Dr. Wayne Bosma, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “We dazzle them while educating them about the chemistry involved in the demos.”

The event, sponsored by the American Chemical Society, is a long tradition on Bradley’s campus. Held here annually between 1978 and 2009, the event is now hosted every other year by Illinois State University. This year, Bradley drew 417 students.

For Princeville High School chemistry teacher William Phelps, who brought eight students to compete in the event, the opportunity was rewarding both professionally and personally. Phelps is a Bradley alumnus whose photo hangs among successful graduates in Olin Hall.

“The test is great because it helps me see how my students are ranking among their peers,” Phelps ’02 said. “From the results, I determine if I’m spending enough time on particular areas.”

The top three scorers from each of two exams – one administered to first-year students, the other to advanced chemistry students – will receive cash prizes.  The top scorer from each exam will receive an engraved plaque to display in his or her school.

Some students come as chemistry enthusiasts, others because they love academic competition, and others for the opportunity to spend a day on the Hilltop while learning more about science.

“I wanted to see how challenging the test would be and what it’s like to take a test in a college environment,” said Katherine Gerontes, a junior at Brimfield High School. “It was really difficult, but I think I did well.”

Local representatives of the American Chemical Society will recognize the prize winners during their respective high school awards ceremonies.