Chemistry and Biochemistry Department - Science Open House

Science Open House

Open House Schedule


(1:00-2:00) HOW TO BEND LIGHT TO YOUR WILL  Witness a dazzling series of demonstrations explaining how your brain perceives color,  how to render objects invisible, and how to make your very own laser.  The chemistry department’s Dr. Michael Grubb will provide an enlightening introduction to light, color, and quantum mechanics (it’s not as difficult as you think!).  Entertaining and educational for all ages.

(3:30-4:00) ENERGY EXTRAVAGANZA!  The open house will end with a literal bang as the chemistry department’s Dr. Kenny Miller showcases the awesome power of chemical energy through a series of explosive demonstrations.  Learn about the chemistry of combustion, behold the astounding energy content of food, and observe the behavior of matter as it is cooled down to -320 °F.



THE LONGEST STRAW (CHEM Stairwell.  Diego Novoa):  Come and find out how good of a vacuum you can make with your mouth by measuring how far you can suck water up through a 10 meter straw.  In the process, learn how a vacuum actually works (they don’t actually suck…they blow!).  Can YOU break the theoretical limit for the longest possible straw?

ACOUSTIC LEVITATION (CHEM 117.  Ryan Dorsey):  Sound is nothing but an oscillation of air pressure fluctuations known as an acoustic wave.  Using a special arrangement of ultra-sonic audio speakers, a standing acoustic wave can be formed capable of levitating small objects and even droplets of liquids!  What will YOU be able to levitate?

MAGNETIC LIQUIDS (CHEM 117.  Cory Jolley):  Ferrofluids are colloidal liquids that can be manipulated by magnetic fields.  These amazing liquids seem to be the stuff of science fiction films, and indeed have often been used to generate futuristic special effects in Hollywood.  See what amazing shapes you can form out of the liquid.

ACID OR BASE (CHEM 117.  Delainey Winder):  Indicators are special chemical compounds that change color in the presence of acidic or basic solutions.  Learn how YOU can make your own indicator at home from cabbages, and measure the pH of everyday household substances.

ELECTROMAGNETIC PROPULSION (CHEM 117.  Blake Letzler):  Current travelling through a coil of wire generates a magnetic field through the middle of the coil through a process known as induction.  Here, we have exploited this idea to propel a small magnetic train-car through a copper coil of wire.

CHEMICAL FINGERPRINTS (CHEM 117.  Daniel Windsor):  How do we know what atomic elements compose the matter around us?  Come find out!  Each element has a unique fingerprint of colors that it will emit under the right conditions.  See if YOU can identify the mystery elemental compounds on display here.

PENNY-POWERED MOTOR (CHEM 117.  Jessica Liesse):  Pennies, which are made from copper-coated zinc metal, can be made into a simple battery known as a voltaic pile with enough power to drive a small motor.  See this penny power in action, and compare the effectiveness of the penny battery to a commercial one.

DO THE WAVE (CHEM 117.  Lexi Dobbs):  Why do musical instruments produce pleasing sounds?  How can you blow up a wine glass by singing with perfect pitch?  Play with our wave machines to learn about standing waves and resonant frequencies.

TRAPPING IONS (CHEM 117.  Kyser Seaney):  By rapidly altering the electric field surrounding charged particles, particles of a particular mass can be levitated in stable orbits.  This same idea is used to select molecules of a particular mass from a mixture in an ion trap mass spectrometer.  Here, we demonstrate this idea on the macroscopic scale as we levitate powdered sugar in a stable orbit between two charged spoons.

LIQUID NITROGEN ICE CREAM (CHEM HALLWAY.  Chemistry club):  Flash freezing ice cream in liquid nitrogen (-320 °F) results in a creamy texture, since the fast-forming ice crystals are smaller than in conventionally prepared ice cream.  Taste it for yourselves!

NATURAL PRODUCTS (CHEM 117.  Dr. Bill Collins):  Many everyday chemical compounds such as pharmaceutical drugs, vibrant dyes, and pungent perfumes are extracted directly from plants.  Come watch as chemistry’s Dr. Bill Collins performs some of these extractions live.

SUPERCONDUCTING TRAIN (CHEM 117.  Dr. Aimee Morris):  Superconductors expel magnetic fields almost perfectly due to the baffling Meissner effect.  Watch a superconducting train float around a magnetic track.  Someday in the not-to-distant future, you may be able to ride a full-scale superconducting train in Japan!


Watching the Wind (SFH720. Joey Cavale): Watch air as it flows over objects and learn how to take advantage of its usually-invisible power.

Pumping Iron (SFH730. Devin Leahy): Our machine has been lifting weights all year to get ready. (12:00 and 12:30)

Phun with Photons (SFH 2746. Michael Wolfersberger and Cody Cly): See light as it is deconstructed and reassembled.


Measuring Your Body’s Electrical Signals – Electrocardiograms and Electromyograms, Berndt Hall 2410:  Dr. Byrd will demonstrate how we can measure the body’s electrical signals using surface electrodes.  This information is often used to determine disease states, or to estimate the overall function of a particular organ.  Two examples are your heart and your muscles.  Volunteers from the audience will be “wired up” so we can see the electrical signals being generated in their heart (electrocardiogram or ECG) and in their contracting muscles (electromyogram or EMB).  We’ll learn how to interpret the signals, and examine how changes in body position, breathing, and contractile strength, alter the signals from these organs.

Up close and personal with snakes, lizards and more! Berndt B430, basement:  Come meet all of the wonderful residents of the Biology Animal room.  You will have the opportunity to touch or hold snakes, lizards, turtle, cockroaches and meet our big tortoise.

IDENTIFYING AND DOCUMENTING PLANT BIODIVERSITY (Berndt 416 - Biology Herbarium)  Dr. Ross McCauley  We hear of there being a crisis in the loss of biodiversity, but how do we document the biodiversity around us?  How do biologists recognize different species?  Visit the FLC herbarium to learn how we are documenting our diversity of local plants and sharing that knowledge with other scientists around the world.  Also head outside to learn how to recognize a number of local trees and learn their proper names. 

Microbiology!  2440 Berndt Hall Dr. Caroline Kulesza will help you explore the unseen world of microbes and learn about the important things that they do for us.

DNA!  2460 Berndt Hall  Alyssa Yockey and Sidney Gordon will show you what it takes to get the DNA out of cells and what it looks like up close.

Bugs of all shapes and sizes! 460 Berndt Hall  Dr. Cynthia Dott will help you see who is living in the rivers around here, some critters you can see with the naked eye and look at the others with our microscopes.

Infectious Disease Prevention!  460 Berndt Hall  Kyleigh Wierenga will educate you about ticks and how to prevent the diseases that they can spread.

Biology Magic Show!  2430 Berndt Hall 

Human Anatomy!  B410 Berndt Hall-basement  Dr. Cathy Hartney will show you dissections of an eyeball, a brain or a heart and you can learn about the systems that keep your body running!


A brief history of time - Guided explanation of Durango’s geologic history from the campus rim (leaving every half hour from the ‘Wall of Time’ Located at the east entrance of the new Sitter Family Hall)

River Builder - Build rivers and watch them evolve using the River Simulation Table (ongoing through the afternoon)

Getting inside rocks Get a look at the building blocks of rocks using specialized microscopes – a visually stunning journey into rocks led by FLC Geo Students (ongoing through afternoon)

Self-guided tours of FLC’s ‘Wall of Time’ and mineral/fossil/rock collection (pamphlets will be provided)


DRONE ARCHAEOLOGY (Dr Jesse Tune, CHEM 2nd floor) Archaeologists use more than just trowels and brushes. Today we use cutting edge technology to "see" below the ground without actually digging. Come find out how aerial drones are used to investigate buried archaeological sites!

BONE DETECTIVES (Dr Dawn Mulhern, CHEM 2nd floor): Have you ever watched the TV show “Bones?” The skeleton contains many important clues about life and death. Find out how forensic anthropologists really solve mysteries by interpreting bones and test your sleuthing skills!

Trees Have Footprints! ((Brian Maitland, CHEM 2nd floor): People throughout history have always had a complex relationship with trees. Come down and see some of the ways archaeology and chemistry are working together to discover which trees ancestral Native Americans used for water jugs. Also play a matching game to test your tree footprint identification skills.

Getting Here