By Ilia A. Guzei
Director of Crystallography
From a Petri dish into space!
Do crystals grown in space differ from the ones grown on earth? Do compounds crystallize differently in space? What hardware does one use to conduct a crystallization experiment in space? Answers to these questions are sought by the winners of the WI statewide Crystal Growing Contest (WICGC).
Last year’s winners collaborated with the Molecular Structure Laboratory and scientists from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to design crystal growing experiments, conducted aboard the International Space Station in March 2018. The 2018 winners will have the same opportunity in 2019. To qualify for this annual honor, three middle and three high school students won top prizes in the WICGC by growing high-quality crystals and creating crystal-inspired artworks.
WICGC has been organized since 2014 by the departmental Molecular Structure Laboratory to promote the Wisconsin Idea, introduce participants to the scientific method, and inspire the next generation of young scientists. Middle and high school students, home-schooled youths ages 11–18, and science teachers from Grantsburg to Green Bay to Racine to Benton, took part in the free contest. The competition offered an introduction to solution chemistry, laboratory work, team partnership, a prospect to succeed at a new endeavor, to fail and learn, and an opportunity to visit the UW–Madison campus and a flagship Chemistry Department.
At the May award ceremony, the chemistry department chair, Prof. Judith N. Burstyn, communicated the significant role of the department on campus; Prof. John Moore and Luke Oxtoby gave a lecture with chemical demonstrations; guest speaker from CASIS, Dr. Marc Giulianotti described the International Space Station and its function in the scientific community; Dr. Paula Piccoli (PPD) gave an overview of the Contest and then Dr. Ilia Guzei awarded the prizes. All in attendance received gorgeous books on minerals donated by the UW–Madison Geology Department. The winners were recognized with certificates, books, T-shirts, and cash prizes.
Organization of the Contest is supported by numerous members of the chemistry department, whereas industrial and nonprofit sponsors provide financial support to this important outreach activity.
The WI Crystal Growing Contest takes place every year March–May. All details are at http://wicgc.chem.wisc.edu.