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Applying chemistry at home

An Attempt to Apply to Chemistry One of the Principles of Newton’s Natural Philosophy

NATURE, inert to the eyes of the ancients, has been revealed to us as full of life and activity. The conviction that motion pervaded all things, which was first realized with respect to the stellar universe, has now extended to the unseen world of atoms. No sooner had the human understanding denied to the earth a fixed position and launched it along its path in space, than it was sought to fix immovably the sun and the stars. But astronomy has demonstrated that the sun moves with unswerving regularity through the star-set universe at the rate of about 50 kilometres per second. Among the so called fixed stars are now discerned manifold changes and various orders of movement. Light, heat, electricity—like sound—have been proved to be modes of motion; to the realization of this fact modern science is indebted for powers which have been used with such brilliant success, and which have been expounded so clearly at this lecture-table by Faraday and by his successors. As in the imagination of Dante the invisible air became peopled with spiritual beings, so before the eyes of earnest investigators, and especially before those of Clerk Maxwell, the invisible mass of gases became peopled with particles: their rapid movements, their collisions and impacts became so manifest that it seemed almost possible to count the impacts and determine many of the peculiarities or laws of their collisions. The fact of the existence of these invisible motions may at once be made apparent by demonstrating the difference in the rate of diffusion through porous bodies of the light and rapidly moving atoms of hydrogen and the heavier and more sluggish particles of air. Within the masses of liquid and of solid bodies we have been forced to acknowledge the existence of persistent though limited motion of their ultimate particles, for otherwise it would be impossible to explain, for example, the celebrated experiments of Graham on diffusion through liquid and colloidal substances. If there were, in our times, no belief in the molecular motion in solid bodies, could the famous Spring have hoped to attain any result by mixing carefully dried powders of potash saltpetre, and acetate of soda, in order to produce, by pressure, a chemical reaction between these substances through the interchange of their metals, and have derived, for the conviction of the incredulous, a mixture of two hygroscopic though solid salts—nitrate of soda and acetate of potash?

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University’s Chemistry Programs Lauded for Value, Exceptional Student Opportunities

The University’s graduate and undergraduate chemistry programs have not only been highly ranked by leading college rankings websites, they’ve also been praised by students and alumni who have excelled in the classroom, in the laboratory, and after earning their degrees.

August 15, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Students studying chemistry at the University of New HavenStudents studying chemistry at the University of New Haven enjoy a wide range of hands-on experiences in the laboratory.

When Michael Orsini ’19, ’21 M.S. decided to pursue his master’s degree in chemistry, he had his sights set on more than just earning the degree. He wanted to gain hands-on experience in the laboratory. He was excited that, as a Charger, he’d be able to jump right into research – even before the start of his first semester.

Orsini gained the lab experience he’d hoped for, working in newly-renovated facilities with state-of-the-art equipment. He enjoyed learning in a collaborative and supportive environment, in small classes that enabled students to get to know each other, form close relationships, and support each other’s research.

While working under the mentorship of Dequan Xiao, Ph.D., director of the University’s Center for Integrative Materials, Orsini tested catalysts to degrade lignin samples for biofuels. He collaborated with research groups at three other universities, including Yale, to analyze and discuss the method used to degrade the lignin. Orsini’s name was included on two published papers, including as the co-author of one of them.

“I really liked research due to my ability to grow in the lab and to really solidify that chemistry was the field that I wanted to work in,” explains Orsini, who also earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the University. “The ability to be able to plan and run the experiment, analyze the results, and write a paper about it is something that not every master’s program can promise, but I was able to do this during my time at the University.”

‘Help students to find their own passion’

Meaningful educational experiences such as Orsini’s have gained widespread recognition for the University’s chemistry programs. Course Advisor, a website that provides information about higher-education programs and careers for students and faculty, ranked the University’s graduate program in chemistry second in New England for “best value.” The website assessed students’ experiences and the value of the education offered for the program cost.

“Our chemistry graduate students take three semesters of chemistry seminars so they learn the state-of-the-art developments of chemistry in academia or industry, and they network with professionals,” said Dr. Xiao, chair of the University’s chemistry department.

“In addition, we’ve established relationships with local industry partners to provide internships and field-trip opportunities, including with Green Fuel and Pfizer,” he continued. “These opportunities help students to find their own passion in specific areas in chemistry and to start to plan for their careers.”

‘Prepared me to be a skilled researcher’

In addition, Dr. Xiao says the faculty have secured more than $3 million over the past five years from agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, creating important opportunities for students to conduct research and engage in other important educational activities for students that allow them to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom.

Amanda Sensi ’20, ’21 M.S. enjoyed the variety of the courses offered as part of the chemistry master’s program, including computational chemistry and pharmacology and medicinal chemistry. She considers the connections she made with her professors and their unwavering support to be among the most meaningful experiences she had as a graduate student.