‘Teach Chemistry like reading and writing from Grade 1’

February 12, 2024 08:50 pm | Updated February 13, 2024 12:43 am IST - Kozhikode

Nobel laureate in Chemistry Morten P. Meldal and his wife and scientist Phaedria Marie St. Hilaire at the Chemistry lab of Malabar Christian College in Kozhikode on February 12.

Nobel laureate in Chemistry Morten P. Meldal and his wife and scientist Phaedria Marie St. Hilaire at the Chemistry lab of Malabar Christian College in Kozhikode on February 12. | Photo Credit: K. Ragesh

Danish chemist and Nobel laureate Morten P. Meldal has said that children should be taught Chemistry like reading and writing from Grade 1.

He was addressing students and researchers at an event organised at Malabar Christian College in Kozhikode on February 12 (Monday). Mr. Meldal, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, shared the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with K. Barry Sharpless and Carolyn Bertozzi “for the development of click chemistry and bio-orthogonal chemistry.”

“... Chemistry is not all, but it is everything. Because the food that we eat, the chair that we are sitting on, the air that we breathe, when we feel pain, when we are in love, when we are hungry, when we fall asleep, that is all Chemistry. It is time we start teaching chemistry the same way we teach reading, maths, writing from first grade,” he said.

Mr. Meldal, however, said that this should be done in a pleasurable way so that it was not difficult to learn. “Just make a lot of pictures and describe the microscopic world of molecules, kinetics, and other things. We can visualise these in great detail using animations so that the young students have a complete understanding of it in a visual manner before they start looking at it through the formula of kinetics. This would be much easier way to learn. Five minutes a week will be enough,” he pointed out.

Phaedria Marie St. Hilaire, co-founder of the Denmark-based Professional Women of Colour (ProWoc) and angel investor, Mr. Meldal’s wife, spoke about the need to eliminate gender discrimination in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). She said that though the percentage of people who join STEM courses in India was high, however, only half of them reach positions of power and handle senior academic roles.

Mr. Meldal said that he was in a shock when he was informed about the Nobel prize. “In October 2022, I was in my office preparing lectures for our students. Then the phone rang and this was a Swedish number. There was a Swedish company which was calling me all the time because it wants to sell me instruments. And, I did not want to have any instruments,” he said.

Mr. Meldal said that he was pretty annoyed because they had called him four times last week. “I took the phone and said ‘Yes’. And this was the Nobel Prize Committee, which wanted to say that ‘click chemistry’ has been nominated for the Nobel medal. I was in total shock and I could not really answer them,” he said.

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