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Colloquium Schedule | Upcoming Events

Deadline: April 15, 2012

General Guidelines for Sources and Evaluation Criteria

The topics and topic-specific guidelines listed below will give contestants ideas about the type of information to search for and include in their essay. This general introduction gives insight into what evaluators look for, and general sources of information useful for all topics.

In evaluating the essays, we look for

  • clear, concise, grammatically correct writing that condenses the important points of the topic into the 500 - 600 words allowed
  • accurate chemical explanations, with some chemical insight, without propaganda or political judgements
  • reputable sources used

Depending on the topic, contestants may find that science newsmagazines like Chemical and Engineering News or Scientific American or topic-specific websites (eg. Nobel, NASA), will present a good overview of the subject for a general understanding. Basic textbooks may also serve this purpose. However, students will do well to consult more advanced academic references such as reputable research journals to ensure that their information has scientific merit as currently understood by reputable scientists working in the field.

  1. Polymer based nanomaterials - their impact on nanotechnology

    This topic is concerned with the emerging field of materials chemistry and nanotechnology, specifically focusing on polymers, and the role they play in nanotechnological developments.

    The essay might

    1. Deal with one specific polymer or a type of polymer
    2. Describe this type of polymer with respect to general structure and bonding, and physical and chemical properties
    3. Describe experiments carried out to synthesize this type of polymer and understand its structure and reactivity
    4. Describe the nanotechnological applications of one (or various) polymer based materials
    5. Describe the benefits of this evolving technology to the community; the country; the world.
  2. What is the main science behind a product used in your household?

    This topic is concerned with making connections between pure science and applied science; how the scientific ideas/understandings made in the lab are used in everyday life. To find a focus for this essay, examine your home, looking at the various implements, devices, materials that you use. Choose one, and analyze how it works. What is the essential science on which the product function is based? When was this science discovered? Were there other scientific/technical developments needed before this product was invented or introduced to the market? Can you think of ways to improve this product, or otherwise argue that the product is perfect as it is.

    The essay might

    1. Construct a timeline for historical experiments that led to the current application of the science in the product being discussed
    2. Explain the main scientific idea/process on which product function is based
    3. Describe experiments being carried out today to push the frontiers of our understanding of the science used to make the product work better
    4. Describe the benefits of this evolving understanding to the community; the country; the world.
  3. The dirt on soil contaminants

    This topic deals with Environmental Chemistry, which is a cross-disciplinary field requiring knowledge and understanding in many different sub-disciplines (eg. physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, biochemistry...) For this essay, students will need to gain an understanding of the structure of soil, sources of contamination, current theories of how soil contamination affects living organisms and ecosystems, and efforts aimed at monitoring, cleaning up or eliminating contamination. In addition to the general sources of information listed in the introduction above, provincial and federal agencies host websites that provide information about pollutant monitoring networks.

    The essay might

    1. Describe major sources of pollution that contaminate soil
    2. Describe experiments carried out to understand the effect of soil pollutants on the structure and function of soil
    3. Describe the impacts of contaminated soil on humans and ecosystems
    4. Describe the monitoring systems used by governments to measure soil contamination
    5. Describe current efforts aimed at counteracting soil contamination
    6. Describe the benefits of this evolving understanding to the community; the country; the world.
  4. The Contributions of a Canadian Chemist To Chemical Sciences

    This topic is directly relevant to the grade 11/12 science curriculum, and includes historical information as well as leading edge scientific work. It might contain brief biographical information on the individual(s) profiled, to the extent that such information sheds light on the scientific motivation of the individual(s). However, the main focus of the essay should be on the scientific contribution the individual has made, and how it has advanced the field in which the individual works. To identify potential subjects, students might search the web sites of major Canadian universities, research institutes, research hospitals, and chemical companies, in addition to the information sources listed in the introduction above.

    The essay might

    1. Describe the background of the researcher(s) involved in the breakthrough, to the extent that it sheds light on his/her/their scientific motivation
    2. Describe model(s) used in or developed for the research
    3. Describe how the scientific contribution made by this individual has changed (is changing) the direction of scientific understanding and/or technology in the field
    4. Describe the benefits of this discovery to the community; the country; the world.

>> Essay Contest Entry Form

Format, Deadlines, Eligibility, Evaluations and Awards

See the previous year 2011 essay topics