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Careers in chemistry--too much fun?

I endorse, enthusiastically, the introduction of chemistry as a career option for consideration by high school students. And while I want students to be attracted by the widespread applicability of chemistry--the central science--the last thing I want students to think is that, essentially, chemistry is a fun thing. Lots of pyrotechnics! Lots of smoke and pizzazz!

Two of the articles in the March 2003 issue of ACCN captured what I feel that the focus of chemistry should be. The first article is the excellent interview of Gabriel Ayyavoo conducted by Jim Bagrowicz. He expressed exactly how best to motivate students to pursue a career in chemistry. Obviously his methods are effective, based on the results obtained by two of his students in the Intel ISEF competition. I also liked the approach used in 'Chimie en pleine action'.

But I did not like the 'fun and games' approach to chemistry, exemplified by the New Brunswick chemistry week in 'Students Work Their Chemistry'. While much of their effort is commendable, overall, I feel that it is the wrong way to go. The 'fun and games' approach it describes is not unlike the largely now-abandoned freshman hazing ritual that used to be practiced on incoming university students, years ago. In my view, this practice conveyed precisely the wrong view of what a university is about. Similarly, the emphasis on spectacle, in selling chemistry as a career, should not be encouraged for the same reason.

Chemistry should be presented by those in the know, as being a worthwhile (even enjoyable) vocation. But the inducement for undertaking chemistry as a career should not be the fun and games promised by bizarre experimental observations.
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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Massiah, Thomas F.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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Next Article:Geoff Rayner-Canham, FCIC, is the first recipient of the Sir Wilfred Grenfell College Teaching Award.

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