Category Archives: Outreach

Seattle Expanding Your Horizons Wrap-Up

March 14th brought young women and volunteers from around the area to Seattle University for another year of Seattle Expanding Your Horizons (SEYH). During 50 minute workshops, groups of middle school girls could try anything from designing planes to extracting their own DNA. This year, WCS ran last year’s CSI workshop as well as a new workshop on astrochemistry and the Mars rover. In our workshops, girls used qualitative chemistry tests and physical observations to figure out answers to two questions: who dumped toxic waste into the Puget Sound, or could any of the rocks collected at a crater site have come from Mars?

One of the best things about our organization, is the opportunity not only to participate in outreach programs but also to develop our own projects. When it was first mentioned that we had enough people interested in SEYH to develop a second workshop, I knew I wanted to work on a Mars rover workshop, but didn’t have any ideas where to begin. But with the help of some incredibly cool and very inventive members (a huge shout out to VP Heidi, who guided me through the whole process and was generally the best co-leader), we pulled together a great workshop that not only let the girls do science experiments but also tied those experiments to real tests that Curiosity did on Mars. And, much like real science, we designed a workshop that didn’t have a correct answer, which let everyone draw their own conclusions about which rock could be from Mars.

I think the fun we had making the workshop definitely came through in the final result. As a member of the astrochemistry workshop, I got to talk about lasers and flame tests all morning. I heard a lot of “whoa”s, “cool”s, and even “shiny”s that day (it helped that one of the rock samples sprinkled rock glitter over your hands even time you touched it). Even if they learned nothing else that day, I hope we showed  people that science comes in many different forms, most of them pretty fun.

So thanks to Brigit Miller, Kimberly Davidson, Kimberly Hartstein, Kalkena Sivanesam, Olivia Lenz and Jessica Wittman, who all volunteered with the CSI workshop, and Heidi Nelson, Zuzana Culakova, Kira Hughes, Katie Corp, Beth Mundy, Scott Rayermann, and Addie Kingsland for their work designing and/or running the Mars rover workshop.

The Mars Rover workshop presentation team. (L to R: Rae Eaton, Addie Kingsland, Kira Hughes, Katie Corp, Heidi Nelson, and Zuzanna Culakova)

The Mars Rover workshop presentation team. (L to R: Rae Eaton, Addie Kingsland, Kira Hughes, Katie Corp, Heidi Nelson, and Zuzanna Culakova)


Solving a chemistry mystery at Seattle Expanding Your Horizons

This weekend, several members of WCS-UW presented a workshop at the Expanding Your Horizons Conference at Seattle University. This event, which had over 450 attendees this year, provides an opportunity for 6th to 8th grade girls to participate in hands-on workshops and learn about careers in STEM fields. Last year, some of us helped out with supervising the students and directing traffic, but this year, we led our own activity.

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Upcoming outreach opportunities

Women in Chemical Sciences at UW will be participating in several exciting outreach events in the next few months. We’ll provide supplies and are planning to coordinate transportation for all of these events, but we’re looking for volunteers!

Outreach planning meeting: We’re meeting this Saturday, January 25th at 12:00 in CHB 239. We’ll focus on putting together the chemistry mystery workshop for the Expanding Your Horizons conference, but we’ll also discuss other activities and future projects. The chemistry department has generously provided us with funding for outreach supplies, and we’re excited to expand our outreach efforts!

1. Echo Lake Science Night: 6:30-8:30 pm on Thursday, February 6th at Echo Lake Elementary School in Shoreline. This is an open-house setting with lots of hands-on exhibits for elementary school students. WCS-UW will be helping students make iridescent bookmarks with clear nail polish thin-films, demonstrating how the properties of materials change on the nanoscale. Contact Sarah ( if you’re interested!

2. Greenwood Elementary Science and Health Fair: 6:00-8:00 pm on Thursday, February 27th at Greenwood Elementary School in north Seattle. This event needs judges for students’ science fair projects. Contact Heidi ( if you’re interested!

3. Seattle Expanding Your Horizons Conference: 8:15 am-1:30 pm on Saturday, March 15th at Seattle University. This is a conference aimed at middle-school girls who are interested in science. This year, WCS-UW will be running a workshop in which students solve a mystery using chemistry! The conference also needs general volunteers to guide students around the event, serve pizza for lunch, etc. If you’re interested in helping plan our workshop and/or volunteering on the day of the event, contact Heidi (

4. Paws on Science: All day, weekend of April 4th-6th at the Pacific Science Center. This is an event where UW researchers from all departments show off their research for kids and families. WCS-UW will tentatively be collaborating with the Ginger group to present a booth with information and activities related to solar energy. If you’re interested in helping out, contact Sarah ( and we’ll let you know more details as the event gets closer.

If you’re interested in any of these events, please let us know ASAP, since some of them need a volunteer headcount very soon. Also feel free to contact Sarah or Heidi with any questions!

Looking back at one year of WCS-UW

Last week, we celebrated one year of WCS-UW (pictures to come)! Here’s a quick timeline of what we’ve done in the past year:

October 18, 2012: Our very first meeting!
November 29: Our first speaker, Professor Brandi Cossairt, discusses her career in a talk entitled “Paths Through Academia: First Generation College Student to Assistant Professor.”
December 6: Jessica Wittman leads a discussion on “Effects of Gender Preconceptions on Scientific Careers: Stereotype Threat.”
January 18: Professor Sarah Keller gives a talk entitled “My Nonlinear Career Path and Random Walks Through Other Topics.”
February 22: Sarah Vorpahl leads a discussion: “It’s Not Just You!: A Workshop on Impostor Syndrome.”
March 1: Dr. Colleen Craig provides her perspective on science in a presentation called “How to think about science without doing scientific research: A lecturer’s story.”
March 16: WCS members volunteer at the Expanding Your Horizons conference at Seattle University, helping to supervise and organize middle school girls interested in STEM.
April 24: Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge leads a gender workshop for chemistry graduate students, discussing gender stereotypes and preconceptions in society and how they affect our everyday lives.
May 11: WCS members volunteer at the Girl Scouts Discover STEM Science Fair at Einstein Middle School in Shoreline, demonstrating the properties of nanomaterials with iridescent thin films.
May 23: Professor Wendy Thomas from the UW Bioengineering Department, our first non-chemistry speaker, talks about “My Experience Being a Woman and a STEM Professor.”
June 19: Jessica Wittman leads a science communication workshop in which participants are challenged to describe their research using only the 1000 most common English words.

Ongoing projects also include bringing Dr. Amy Cuddy to campus this November as part of the UW Graduate School Public Lecture Series, and planning a symposium focused on international research collaborations for the fall 2014 ACS National Meeting.

Our first speaker of the new year will be Betsy Harasek, J.D., Associate General Counsel at the Xerox Corporation. On Thursday, October 24th, at 11:30 A.M. in CHB 102, she’ll discuss her career in a talk entitled “From chemistry major to patent attorney for General Motors, Boeing, and Xerox: My life in science and patent law.”

Thanks so much to everyone who’s attended these events and supported our group, and especially to all of the members who have helped with planning and organization, and most especially to Sarah Vorpahl, our president and the driving force behind WCS-UW. It’s been a great year and we’re all excited for what the next year has in store. Keep reading this blog, join our members and/or events mailing lists, or contact for more information about our upcoming events and projects!