‘Sunday Scientist’ explores Harry Potter-inspired chemistry

Rebecca Lai
Rebecca Lai

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter book series has captured the imaginations of millions of readers of all ages, including many scientists and engineers.

The next Sunday with a Scientist program for kids and families at the University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History is inspired by the "magical" chemistry of Hogwarts. The event will be from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. June 16 at Morrill Hall.

"Chemistry-Harry Potter Style" will be led by Rebecca Y. Lai, associate professor of chemistry, and several graduate students. They will introduce visitors to some of the wizarding wonders that exist in the real world. Topics include the chemistry of gold, food chemistry, plant science, disappearing ink, fireworks and the invisibility effect.

Featured activities and displays:

— Exploring the chemical properties of gold;

— Creating stained glass using gold and silver nanoparticles;

— Making your own "Marauder's Map" with disappearing ink;

— Discovering how optical effects make objects appear invisible;

— Exploring the lotus effect on waterproof fabric made of nanostructured materials;

— Learning about the chemistry of acid pops and flavored jelly beans; and

— Information on the science behind fireworks and sparklers.

While the activities are not directly related to Lai's research, she teaches the undergraduate course "A Muggle's Guide to Harry Potter's Chemistry" (Chemistry 192H). Lai's research focus is on the development of electrochemical biosensors, including sensors for detection of DNA. For more information, go to http://chem.unl.edu/faculty/eachfaculty/lai.shtml.

Sunday with a Scientist is a series of events that highlight the work of UNL researchers, while educating children and families on a variety of topics related to science and nature. For more information, go to http://www.museum.unl.edu.