by Dr. Michael Kienzler
Dr. Fatma Selampinar
UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator for Chemistry
Associate Professor in Residence UConn Chemistry
On May 18th, the UConn Chemistry Department hosted the May ECE Lab Day (MELD) for students taking UConn Chemistry at their high schools. UConn Chemistry opened its doors to almost 125 high school students from Berlin, New Britain, Norwich Free Academy, O. H. Platt, and The Woodstock Academy at the UConn Storrs Campus. MELD was coordinated by the UConn Early College Experience Program Office in partnership with UConn ECE Faculty Coordinator, Dr. Fatma Selampinar and Assistant Professor in Chemistry, Dr. Michael Kienzler. The event started with a presentation by Dr. Kienzler on a surprising phenomenon for a select group of molecules—a process called photoswitching. The lengthy Q&A session after the presentation showed the remarkable interest from high school students on the topic. Next, the students transitioned to the hands-on activities where they split into groups and went to six undergraduate teaching laboratories. In the labs they did a set of experiments designed by Dr. Kienzler and supervised by graduate students, to learn more about photoswitches. Small groups of high school students synthesized a bright red azobenzene dye and then recorded the ultra-violet/visible spectrum for their molecules. At the same time, students learned about thin-layer chromatography and used this chemical separation method to observe photoswitching of an azobenzene after shining light on it.
The event enabled the high school students to have a hands-on laboratory experience on the UConn campus and provided opportunities for students who are interested in doing research of their own to communicate and connect with a research faculty member, Dr. Michael Kienzler, and research graduate students.
Feedback from the Instructors was inspirational and provided confirmation of the true benefit to the student participants:
“My students were raving about the quality of the presentation and correlated lab experience. They were inspired to ponder the connections between their own understanding and the concept of photoswitches.” – Brendan Wilkosz, Berlin High School
“The students and I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation and the lab experience! The event was well orga-nized and hands-on which is most engaging for the students.” – Manila Mathur, New Britain High School
“I can say that my students were excited by the new (to them) subject matter in the lab experiment and inspired by being at the University and in a college setting, if only for a day. We will now finish our school year with renewed enthusiasm thanks to the UConn trip!” – Donna Kaiser, Stamford High School
“It was fantastic! The students thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m just sorry I couldn’t have convinced the others in my class to sign up for the UConn ECE program, because I know they would have loved it as well.” – Nike Agman, Enfield High School