Chemistry pretty much affects our everyday lives even in its most trivial aspects. Therefore, chemical education is something all people must give some attention to, especially the youth. Victoria Meyer goes to the Chemical Educational Foundation to talk with the people behind it: Terry Hill (Barentz), Aileen Doyle (Univar Solutions), Calvin Emanuel (Ecolab), and Nicole Domingues. They dive into the importance of studying chemistry and how to make students more interested in it, mainly through the foundation’s chemist competition.
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Why Chemistry Education Is Important With Terry Hill, Aileen Doyle, Calvin Emanuel, And Nicole Domingues
I am at the Chemical Educational Foundation, You Be The Chemist finals, held in Houston on June 6th, 2022. I will be talking with folks behind the scenes from the Chemical Educational Foundation as well as some of the CEF board members about the You Be The Chemist event, The importance of chemicals and chemistry education to our youth, and to what it means for the industry itself. We’ll be having some great conversations. You are going to see a variety of things, and we’ll talk from there.
I’m here with Aileen Doyle from Univar Solutions. Univar is the title sponsor for the You Be The Chemist conference or contest. I’m glad to have a chance to talk with her. Aileen, thank you.
You are welcome. I’m so happy to be here.
How did you personally get involved with You Be The Chemist in the Chemical Educational Foundation?
I have two teenage boys. When they were younger, my oldest had expressed an interest in Science and Chemistry. I was looking for an outside school, something for him to engage in to help with that love of Chemistry, exploration of Science, and curiosity. I stumbled upon CEF, but at the same time, I recognized that Univar Solutions was a partner. I started talking internally about the fact that we were partnering, but we didn’t have a whole lot of knowledge internally as well as externally. I’m talking with David Jukes, our CEO, and he said, “We want to do more. We just haven’t figured out how to do it.” I said, “I know how to do it.”
I’m here with Nicole Dominguez, who is a CEF Certified Instructor. Nicole, thanks for talking with me.
Thank you for having me.
How did you get involved in CEF, to begin with?
I started first with a friend who told me about the challenge and I started competing in the challenge. I went to my first couple of competitions and realized that there were these industry sponsors out there who believed in educators and appreciated the things we did, and that was magical to me. All these careers that I have been teaching my students about are real careers and they care about not educators but also the students, so I wanted to become more involved. CEF does a certified instructor program where they train teachers to do essential element workshops and introduce the activity guides to other instructors. That’s how I got more involved with CEF.Chemicals play a role in almost every aspect of everyone's lives, from waking up to going back to bed. Click To Tweet
What have your students learned from this?
My students have learned a lot, and I will say since the pandemic, this new challenge format is instrumental in getting kids back working together. During the two years that they spent isolated, we saw a difference in the way that students interact with their peers at school. Having this challenge is a catapult to get them back into what is your role in a team? How do you work with others? What do you do when you have a disagreement or are not on the same page? For me, that was probably more interesting than the Science they learned because these are soft skills that these kids are going to need no matter where and what profession they end up in.
It’s great for the chemical industry, but you are right. It’s great for all kinds of other professions.
I am here with Calvin Emanuel from Ecolab. Calvin, thanks for joining us. I know you’ve already been on the show, so people know who you are, but tell us a little bit about why you are part of the Chemical Educational Foundation and You Be The Chemist.
I’m a part of CEF and I have been serving as a board member for a couple of years. The reason I joined is because CEF’s primary mission is focused on STEM and STEM education and helping educators become better at teaching STEM. When I look at my own personal journey, the only reason I’m here in the chemical industry is because of a teacher. My 10th-grade instructor, Mr. Fletcher Williams, inspired me to become interested in Chemistry, and that led me to where I am here. That love and passion for Chemistry got me started at an early age, and here I am now in the chemical industry after many years.
How long have you been involved with CEF? How did you find CEF and You Be The Chemist?
I was working for Shell Chemical at that point in time. While I was there, I was leading the Solvents business, and the Solvents business played a big role within the NACD Organization. I then got tied to CEF via NACD.
I am here with Terry Hill, who is the CEO of Barentz. He is a long-time supporter of the Chemical Educational Foundation. Terry, thanks for joining me.
You are welcome.
Talk about the importance of Chemistry and Chemistry education.
It’s so important that we rebrand chemicals. If you hear chemicals in the news, you think that’s terrible. If you say Chemistry, then people go, “That’d be pretty good,” or ingredients. One of the things we are lacking is education, and that starts at a young age. One of the reasons I have been personally a supporter of the Chemical Educational Foundation, as well as Barentz, is that what we see is you need to introduce Chemistry to kids at an early age.
A lot of times, they don’t have a Chemistry class until they are in high school. A lot of times, that’s a little bit late for them to be passionate about a subject. What the CEF does is get people introduced to Chemistry at a very early age, from grade school to middle school. That what we have seen propels them into a passion around Chemistry. One of the things I always think about is when people tell me, “What industry are you in?” I like to say, “I’m in the length and quality of life industry.” That’s what Chemistry does everywhere you look, whether it’s clean food, water, utilities, and maintenance. Through COVID, we saw the need for sanitation and vaccines. That was all from Chemistry.
As I reflect, even as we hold the microphone as we do the recording on the phone, on a camera, and on light, there are chemical products all over that people maybe don’t realize. It’s the old tagline of better living through Chemistry. I have always loved and believed that. How have you seen the whole education aspect playing out for your company or even for your family?
One of the reasons for me, I was the first generation to graduate from college, and I happened to have a Chemistry and a Microbiology degree. I didn’t realize, growing up in rural Texas, what the opportunities were. Now through the industry of Chemistry, I have seen the world. I have got to see how things are made like what you talk about. It is how chemicals play a role in almost every aspect of our lives, from the time we wake up to go to sleep to the mattress we sleep on.
Those are the things from a personal standpoint that I have seen. A little bit more personal, in 2012, my wife was diagnosed with lymphoma. She went into remission through chemotherapy. You see in that word chemo chemicals. I think about what inspired some researchers or doctors early on. They had a passion for Science and it ended up saving my wife’s life. With this next generation, who knows what innovations or discoveries they can make to improve our length and quality of life.There are soft skills kids need to learn no matter what profession they end up in. Click To Tweet
Tell me about what Univar does with CEF and You Be The Chemist.
We have been a supporter partner for many years and continued to increase our volunteerism and our commitment through community partnerships. In 2022, I’m proud to say that we were the sponsor for the scholarships and the entire event. We have been a very hands-on sponsor, and so much so that we participated in reviewing the videos. We had over twenty Univar Solutions folks review 1,600 hours of videos.
We got to see firsthand the curiosity and talents of these young students and how they collaborate across the teams. It reminds me of how we collaborate internally to create solutions for our customers. It brings it home. It also reinforces why we should be making the commitment because we are developing the workforce of the future. That’s so exciting because I don’t even know where they will land, but I hope they find their way to our industry.
I hope so as well and I appreciate that aspect of it. Are you a chemist by chance? What’s your background?
I am not a chemist. I’m a marketing person or a business person.
Have you got to the chemical industry as fast as you could?
Exactly. I was like, “Sign me up.” I have always had a sense of curiosity and I’m enthusiastic. When I started learning chemistry through my first commercial job, which was as a customer service rep, that informed me to the extent that I was talking to customers and they were telling me about their business. I was relating what chemistry they used to other customers in that particular industry.
It’s connecting dots. It’s like, “If you use this for this, what else do you use?” My curiosity and natural interest grew. What I see in the students that are at the challenge, as well as those that have participated thus far, is a sense of curiosity and passion. That interest is a characteristic that they can build upon that can take them anywhere. If someone from a marketing and business background can leverage those things and have a successful career in the chemical industry, I think that these kids and students are bound for great things.
What projects or problems are these students solving?
Each year the challenge has a different problem. 2021 was sustainability. It’s taking all of the core chemistry concepts that they learn and how you would apply that to solve a real-world problem. 2022, the kid’s focus was on space, which coincidentally was the first year that you all are here in Houston. That was nice. It was incredible to see the students and the connections that they made, not with particles of matter or states of matter, but how they would apply that to future space exploration and different phenomena within outer space.
I don’t know if you would know the answer to this, but how do the students play out demographically? Does this target students across the demographic spectrum? Do you see more students that are coming from need-based environments or schools?
I see it a lot more now with the new challenge format. Before, when it was more Quizbowl style, I saw the same kinds of kids. You’ve got your higher achieving more parental support type students are the ones that were always involved. Now that it’s team-based and there’s a video creation portion, I’m seeing more of my introverts who like the arts and graphic design. Those are my students now that are starting to come out because when you are working together as a team, you need a few people who are strong in academics, but you also need the people who are strong in the creative process.
What would you tell other people about getting involved?
Getting involved is important. CEF makes a difference in kids’ lives. There are three primary things they focus on. They help provide teachers with an educational package to help them teach chemistry and Science better in the classroom. They also give hands-on tools that the kids can use at home so that they can get excited about chemistry at home. We also have the National You Be The Chemist competition, which is a chance for children to come here, compete, learn, and meet other students as well in the Chemistry space.
What do you tell others that want to know more about the program? What do you tell teachers about the program since you are a teacher yourself?
I always try to encourage teachers to get started with the challenge first. The challenge was the thing that hooked me. Once you see this program and the way that it’s all developed using the industry sponsors to catapult the whole entire program and the support that’s provided, there is encouragement for teachers. If they are not able to participate in the challenge, then I always push the activity guides.
CEF has more than 50 activity guides. It’s free completely for teachers and it’s all hands-on experiments that introduce a lot of the chemistry concepts. The best thing about it is it uses at-home materials. You can buy it at the regular grocery store. Their experiments you can do anywhere, not just in a science classroom. If it’s a club or if it’s an elementary school that maybe doesn’t have science labs, you can still participate in these activities in that setting.
Thank you and I appreciate you joining us here and explaining more about what you do and why you are so engaged with CEF. Thanks, Nicole.
About Terry Hill
Terry Hill joined Maroon Group as CEO in 2019 after he has served the Board of Directors since 2017. Terry previously spent 30 years with Univar, where he fulfilled various global leadership roles during his tenure. He has also held leadership roles within the National Association of Chemical Distributors, serving on the Board of Directors and spearheading initiatives in e-Commerce, emerging leaders, and regulatory affairs.
About Aileen Doyle
Ms. Doyle has been with Univar Solutions since 1988 where she had held a variety of sales and management roles. She leads Univar Solution’s community partnership with Shadowbriar Elementary, Houston, TX to promote hands-on chemistry through grades 3-5. Ms. Doyle further promotes STEM education by volunteering as an Organizer for the You Be The Chemist Challenge, regionally and nationally.
About Calvin Emanuel
Ecolab is a trusted partner at nearly three million customer locations. With annual sales of $12 billion and 44,000 associates, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions, data-driven insights and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world. www.ecolab.com.
About Nicole Domingues
Nicole Domingues is a science instructor at Hamilton Middle School in Cypress, Texas, as well as a Science Content Curriculum Instructional Strategist and Technology Liaison. Nicole graduated from Sam Houston State with a major in Education, a minor in Physics and a specialization in Science 4-8. Nicole was recently selected by the Chemical Educational Foundation to become a certified instructor.
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