Expanding Your Horizons

Posted by on March 10, 2011 at 10:16 pm :: No Comments

Whoever said one thing leads to another must have been a genius. A month ago a trio of board members from the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, including myself, gave a presentation to a group of chemistry students at UVU. A professor in the audience approached me afterward about giving a similar lecture to a bunch of teenage girls at some sort of Saturday shindig. Although she was mainly interested in me presenting to these adolescents, she did mention that the guys could tag along if they’d like. Since I didn’t really understand the particulars of this girly symposium I didn’t want to go get myself all committed to it quite yet so I just told her to send an email to us about it and we’d see what we could do.

What a nerdy pair!

It turns out that she was talking about Expanding Your Horizons, an annual conference sponsored by UVU. This conference is typically attended by approximately 600 girls in the 6th through 12th grades from all over Utah and the surrounding states. Its purpose is to show these young ladies the many awesome career options available to them in the fields of science and math and give them the confidence to envision themselves as scientists. These girls basically spend a Saturday morning going to three hour-long lectures of their choice; about 50 topics are available and all are presented by professional women.

Lecturing was actually fun with such a captivated audience.

Some of the girls wanted to know more about food science. I was happy to oblige them.

Once I sorted out the details of my requested conscription I was happy to volunteer. Education was a big deal in my family. My dad encouraged all of his kids to go to college and get a useful science degree; the girls were treated no differently than the boys in this. So I grew up with the conviction that I could do anything and I was happy to pass that self-belief on by mentoring these teens but I really didn’t want to be in charge of 3 hours of talking and demos all by myself. Only one fellow board member volunteered to endure reverse gender bias and lecture with me: Aaron the chapter chair. He and I modified our presentation to be more suitable for this age group and as interactive as possible. There was lotion making, fragrance sniffing, and, for our grand finale, we let the kids fragrance their own lotion samples to take home.

Practically all of the girls wanted to be Aaron's lotion assistant. When he'd ask for a volunteer nearly all the hands in the room would shoot up.

The result? The girls loved it! Each of our classes was completely full and we didn’t have any disruptive students, although we were warned to expect some. They all seemed enthralled by the subject matter and, with 30+ fragrance options, our lotion customization thrilled them almost as much as Justin Bieber. The enthusiasm of these young ladies was contagious and gratifying. They looked to their future careers with an eagerness that few of us even faintly echo as we drag ourselves out of bed for work each morning.

The girls were crazy about making a super smelly lotion all their own.

Presenting at Expanding Your Horizons was a great experience and our influence on these students was obvious. I heard many of them commenting to their friends afterward that they wanted to be a food scientist or a fragrance chemist. I inspired some soon-to-be scientific rock stars, validated the coolness of my career choice, and created some good karma-not bad for a Saturday morning.

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