Chemistry conference stirs excitement

The University of Victoria will host the 28th annual Western Canadian Undergraduate Chemistry Conference (WCUCC) in the Bob Wright Centre, which unites undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry students from universities across the west coast. From May 1 to 3, 75 attendees from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba will present their research related to the conference’s theme of “Fuelling Creative Energy,” and five speakers of various backgrounds will discuss career paths and research options.

“It’s great just to see the knowledge, spread the knowledge, and see what everyone else is doing,” said Kira Kirk, chair of the WCUCC organizing committee. The 10-member committee, seven of them UVic undergraduate students in their final years, have been hard at work, volunteering their time for planning and fundraising since last August.

This is the third time UVic has hosted the WCUCC since 1995 and 2005, the latter such event having enjoyed one of the largest turnouts in WCUCC history with over 90 student registrants and 66 student presenters. This year, there are 75 attendees, according to Kirk. “It includes people who are doing poster presentation, as well as people who are doing oral presentations, as well as just regular audience members. There are about 20 people who signed up just to come from different schools.”

Young researchers coming to this conference will seek experience and recognition at WCUCC. “It’s good practice, almost, for people who are doing presentations, as well as the people that are coming to watch the presentations,” said Kirk. Meanwhile, chemistry students unsure of their future plans can network with peers and interact with the speakers to help them find their way. “We have at least one person from industry coming, to give them a brief overview of what’s to be expected, and we have [representatives from] grad schools coming. So in that way they can maybe figure out what they want to do after their degree,” said Kirk. The career and graduate school panel session on Saturday afternoon will also help them as well.

A highlight of this conference is “That Chemistry Show” by current UVic professors Dr. Alexandre Brolo and Dr. Matthew Moffitt.  They will demonstrate a series of visually entertaining chemical reactions like cloud making, continuing a yearly tradition by UVic professor emeritus Dr. Reginald Mitchell, who started it as the “Dr. Zonk Show.” “When you imagine going into a lab you imagine going into a chem lab. It’s very easy to do very visual, very basic experiments that can show people about chemistry and that are also kind of exciting,” said Kirk.

The committee is abuzz with excitement now that the conference is approaching. “I’m interested in seeing all the different kinds of researches across western Canada,” said Krystyn Dubicki, a recent graduate from undergraduate biochemistry program responsible for co-ordinating graphics and making delegate packages. The young organizers often face challenges, many of them completely new. “My biggest fear since February until now is that we’re going to miss something huge,” said Kirk. “Last weekend was, ‘Oh, no! We forgot to organize lunches. Oh, we need to feed these people!’ So just making sure we’ve covered all [our] bases.” The conference is open to the public, and Kirk recommends checking out the guest speakers. “I think it will be really exciting for people just to come and watch,” said Kirk. “We hope everyone takes advantage of it, because it hasn’t been here for ages.”

Western Canadian Undergraduate Chemistry Conference – Bob Wright Centre, May 1-3 $10 for one day, $15 for two.

For more information, visit: http://web.uvic.ca/~wcucc/index.html

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