Chemistry students sing their studies, hoping for a good reaction

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | May 17, 2018

As part of a Bill Wuest's "Principles of Reactivity" course, chemistry students performed key lessons they learned over the course of the semester in a musical parody video assignment. "I'll Make a Chemist Out of You," a parody of "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from the Disney movie "Mulan," was an informal class favorite.

On the last day of the spring semester, during Bill Wuest’s “Principles of Reactivity” course, loud noises rattle the Atwood Chemistry Center’s Atomic Classroom. It isn’t explosions — it’s pop music mixed with bursts of laughter.

“This bond’s alright!” a group of Emory first-year students belts out on a YouTube video playing on screens before the class. Backed by the music of “Oh, What a Night,” they dance before a periodic table, write on a white board and mix chemicals in a lab while singing lyrics they wrote themselves: “Now I use a base to synthesize. It can readily be hydrolyzed. Mechanisms, what a sight!”

In just under four minutes, the students sing key lessons they learned over the semester about carbonyl mechanisms.

“It’s basically describing how reactions go,” explains Rebecca Henderson, one of the performers. “A reaction is not normally just putting two chemicals together and — BOOM — a product comes out. There’s a lot of different steps involved and we wanted to describe some of them, and why a reaction goes down one pathway and not another.”

Henderson created the video with classmates Carson Brooks, Lauren Cohen, Justine Griego and Alex Kim. They all played themselves in the video — except for Kim, who used powder to create a white patch in his hair and portray the professor.

“I love it when they mock me, they get extra points for that,” says Wuest, who has a natural, white streak of hair running through the center of his close-cropped dark hair.

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