Organic chemistry is often viewed by the general public as a college course that must be survived along the path to becoming a medical doctor, rather than a diverse and intriguing subject that has broad applications in everyday life. It is a subject that is often not introduced to students until science majors take the course in college as part of their major (or their pre-medical school requirements), and is therefore never introduced to a vast majority of the population despite the significance of the field in our everyday lives. We believe that organic chemistry can, and should, be introduced to the general population at a young age in a fun and stimulating environment. If connections between organic chemistry and everyday life can be made at a young age, the public’s general aversion to the subject, and to “chemicals” in general, may be tempered.
The Brown lab has initiated an outreach program that connects something that everyone is very familiar with, one’s sense of smell, to something that is perhaps less familiar: atoms, molecules and chemical structure. We have designed and installed a chemistry themed exhibit at Wonderlab in Bloomington, IN that connects structure and scent. See the “Smells like Nano” tab below for more details.