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WIU Assistant Professor of Forensic Chemistry and Director of the Forensic Program Liguo Song recently conducted his traveling seminar titled "Forensic Enhancement of Latent Prints in Blood" at Affton High School, southwest of St. Louis.
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Students were given a chance to do college-level laboratory experiments in their high school classroom.
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Regional High School Science Students Benefit from WIU Chemistry Outreach Programs

February 13, 2019


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MACOMB, IL – Outreach programs by the Western Illinois University Department of Chemistry are giving students in regional high schools the opportunity to experience college laboratory experiments in scientific areas of forensic chemistry and chemistry that interest them.

In Fall 2018 and Spring 2019, students from Quest Academy High School in Peoria, IL; Alwood High School in Woodhull, IL; Griggsville-Perry High School in Griggsville, IL; and Affton High School in St. Louis, MO, and sophomores from other area high schools, benefitted from the WIU Chemistry Outreach Program, both in campus laboratories and in high school classrooms. A variety of experiments are available to high school students, including Forensic Enhancement of Latent Prints in Blood, Forensic Comparison of Ballpoint Pen Inks, Synthesis of Nylon and Plexiglas, Food Flavoring Agents: You Test the Odor But Not the Taste, Cation Exchange Capacity in Environmental Chemistry, Discover the Dynamic Structure of DNA Hands-On and One Dimensional SDS-PAGE Analysis of Serum.

A list of available programs was born from a meeting WIU Department of Chemistry Chair Rose McConnell called with faculty members to talk about outreach and recruiting efforts.

"Chemistry has two programs that involve high school students performing hands-on lab experiences," said McConnell. "In one program, we send out a flyer with a list of demonstrations/seminar topics we can bring to local and regional high school classes free of charge. The flyer is sent to high school science teachers with contact information and descriptions of each activity.  When invited, our faculty travel to the high school and lead the class. The second program is an invitation for high school teachers to bring their class to WIU chemistry department where they can perform a series of hands-on activities led by our faculty."

WIU Assistant Professor of Forensic Chemistry and Director of the Forensic Program Liguo Song recently conducted his traveling seminar titled "Forensic Enhancement of Latent Prints in Blood" at Affton High School, southwest of St. Louis.

"Our forensic chemistry program is quite unique; it is not like any other in the country," he said. "It offers one of the most comprehensive educations and conducts cutting-edge research in the analysis of abused drugs, which has been recently recognized by the National Science Foundation to award us about $300k grant."

Through the latent prints seminar, Song has every student make a shoe print on fabric with hemoglobin dissolved in distilled water and the experiment is used in a variety of mock crime scenes.

"Getting the students involved is really important," he said. "We wanted to design something the students are interested in and are having fun with, while still getting the message out and having them learn something."

Song said the high schools pick the seminars they would like to have at their schools, and most classes are made up of 30-40 students.

"Different activities have different perspectives and we help them understand the chemistry behind the experiments. Safety is the most important thing, and our laboratory manager Kay Tsai has always been on top of it," he said. "The classes usually go along with the lessons they are learning in their high school classrooms."

Song hopes to add additional laboratory experiments to those he can offer, including Forensic Identification of Marijuana and Forensic Differentiation of Hemp from Marijuana, in the next academic year.

The department hopes the seminars will help increase high school student awareness in the academic offerings at WIU and the available career opportunities offered here. Other chemistry faculty members who are leading seminars include Professor T. K. Vinod, Professor J. Scott McConnell, Assistant Professor Mette Soendergaard and Assistant Professor Erica McJimpsey.

Roslyn Taylor, coordinator of WIU's St. Louis Regional Office, said she connected the chemistry program to Affton High School to show was WIU has to offer.

"I think it helps connect us in a different way, especially for majors that aren't as common in the region," said Taylor. "I've made a few other schools aware of the offerings and they've expressed possible interest. I think it's great that the departments are willing to come out and engage. It helps to start and/or build a different kind of relationship in the community."

For more information about the WIU Department of Chemistry, visit wiu.edu/chemistry.


Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (JK-Pospeschil@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations