Eight stu­dents from Hillsdale College’s American Chemical Society chapter traveled to the Uni­versity of Michigan-Flint to compete in the Battle of the Chem­istry Clubs on Sat­urday. Though it was their first time at such a tour­nament, the club beat out 11 other schools, including Michigan State Uni­versity and The Uni­versity of Toledo.

UM-Flint hosted Battle of the Chem­istry Clubs for the first time four years ago. Each year since, they have invited all Michigan college chem­istry clubs, and drawn some from out of state.

Most of the schools that attended Sat­urday were much bigger than Hillsdale, but other small liberal arts col­leges were rep­re­sented, as well, such as Adrian, Aquinas, Kala­mazoo, and Olivet col­leges.

ACS faculty adviser Christopher Hamilton heard of the event last year, but ulti­mately, Hillsdale did not have time to put a team together.

“I knew we could do well if we sent a team, so once I heard about the com­pe­tition for this year, I made sure the ACS officers knew about it and encouraged them to get a group together to attend.”

The competition’s events included all of the fields of chem­istry covered in an under­graduate degree: organic chem­istry, inor­ganic, ana­lytical chem­istry, bio­chem­istry, and physical chem­istry.

Four events took place before lunch. Two of them did not require much real chem­istry — for example, in one chal­lenge, two stu­dents had to find graduate stu­dents who were hosting the event and talk to them. The first team to fill up a bingo card with graduate stu­dents’ names won. Hillsdale juniors Brad Francis and John Flo took on that and came in second.

Another chal­lenge was designing an exper­iment for spec­troscopy — the practice of using light to dis­cover the shape of and the bonds between mol­e­cules. Stu­dents “bombard mol­e­cules with a variety of wave­lengths” to find out their nature, said senior Paul Schmitt, who com­peted in this event.

After lunch, the studetns heard they were in second place.

The grand finale was when they found out that to make it through the quar­ter­finals and semi­finals, they would have to perform two titra­tions.

“What made it so great is that the semi­finals turned out to be almost exactly a lab that we do in a class here,” Schmitt said. “We even figured it out before it started because we saw notes on the board and deter­mined what it was. It was a really great expe­rience in terms of, ‘Okay, our edu­cation is doing some­thing.’”

“[Titration] is some­thing that, in lab, takes about 3 1/2 to four hours, and we did it in under 15 [minutes],” said senior Dino Petrov, Hillsdale’s ACS pres­ident. “And we did it pretty accu­rately.”

Finals was a round of chem­istry jeopardy, some­thing the ACS on campus does at the end of every year. Hillsdale com­peted against Ferris State Uni­versity and UM-Dearborn. The final score was Hillsdale, 2,300, and the other teams, zero.

“I think it makes a very serious statement [about Hillsdale] because we put the team together at the very last minute,” Petrov said. “It was com­pletely on a whim, and we … destroyed the com­pe­tition.”

Petrov and Schmitt spoke proudly of Hillsdale’s chem­istry department and the edu­cation they have received here.

“All of the exper­i­ments we did we’ve done mul­tiple times in lab in classes,” Petrov said.

“I don’t think we could ask for a better chem­istry department,” Schmitt said, noting that both his and Petrov’s teachers provide their cell phone numbers so stu­dents can even text them with ques­tions.

“We have a strong emphasis on not just mem­o­rizing material or using for­mulas to come up with an answer,” Hamilton said. “We want stu­dents to have a deeper under­standing of the material. A big part of science is actually using what you have learned in the lab or in the field.”

Hillsdale stu­dents will be returning to the com­pe­tition next year, trophy in tow.