Chemistry 350 On

Chemistry 350
Communicating Science to the Public via Demonstrations

Last semester taught: Fall 2017
Fridays, 2:30-5:30 p.m.,
B371 Daniels Chemistry Building

Instructor:   Prof. Bassam Shakhashiri


Each semester, Prof. Bassam Z. Shakhashiri and the WISL staff offer Chemistry 350, weekly training sessions on the science and art of public engagement. Participation is open to all students, postdocs, staff, and faculty on a volunteer basis, but undergraduates can also choose to sign up for credit. This training involves: learning scientific principles and phenomena, preparation for public presentations, developing skills for connecting with different audiences, mastering safety practices, and proper staging of demonstrations. Presenters will become comfortable in sharing their personal joy and fun in doing science. More detailed course information can be found in the "Course Purposes and Goals" section below.

Science Is Fun presentations are intended to foster public awareness and appreciation of science. We use exciting and captivating demonstrations to communicate the wonders of science to a wide range of audiences. Glowing liquids, exploding balloons, and other vivid phenomena charm and fascinate audiences everywhere. Such offerings provide effective means for displaying science and connecting it with everyday life experiences. By making these connections, we aim to raise the level of science literacy among the general public.

If you are interested in participating, please email:

The main purpose of the course is to teach students the art of sharing the joy of science with different audiences in a variety of public settings. Students will be instructed by staff and faculty from science departments, music, theatre, and other performing artists who combine their art with scientific experiments to share the joy and excitement of both artistic and scientific creativity. Students are to develop expertise and powerful skills in conveying science and thoughtfully engage an audience in the beauty and wonder of discovery. Through this course, students gain experience in the safe handling and disposal of chemicals and develop skills for effective presentations of science in school settings and public venues. They will be instructed by experts who have created new knowledge and pedagogy in science and in communicating science.  Training will involve: learning scientific principles and phenomena, preparing for public presentation, developing skills for connecting with different audiences, mastering safety practices, and proper staging and displaying of demonstrations. A goal is for students to become skilled and comfortable in sharing their personal joy and fun in doing science. 

An important part of the course is to provide students, prior to engaging in public presentations, with understanding of scientific principles and phenomena in a variety of scientific realms including chemistry, physics, geology, biology, and others. Mastery of the science behind the demonstrations is essential for effective communication.


  • Science is Fun Student Public Presentations Manual  (to be distributed on Sept. 16)
  • Shakhashiri, BZ. Chemical demonstrations: A handbook for teachers of chemistry. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press; Volumes 1-5 (1983, 1985, 1989, 1992, 2011).
  • Minimum Safety Guidelines for Chemical Demonstrators. ACS Division of Chemical Education. Copyright 1988, 1995. ACS Division of Chemical Education, Inc.
  • Laboratory Safety Guide. Chemical and Radiation Protection Office, Safety Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Copyright 2004. University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents.
  • Communicating Science via Demonstrations. Bassam Z. Shakhashiri. Excerpt from Chemical Demonstrations: A Handbook for Teachers of Chemistry, Volume 5. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. 2011.Available online here.


  • What is Happening When the Blue Bottle Bleaches: An Investigation of the Methylene Blue-Catalyzed Air Oxidation of Glucose. Laurens Anderson, Stacy M. Wittkopp, Christopher J. Painter, Jessica J. Liegel, Rodney Schreiner, Jerry A. Bell, and Bassam Z. Shakhashiri. Journal of Chemical Education 2012 89 (11), 1425-1431.
  • Selected episodes from a very large videotape library of nationally televised presentations by the course instructors: WISL YouTube Channel , 45th Annual Christmas Lecture
  • Other literature and articles will be announced during the course





For more information contact