Spotlight: University of Puerto Rico at Bayamón

Location: Bayamón, Puerto Rico
Faculty advisor/Co-advisor: Laura Santiago/Jessica Oyola
Presidents: Jahn Carlos Estarellas San Miguel and Rosymar Gracia Colón
Chapter Members:
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How does your chapter contribute to the community?

Our chapter has visited 20 schools to educate people about how chemistry protects human health and the environment. We performed experiments for preschool children to help them learn chemistry concepts in a fun way. In collaboration with the ACS Green Chemistry Institute and the ACS Division of Chemical Education, we gave seminars and demonstrations to high school students. And we have volunteered at cancer organizations and the Scuba Dogs Society.

Do you collaborate with other clubs on campus?

Our chapter has collaborated with the Pedagogy Association in order to educate preschool children through simple chemistry demonstrations. We have also participated with other student associations for National Coastal Cleanup Day and with the Pharmacist Association for the PCAT orientation.

What are your chapter’s most effective promotional tools?

Our public relations representatives, chapter secretaries, historian, and other members promote our events. The historian and the public relations representatives create flyers and advertisements to post on Facebook and Instagram. The secretaries are in charge of the chapter email, and they send various communications, information, and formal letters. Some of our members take care of the News Wall in the science building at our university. We use the wall to post flyers and pictures. We also ask other student associations to post announcements about our activities on their social media pages. This has been very effective because we get more responses and attendance at the events we host.

What are your most popular or unique chapter activities?

Our chapter decided to participate in the EcoExploratorium, a fair organized by the Science Museum of Puerto Rico held at Plaza Las Américas, one of the most popular shopping malls in Puerto Rico. The fair raises public awareness about environmental issues, climate change, technology, and science. About 30 schools along with the Boy and Girl Scouts of Puerto Rico and members of the general public visited our booth, where we conducted experiments and allowed everyone from toddlers to seniors to participate in demonstrations. At one point, the current governor of Puerto Rico, Dr. Ricardo Rosselló, passed through the science fair and congratulated our chapter for our demonstrations and our efforts to explain chemistry. It’s never too late to understand that chemistry can be fun and is found everywhere!

How do you recruit new members?

We use different methods to captivate students. We use social media and have informative tables in the science building to do the recruitment. On social media, we post pictures and describe activities to entice students to join our chapter and inform them about planned activities. We also emphasize community work that our chapter does to improve people’s lives, as well as how our chapter seeks to give members professional development opportunities that lead to gaining knowledge and leadership skills.

How did you celebrate National Chemistry Week?

One of the goals for our chapter is to have an impact on all types of people through our knowledge and experience. We have participated in several chemistry festivals for National Chemistry Week. Last year’s festival theme was “Solving Mysteries through Chemistry.” To be successful, we created several committees to coordinate experiments, demonstrations, games, food, decoration, security, and cleanup. The Decoration Committee designed a “crime scene” for members of the public to explore different stations replicating a forensic chemistry laboratory. We had chemistry demonstrations of chromatography, blood indicator, densities, and a small microscope that the young people could look through to appreciate the size of a hair follicle. We also offered a Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) workshop performed by the Kaplan company and hosted a Chemistry Game Day featuring: Chemistry Battleship, Create the Molecule, Functional Groups, Build the pH Scale, and Locate the Elements on the Periodic Table.

What is your biggest challenge?

One of the biggest challenges is maintaining good communication with all members. The secretaries created a group chat using the WhatsApp application to keep all participants informed of events. The most important decisions are made in person, but the final details and reminders are done through the group chat.

What was your most successful fundraiser?

Our most effective form of fundraising is the pizza sale. We’re able to attract students who are in a hurry and have less time to eat before classes. In addition, we have raised money by selling cake pops and frappés. The money we raise helps to fund our trips to the ACS national meeting.

Faculty profile: Laura Santiago

Why did you become a faculty advisor?

The chapter president asked me to become their faculty advisor. I thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to teach chemistry with another perspective to the students and the community outside the classroom.

What challenges have you faced in your position?

The most difficult challenge I face is getting students to work as a team. As we know, science students always want to work alone in a competitive way, and inside the chapter, we need to work as one. Also, my schedule is very demanding. My academic responsibilities take up a lot of my free time. Sometimes, the members want more of my attention, and I can’t give it to them.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a faculty advisor?

I have had many rewarding moments as a faculty advisor. Seeing the chapter members working hard to accomplish their goals is very gratifying. Last year, they presented their chapter work at an ACS local section meeting in Puerto Rico as well as at the ACS national meeting in San Francisco.

What advice can you offer those new to the advisor position?

Be patient and enjoy the work with your students.