Chemistry students from Naperville North High School learned what it’s like to use sophisticated scientific instrumentation during a recent field trip to North Central College.
Sixteen Naperville North students worked with Jeff Bjorklund, North Central College professor of chemistry, during the Nov. 12 field trip. They learned how to use the College’s spectroscopy instruments to determine the chemical properties of samples they were provided.
“Liberal arts colleges offer the best opportunities to be involved,” Bjorklund told the high school students. “Typically, undergraduates in the sciences at large state universities don’t have a chance to actually use the instruments, which tend to be monopolized by graduate students.”
The students who participated are enrolled in a semester-long advanced chemistry class at Naperville North taught by Liz Brucker. North Central has offered several classes of her students the opportunity to use the College’s equipment.
“It’s a wonderful experience and we thank the College every year,” Brucker says. “The kids do look forward to it.”
Unlike an AP chemistry curriculum, Naperville North’s advanced chemistry class focuses on organic chemistry and includes a unit on forensic chemistry, an application of chemistry that often calls for the use of spectroscopy equipment.
“We don’t have spectroscopy equipment so it’s cool to come here and use equipment that most high school kids don’t have the opportunity to use,” says Melanie Schnell, a senior at Naperville North.
Schnell explained that the spectroscopy readings students referenced in class came in the form of prepared printouts. During the field trip, students produced their own data sheets to solve a crime scene scenario using the College’s spectroscopy instruments.
Students also learned about the benefits of studying science at a liberal arts school like North Central.
“At a small college, you get to work as a close-knit group, and that’s something you’re not able to do at a larger school,” Brucker says.
Chemistry is among more than 55 majors, minors and other areas of study offered at North Central College. Visit northcentralcollege.edu/college-arts-sciences/chemistry to learn more about the program.