During the week of Thanksgiving, Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) students Chaim Andersen and Yu-Ru Lee, together with professor of chemistry Geoffrey Rayner-Canham, FCIC, took the MUN Grenfell Campus Chemistry Outreach to Jens Haven Memorial School in Andersen’s Inuit home community of Nain. “I feel it is important to give back to my community and my People, and this is one way of doing so,” Andersen said.

Lee (left) and Andersen (right) about to start a “Chemistry is Everywhere” presentation.

Lee (left) and Andersen (right), about to start a “Chemistry is Everywhere presentation as part of the MUN Grenfell Campus Chemistry Outreach in Nain.

The presentations were given by Andersen, who is taking an environmental science degree and specializing in chemistry at the MUN Grenfell Campus, while the demonstrations were performed by Lee, a student from Taiwan who is also studying environmental science at Grenfell. Rayner-Canham organized the logistics. 

To show the relevance of chemistry to the community, the presentations began with the topic of how much chemistry relates to traditional Inuit life and culture. In fact, Andersen is working this year with Rayner-Canham to fully explore this link and to produce a resource which can be used for teaching chemistry in Nunatsiavut schools.

Lee performing a captivating demonstration of new chemical materials to the Grade 2 class at Jens Havens Memorial School, Nain, while Andersen talks through what is happening.The next part of the outreach involved demonstrations by Lee, of new chemical materials which will be changing our lives. Andersen and Lee illustrated the chemistry of consumer products, including foods, in order to show that chemistry does not just happen in chemistry labs. The last segment was devoted to environmental chemistry, especially an example of reusing waste materials. “Inuit people have been one with nature for tens of thousands of years,” Andersen commented. “Knowledge of chemistry will help us understand and cope with the environmental changes already impacting us.”

Finally, students were invited to participate in groups, so they could get some hands-on experience. “I am hoping our chemistry outreach will inspire many more Inuit students, especially girls, to come to university, gain degrees, and be able to make significant contributions to the people of Nunatsiavut and to Canada,” said Andersen. She especially encourages students coming to Grenfell due to the small class sizes and the opportunity to converse with one’s professors.

In addition to the day at Nain, the chemistry outreach trio presented at the schools in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Northwest River, and Mud Lake. “Chaim and Yu-Ru were a perfect team,” added Rayner-Canham, “and we are really thankful to the Chemical Institute of Canada Chemical Education Fund, Vale Newfoundland and Labrador Ltd., the Nunatsiavut Government, Memorial University, and partner Esteem Women, who together supplied the funding for this incredibly worthwhile endeavour.”

Andersen answers questions from fascinated students at Lake Melville School, North West River.


Thank you to Geoffrey Rayner-Canham for providing this story. Do you have news to share with the CIC? Email communications@cheminst.ca.