This January, the Hillsdale College American Chemical Society chapter defeated more than 10 statewide universities in the Battle of the Chemistry Clubs at Michigan State University.
Though Hillsdale competed against larger schools such as Ferris State and the University of Michigan, Professor of Chemistry and ASC faculty adviser Chris Hamilton said the students’ enthusiasm distinguished them from other competing teams.
“We almost always have a very high energy team,” Hamilton said. “They want to win, but they also want to have fun while they are there.”
Run by the Michigan State University chemistry graduate students, the competition aims to “see who knows the most about chemistry,” according to senior Christine Auscherman, ACS president. Though the students have consistently won the “spirit award,” their overall victory last month was the first since 2012, the first year they attended the competition.
“You really get to see how our chemistry does against other chemistry departments that aren’t liberal arts schools,” Auscherman said. “It’s also an opportunity to meet other people in the chemistry world and to see how other people do. And it’s a good networking opportunity.”
An all-day event, the Battle of the Chemistry Clubs consists of various interactive chemistry games. From playing chemistry charades to racing against other schools to finish titrations, a chemical lab process, the 10 Hillsdale students plunged through the four seeded rounds into the finals. Veronica O’Connor, junior and chemistry major, credits their success to the wide range of knowledge of the team.
“We had biology majors, biochem majors, and chemistry majors,” O’Connor said. “There was always a skill that someone was good at across the spectrum, and we had a variety of people who could answer the questions.”
But their preparation, according to Ausherman, was minimal.
“It’s just kind of this fun thing that we don’t prepare for. We go in with what we know and have a good time,” Auscherman said. “It shows that we can have fun but also that our professors have prepared us well for anything chemistry-related.”
O’Connor said Hillsdale’s liberal arts education contributed to their victory.
“We understand the connections that happen through the different sciences,” O’Connor said. “We understand why something is happening, and you only get that learning ability through going to a liberal arts college. We’ve been challenged in all these different areas.”