Because Scott Gietler believes we can transform boredom with the subject into fascination and passion

A cartoon of people talking enthusiastically about chemistry

Source: Adapted from © VictoriaBar/Getty Images

ChemTalk: changing the perception of chemistry, by making it accessible, fascinating and inspiring

Some of you may be surprised to hear that in a recent survey 85% of students said that chemistry is difficult or boring. You may be curious to hear that a common response to chemistry majors disclosing their major was ‘Oh, I hated chemistry’. This is why we really need to talk about chemistry. And why I set up ChemTalk.

I started ChemTalk along with several college students. ChemTalk is a US-based non-profit organisation focused on addressing these issues and aims to make chemistry fun and easy to learn. All those involved have a deep passion for showing the world how amazing chemistry can be and a shared feeling that the perception of chemistry needs improving. We have a passion for this mission, a plan and the skills to make it happen.

Inspiring chemistry (students)

My initial belief was that chemistry was losing out to digital distractions and a fear of ‘toxic chemicals’. Our survey told us there was an even larger component: a lack of inspiration. That gave our mission – changing and improving the perception of chemistry – even more importance.

Based on the survey results, and input from our 16–21 year-old interns, we decided the most scalable and efficient plan was to reach students where they wanted to be reached: online, via a website and social media. Investigating existing resources, we realised they were scattered across many channels and websites.

It makes chemistry relatable and makes this fascinating, yet sometimes challenging, subject come alive for them!

We created a chemistry superportal – a place where students can learn about chemistry topics, the elements and periodic table, experiments, role models, lab equipment and techniques. We created a place where chemistry is fun, easy to learn and inspires students to want to do it further, a place where learners can watch videos, see demonstrations and experience the love of chemistry that we all feel.

The ChemTalk survey also revealed that students get most excited about chemistry when they see exciting experiments and demonstrations. So we show how amazing chemistry is and how it relates to our everyday world on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. We also came up with the ChemTalk LiveLab.

Going live

The LiveLab is an interactive lab space where we will live-stream exciting experiments and demonstrations to a wide audience, from young kids to trained scientists, across the world via YouTube, Facebook Live and Twitch. Students can chat and ask questions in real time, creating an exciting energy similar to that experienced by gamers live-streaming with audience participation.

ChemTalk has many exciting plans – and we hope some of you will be a part of this growth.

Teachers have already started using our resources to augment and supplement their curriculums. A chemistry teacher from Virginia recently told us their students love the videos, podcasts and articles: ‘It makes chemistry relatable and makes this fascinating, yet sometimes challenging, subject come alive for them!’

We hope our website and social media channels will be a perfect complement to existing science and chemistry books

More than 140,000 people a month are already using ChemTalk. By the end of 2022, we will have free easy-to-read resources on practically every topic for middle school to college levels, along with articles on every element, and many dozens of experiments and demonstrations. We hope our website and social media channels will perfectly complement existing science and chemistry books.

We are actively soliciting ideas from science teachers, to find out how we can better help. We are also raising funds so we have the resources to meet our goals. We look forward to making this journey together.

If more students enjoy chemistry, if more students want to pursue a STEM career, if fewer graduates say ‘I hated chemistry’, then ChemTalk will be a success.