Scope in the subject is unlimited, says eminent scientist C.N.R. Rao
Is chemistry a boring subject? Almost half the number of students, assembled at J.N. Tata auditorium of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), raised their hands when this question was posed to them during the launch of the “International Year of Chemistry-2011” here on Saturday.
However, this reaction from the students of high school and pre-university did not surprise the two eminent scientists – C.N.R. Rao, Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, and Uday Maitra, Chairman of the Department of Organic Chemistry, IISc.
Prof. Maitra, who posed this question to the students, told them that chemistry had become boring for many students because of the way it was taught in schools and colleges. In fact, he did succeed in attracting students towards chemical reactions when he demonstrated chemiluminescent reactions in conical flasks, producing “lights” of different colours by mixing certain chemicals, as lights in the auditorium were switched off.
Chemiluminescence is the emission of electromagnetic radiation during the course of chemical reactions.
A video demonstration on explosion of frozen water, a song with video on periodic table of chemical elements, and a live demonstration of explosion of hydrogen-filled balloon, etc., too attracted the students. The curious students engaged themselves in a discussion soon after the event, as Prof. Maitra asked them to find answers to some questions, among which was: why instructions are given on a box of jelly crystal that it should not be used with fresh pineapple.
Importance of research
Meanwhile, pointing out that chemistry was found in most branches of science, Prof. Maitra said chemical research did play a vital role in computer science, as silicon chips used in computers was the result of such research.
Research on socially acceptable and environment-friendly chemical products will be the challenges for the youth in the 21st century as chemistry has become part of lifestyle – be it food, health, clothing and computers, pointed out Prof. Maitra.
Earlier, Prof. Rao hoped that the way chemistry was taught in schools changed so that the youth did not find the subject boring. “The scope in chemistry is unlimited as the way we do chemistry, and the chemistry we do – both are changing,” he said.
The Chemical Research Society of India (CRSI), which organised the event, released a book “Chemistry for Today” written by Prof. Rao, on the occasion, and distributed copies of it to the students.
CRSI president V. Krishnan, secretary S. Ramkrishnan, and IISc director P. Balaram were present on the occasion.